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Designing A Sign From Within The Box

5 Point Flashers

By Alan Dorman

I drive by this particular sign daily and it always reminds me of how some sign manufacturers fall short of the mark when it comes to finding the proper equipment to light up their sign. This sign is nothing more than a simple arrow, pointing to the restaurant located on the same property. Down the middle of the arrow are 5 large lamps, in line.

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  • I assume the original idea was to step the lamps on one at a time from the “flat” side of the arrow to the “pointy” side in a sequence of 1,2,3,4 then 5 - directing your attention to the establishment. Something went terribly wrong with this design. The sign was wired with a 4 point flasher. instead of 1,2,3,4,5 the sign flashes 1&5 then 2,3,4. It looks sort of goofy and out of place.

    Lets review:

    1. The customer came to the sign shop with a specific design for the new sign.
    2. The 5 light bulbs were clearly seen in the drawings.
    3. The sign was built and, yep, those 5 light bulbs were still there.
    Here is what I can assume happened. The sign company went to their local electrical distributor to purchase the flasher for this sign. There were no 5 point flashers to be purchased so the sign shop went back to the customer with some sob story about the lack of any kind of 5 point flasher. What followed was probably a couple of hours of brain storming about how the 4 point pattern would be applied to the 5 points of lighting.

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    This is what I call “designing from within the box”, a three flap, dented in box that has been kicked into the corner and left to decay. The sign shop didn’t shop around for a flashing solution. They trusted the local electrical distributor to have the latest and greatest equipment. A word of warning about distributors, they are salespersons, they only sell what is on their shelves and change comes very slow to these people.

    I know of what I speak, I spent the last 8 months plying over 100 distributors across this country with the latest and greatest flashing equipment. Any point count, any drive current, kick ass equipment with over 13 years of proven reliability. Not one distributor showed even the slightest interest in stocking or marketing these new solid state marvels. It was over their heads and they “didn’t think their customers would understand the products” - an actual quote from one of the distributors I called.

    A simple search on the internet (like would have been sufficient to discover a 5 point solution to this sign design. I would suggest that if you are reading this message on your computer that you print it out and show it to the purchasing department of your sign shop. Explain to them that the web may be a better source for materials.

    Extracting yourself from the “box” you have been put into by your local distributor will show you a world of innovative products that you and your customers will find very appealing and cost effective.

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