Category Archives: General

An additional profit centre

Roland calls it their best desktop cutter ever. You should think of it as a profit center.

I could tell you about all the amazing things this cutter can do, how it’s compatible with Adobe Illustrator and Corel draw, how it has an image outline tool, and how you can work from jpeg or bitmap files.

I could tell you about the signs, point of purchase graphics and other stuff you can produce with this amazing cutter.

I could tell you all that but why not just sit back, watch this short video and let your imagination run wild on all the stuff you could do with this profit center?

And yes, Stanley’s has one for you plus all the vinyl material you’ll need in just about any colour you can imagine. The price? Just CAD2,295.00!

Innovation in digital signage gallops ahead but does it always pay?

Does the cool digital sign technology fill the the shopping cart?

We live in a society in which digital technology is moving so fast that every day there seems to be something new to amaze us. Digital signage is an example of this phenomenon.

However (there’s always a however), all this technical advancement comes with questions. The first question relates to the concept of technology in search of an application. The first time I became aware of this issue was probably in the eighties when hand-held calculators got smaller and smaller. Eventually we had calculators the size of business cards because technology made it possible. They soon disappeared though because they were too small for the average-sized adult finger to work the keys. This was a classic case of technology, though amazing, being unnecessary or impractical. Digital cameras, coffee makers, cars, and a host of other everyday gadgets and equipment suffer from this phenomenon.

When it is applied to signs however, unnecessary or impractical technology built in just because it is possible to do, has dollar implications. “Geez, that’s cool!” is one thing but, “So is it going to generate sales?” is a whole different thing. Signs are mostly marketing aids, so no matter what cool things digital technology can make them do, they’re only cool in a business sense if they produce a return on the investment. Designers need to remember this – cool technology is not the same as a cool return on investment.

Various digital sign customers will have their own ways of measuring the return on investment on super-cool digital sign technology, but whatever it might be, it makes business sense to do it. It’s not always easy to put a dollar value to the benefit of advertising but one method I read about made sense. An executive asked this question said that he watched the sales figures – if they went up appreciable then the advertising was considered a success.

The purpose of colours in signs . . .

Which colour? Depends what you’re trying to say.

How many times have you seen a sign or billboard and wondered how the designer chose the colours? How many times have you wondered if the choice was deliberate according to some scientifically-determined formula or simply reflected the designer’s mood that day? How many times have you wondered if the reason for the colour combination was to simply be funky or whether there was a deeper purpose?

Colour theory is a vast topic. In the business of marketing through signs and billboards, the use of colour is mostly very deliberate and according to a theory about how they impact viewers, a.k.a. targeted customers. This is something that should be of particular note to smaller sign shops who may not have the trained graphic designers big shops can afford to employ.

Marketers will tell you that colours should be chosen for their impact. For instance, red is an emotionally intense colour associated with energy, danger, strength, and power. Then there are subtle variations such as light red representing joy, sexuality, passion, sensitivity and love. Pink denotes love, romance and friendship. Dark red is associated with willpower, rage, courage and leadership.

And so it is for other often-used colours such as orange, yellow, green, blue, purple, white, black and their variants. Each is associated with specific characteristics and therefore used for very specific reasons in designing signs and billboards.

The bottom line here is that if you own a small sign shop and are not a trained graphic artist and do not have one on staff, you have some colour research homework to do. Customers are entitled to expect their graphics printer to advise them on colours appropriate to the message they want to convey and the audience they want to target.

Showcase your best work!

This could be you.

What do you have to lose? Nothing!

What do you have to gain? Recognition, bragging rights and great publicity material.

Why not enter Sign Media Canada’s 11th Annual National Sign Competition? Somebody has to win, why not your shop? You have until May 1, 2017 to enter work completed and installed in Canada between March 31, 2016 and March 31, 2017. All it needs is a digital image (minimum 300 dpi) and large enough for layout so a minimum of 1,200 x 1,800 pixels.

A panel of industry experts will judge the entries and the names of the winners will be announced in the July 2017 edition of the magazine. The scope is broad and includes:

  • Building signs
  • Digital signage
  • Illuminated signs
  • Out-of-home advertising
  • Sign systems
  • Soft signage
  • Stand-alone signs
  • Unique signs
  • Vehicle graphics

What great opportunity for a small sign shop to go against the big boys and put itself on the map. It’s cost free and so easy to enter that there hardly seems to be an excuse for not doing so.

A tip for you


Keep up!





Book to attend Canada’s largest graphics and printing exhibition, Graphics Canada, from April 6th to 8th in The International Centre, Toronto. Technology marches on, plan to keep up.

Interactive digital signs

Will a coughing sign discourage smoking? Regardless though, the technology is brilliant.

The Digital Revolution only started in the late 70’s and then accelerated around the late 90’s until it now impacts everything from phones to data storage to name two more common aspects. I was recently reminded how extensive the digital reach is when I read about the increasing appearance of interactive digital signs.

A great example is a digital sign created for Sweden’s largest private pharmacy chain, Apotek ICA. The sign was part of an anti-smoking campaign targeting the annual death rate of about 6,000 and hospitalization rate of about 100,000 in Sweden.

The sign was placed in a plaza frequented by a high number of smokers. It featured an image of a man and was fitted with sensitive smoke detectors. When it detected smoke from a passing cigarette, the digital image would cough.

Apparently though, not everyone appreciated the brilliant application of digital technology. Some found the sign intrusive and offensive. Others were amused by it. Some doubted that a passive-aggressive coughing sign would do much to encourage people to quit smoking. But whatever the various reactions to the message may be, the technology is still brilliant.

Sign industry to grow in 2017 – it’s the ‘why’ that’s interesting.

Ooooh! Looks good for 2017 in the sign industry!

In the December issue of Sign Media it was reported that the 2017 looked bright for the sign industry in North America. This includes wide-format printed graphics, electric signs, digital signage, and architectural signs. In fact, it’s forecast that they will all grow well above historical patterns on into 2018.

This is all good news of course. But it helps to understand the reasons for the optimism in case it can provide insight into one’s own market and can help maximise one’s productivity. Well, the prime influencer of growth is still the overall economy and in North America the outlook is said to be relatively stable. However, more interesting than that are reasons that might shape some sign shops’ business models.

The first of these reasons is an apparent rising importance of signage within the economy. The article also suggests that customers have an increasing awareness of the role visual graphics can have in helping them sell, inform, and direct. Reading between the lines, it seems that this is at least partly fuelled by new products, technologies and applications in the sign industry. What this could mean for individual shops is that keeping up with technological advancements is a key to growth.

The article is well worth reading as it goes into a lot of detail in support of the growth predictions and provides clues that might affect projected business models.

So how “green” are we now?

We can’t do in the future what we did in the past.

Back in 2011, Denise Gustavson, writing online for PrintingNews ( in her article, “Signs of Sustainability”, addressed the “greening” of print service providers.

She asked what “green” means for an industry that uses chemicals and produces a high volume of disposable signage, some of which cannot enter the recycling stream. She interviewed and quoted several key members of the industry in her very thorough examination of the topic.

The gist of the article is that sustainability initiatives are a necessity for those shops wanting to demonstrate to their customers that they are ready to be partners in the growing call to action for a much more eco-friendly industry. But, in addition to that, it’s an obligation because, as is now evident, we cannot continue to pollute the earth as we have done in the past. The earth’s capacity to absorb the assault is dwindling fast.

Gustavson concludes her article by urging print service providers to implement a sustainability plan. Offering some incentive, she suggests that a sustainability plan can produce savings and therefore makes economic sense in addition to fulfilling an obligation to do business more responsibly.

This is well-written article on a very serious topic. But what troubles me about it is that nobody, not a single soul, took enough interest to add a comment in the “Voice your opinion!” space at the end. Nobody! I wonder what this says about the awareness in our industry about the all-important sustainability issue?

Does your sign shop have a sustainability plan? Do you care?


The new Roland TrueVIS SG and VG printer/cutter machines

The new Roland TrueVIS SG machine.

Rob and Graham recently installed a Roland TrueVIs SG-300 for a customer in Ashmont, Alberta. It’s Roland’s newest machine and includes some interesting new features.

The SG is the 4-colour (CMYK) model and comes in two widths, 30 inches and 54 inches. The VG is the 8-colour model and comes in 54 inch and 64 inch widths. Roland says that the TrueVIS is the result of completely reimagining the technology. There are new print heads, new vibrant and cost-effective inks, new cutting technology, and new technology to communicate with your existing phones and tablets. In fact, as Roland puts it, the future of print/cut has arrived.

The most obvious change when you first see the TrueVIS is that the ink now comes in bladders that are inserted into cartridges. It’s a new ink technology designed to be more efficient and easier to handle than cartridges.

Want to know more? Rob (Stanley’s Edmonton) or Graham (Stanley’s, Calgary)  will be happy to tell you all about the Roland TrueVIS.



Talking sandwich board. Why not?

Catching their attention.

My favourite coffee shop not far from where I live used to put a sandwich board out on the sidewalk with a different humorous quote each day. I found myself looking forward to seeing it every time I walked down the street; I would even purposely walk down that side of the street.

The owners of the neighbouring businesses must have thought the coffee shop sandwich board was a good idea as much as I did because soon they too put out sandwich boards to attract attention to their businesses. The result was that the solitary, easily noticed coffee shop board became just one among a number, thus making it less noticeable. Lately the coffee shop owner hasn’t been putting out her board at all. I understand the argument that while one board is noticeable, many are not. But what if she could make her sandwich board noticeable again?

A bright colour or eye-catching graphics might make the board stand out from it’s rivals but I doubt it – a sandwich board is a bit small for even bright colours to make it appealing to the eye. But what if it did something none of the others did and appealed to the ear? What if the board spoke to you when you walked by? Wouldn’t just a short message like, “Hey, we have a special on lattes today” or “Have you tried out French pastries?” get your attention?

How can a talking sandwich board not attract attention? All it needs is a motion detector, a speaker and a digital recorder.

Okay, so if a talking board is a bit way out there, what about one that perhaps lights up or in some other way attracts attention as you pass?

Sounds to me like a niche market for a creative sign shop. Think about it.

Have you considered mentoring?

A mentor can make all the difference.

Last week I suggested mentoring as an option for inexperienced, new owners of businesses in the digital and graphics industry. The concept doesn’t fly of course without mentors – usually knowledgeable, experienced, current or retired members of the industry willing to pass on their wisdom to less-experienced members of the industry, particularly small business owners.

The mentoring to which I’m referring is offered free of charge. This makes it accessible to small businesses without the budget for consultants and coaches. It usually involves access to a mentor for a couple of hours a month when the mentee can raise issues and receive advice from the mentor.

Space here doesn’t permit a detailed explanation of the concept of mentoring but a little research on the Internet will turn up a lot of information. The key elements that a mentor brings to the relationship are, as already mentioned, knowledge and experience but, in addition to this, trust and a generosity are essential. The mentee must feel that he or she can trust the mentor and that the time and advice is offered generously without any expectation other than the satisfaction derived from giving. Then there is of course also the satisfaction derived from seeing a mentee benefit from the relationship.

So, if you’re willing and ready to mentor, how do potential mentees find you? Word of mouth is one way. Let your industry colleagues, suppliers, and customers know that if they hear of someone looking for a mentor, you’d be willing to consider it. Then wait to be approached. You may even be approached out of the blue on the basis of your profile and reputation in the industry alone. If you are, please consider it seriously.

Closing for the holidays.

Feet up for the holidays.

Your blog editor (i.e. me) will be putting his feet up on the 23rd and won’t be back until the 3rd of January. Not news I suppose because you’re likely to be doing exactly the same thing.

Same goes for all four of the Stanley’s locations. So, keep this in mind for any orders you intend placing before the holidays. If your order has to be delivered, remember to leave enough time for that to happen.

Recently launched a digital graphics shop? Frustrated? Need advice?

A mentor can make all the difference to your business.

Have you considered looking for a mentor?

If yours is a small shop, and particularly if it’s new, you likely have an issue so many other small businesses encounter. You need occasional advice – technical and business – but consultants  and coaches just aren’t in the budget. So you battle on alone. Well, you don’t have to; you can find a mentor.

A mentor is usually a person experienced in the business and may be working or retired. An important aspect of mentoring is that it is free of charge and based on a belief in the concept of passing on knowledge to help younger, less-experienced business owners succeed. Some see it as a way of giving back to an industry and some just see it as the right thing to do.

Mentoring is not as intense or formal as consulting or coaching and usually involves a monthly discussion of an hour or two in which the mentee raises issues and the mentor offers answers and advice. The mentee is under no obligation and can pick and choose from among the advice offered.

The process starts with you approaching a prospective mentor. You’re not likely to pick a mentor by throwing darts at a business directory. A potential mentor is likely a) someone you know personally, b) someone to whom you’ve been referred, or c) someone to whom you’re introduced by a mutual acquaintance. You probably already know that the potential mentor has the knowledge and experience you’d like to tap into. And this person likely has a reputation as an involved and caring mentor. You may already know that the potential mentor is generous for truly altruistic reasons – an essential part of mentoring.

If you don’t know anyone you can approach to consider being your mentor, ask around the industry. Ask your suppliers if they know anyone in or formerly in the industry who might consider being your mentor. Also do some reading on the concept of mentoring and make sure you and the mentor agree on what’s involved.

I think you you’ll be surprised to find there are generous people willing to share their experience and knowledge to help your business succeed. I can assure you from personal experience that to be asked to mentor is not only flattering but also rewarding.

Next week we’ll look at this topic from a mentor’s perspective.

At least act big.

If you run a small digital-graphics shop or sign shop, then this story is for you.

Last week I called Stanley’s Calgary office for names of small sign shops capable of producing vinyl window graphics. The background to the request was that the graphics were needed for a coffee shop and, being a small business advocate, I wanted to support small printers.

I was given the names of four small sign shops capable of doing the job I described. As is common practice nowadays, I turned to Google for contact information. I’m not going to mention names, and when I tell you what happened, you’ll understand why.

For the first small shop I found a web site but there was no telephone number in the contact information. Enquiries had to be made by email.

Nobody answered the phone at the second shop and I was instead invited to leave a voicemail.

A similar thing happened when I called the third shop. Apparently I’d reached a home number with a message that (first name) was unable to answer the call and that I should leave a voicemail.

The fourth shop had no web site.

Yours might not be a big business but at least act like it is.

Yours might not be a big business but at least act like it is.

At this point I needed answers and didn’t have time to wait for voicemails to be returned or for emails to be answered. So I called a big graphics company I’ve known for a long time. The phone hardly rang once before a friendly person answered in a very professional, polite manner. I asked to speak with the owner who, in spite of running a big business, came on the line almost immediately. Within minutes I had all the information I needed including a rough cost estimate.

By now you’ve probably seen where I’m going with this. If you’re a small sign shop hoping to survive in a competitive market, you’d better understand what successful businesses of all sizes understand:

  • People are impatient. When they need information, they need it now. Not when you feel like getting back by phone or email. Now!
  • People are sceptical. They don’t necessarily believe that they will receive a response to an email or voicemail. They’ve been burned before and waited and waited without result.
  • People make assumptions about your professionalism by how you present yourself. For Pete’s sake, get a web site, even if it’s a couple of pages to boost your image and provide contact information. Include a phone number someone will answer.

Small businesses can compete with big businesses and can even beat them in some areas but not if they don’t embrace a certain degree of professionalism. If your small sign shop isn’t doing well, it might be because it appears hokey to potential customers.

There may be some wisdom for small sign shops in the old expression: “Fake it until you make it.”

When less is more in signage.

Earlier this year I had a few discussions with a coffee shop owner in South Africa. I was prompted by conversations I’d had back in Calgary with the owner of my favourite, privately owned coffee shop about signage (so we’re not talking about the Starbucks and Second Cups of this world who have recognisable logos).

What more does it have to say?

What more does it have to say?

When the Calgary coffee shop opened, the owner ordered extensive white vinyl-lettering signage for her street-facing, floor-to-ceiling front window. It was more like a page out of a book than a sign. It had the name of the coffee shop at the top, and then a lot of smaller lettering all over the rest of the window listing the business hours, products, and just about everything else that could possibly be said about the coffee shop.

Over time the inevitable dawned on the café owner. She realized that people in passing cars were too far away to read most of the lettering and, in any case, were passing too quickly to take in more than a couple of words. They may have been able to see the name of the coffee shop at the top of the signage but even then it was lost in all of the other lettering. Even passing foot traffic didn’t stop to read the window – she told me that in over two years she didn’t see anyone stop and read the window. It was, in short, a cluttered disaster of a sign.

Isn't this enough?

Isn’t this enough?

The South African coffee shop owner had a similar problem. His coffee shop had an elaborate crest as part of the sign above his café entrance. He was on a road that didn’t have much foot traffic but did have quite a lot of passing cars. The problem was that anyone in a passing car would likely have only enough time to see the crest that dominated the sign but didn’t give any clue to the nature of the business.

In both cases I wondered if their respective sign makers offered any advice at all about the suitability of the signs when they were ordered. Surely a good, professional sign maker should advise customers rather than just churn out something that he or she should recognize as poorly designed for its purpose.

In both cases, why would you want anything more than a prominent one-word sign – “COFFEE!”

Shouldn’t sign makers undertake to offer advice about signs rather than just make them?

Vinyl plotter film – monomeric or polymeric? Part 2.

MACtac rolls

MACtac rolls

In the previous post we discussed the two more popular MACtac films, MACal 8300 and MACal 9800. We found that 8300 was better suited to shorter-life exterior and interior applications whereas 9800 was better suited to longer-life exterior applications than 8300.

Polymeric films (MACal 9800 is a polymeric film), like monomeric films, are known as calendered films. Calendered films start out as a lump of plastic that is flattened by being passed between a series of rollers. The difference between the polymeric calendered film and the monomeric calendered film is that extra polymers are added to the plastic to produce the polymeric film.

Polymeric film does better than monomeric film in exterior applications including slightly curved surfaces but does not do well over irregular surfaces such as corrugations or protrusions such as rivets. If you find yourself with an exterior corrugated or riveted surface you will probably have to go up a notch from these two popular films and consider a cast film. At that point you should consult Stanley’s for assistance.

So what about the meaning of “calendered” in vinyl talk? I said we’d unearth the origin of the word. Well, it’s the name given to the manufacturing process of polymeric and monomeric film on what is known as a calendar machine.  The calendered process begins with the mixing of the vinyl “dough” which is passed through a series of rollers until it is reduced to the required thickness. The film is then treated for the required gloss level before the final winding process. It’s of course a much more complex manufacturing process than can be explained in the limited space here, but that’s where “calendered” comes from.

Vinyl plotter film – monomeric or polymeric?

MACtac rolls

MACtac rolls

Stanley’s two most popular vinyl plotter films are MACtac’s MACal 8300 and MACal 9800. The question is, which to use in different circumstances? And why would that be something you’d care about? Well, price, for one thing.

The two films are different in their structure and features – this is what accounts for the price difference. Whereas both films are known as calendered vinyls, 8300 is  monomeric vinyl film whereas 9800 is a polymeric vinyl film. If you’re wondering why you should know this, I’d suggest that it’s helpful, if not essential, to know all there is to know about the materials best suited to different applications.

For instance, it’s useful to know why MACal 8300 can take care of less demanding applications and is best suited to short-term exterior and interior applications, whereas MACal 9800 is the preferred choice for outdoor applications. And, for some, knowing just this might be sufficient, but a serious professional will want to know the whys and wherefores.

Nest post we’ll explore more differences between the two MACtac films and consider some of the consequences of using the wrong film in certain applications. We’ll also explore what that curious word “calendered” means in film talk.

Trade show pop-up banner and booth design considerations.

Simplicity of booth design will bring you into focus . . .

Simplicity of design will bring your booth into focus . . .

I remember standing on a mezzanine a few years ago looking down on a convention hall floor crammed wall-to-wall with booths that melded into a chaotic kaleidoscope of noise and colour. With each individual booth clamouring for the attention of the throngs of attendees slowly flowing up and down the isles, it looked hopeless. What could a booth do to be noticed?

The theory behind Seth Godin’s business book, Purple Cow, is that in order to be noticed, you need to stand out from the herd. And what would stand out more from the herd out in the field than a purple cow? But at this trade show every cow in the herd looked purple, at least from up on the mezzanine. So with this in mind, I went down to the convention floor to see how, if at all, the purple cow theory might help a booth stand out from the rest. How could a booth be made noticeable among the clamour and the clutter?

Now this is where designers of pop-up banners and other booth materials need to take note. The secret lies in the reverse of Godin’s purple cow concept. At this show all the cows were elaborate and purple. So, to be noticed you had to stand out; that meant being a simple, uncomplicated brown cow.

Just about all the booths had spent a lot on graphics but not wishing to leave a single detail out, hit one with a confusing clutter of information. People attending conventions and trade shows soon become tired, grumpy, and impatient. They’re not inclined to read a lot of stuff or process a lot of data. If they can’t figure out what your booth is about in a nanosecond, they keep moving.

So, first and foremost, the overriding consideration is simplicity. Then design your client’s pop-up banners and booth backdrops etc. with three things in mind: (1) you have a nanosecond to catch an eye; (2) you must motivate them to take action (come into the booth); and (3) you must tell them about a problem they have that can be solved.

Accomplish this for your client and they’ll stand out from the clutter.

A tip for you . . .

Get your LED rebates . . .

Get your LED rebates . . .



Keep in mind that in Canada some utility companies and local governments offer rebates for retrofitting signs with LEDs. Your sign shop might be entitled to receive these rebates. The company installing the LED’s should be able to provide details. Remember to ask.

Is the POP / signage industry growing worldwide, and if so, where?

Where is the POP / signage industry growth?

Where is the POP / signage industry growth?

Knowing whether you’re in a growth industry is useful but in many industries reliable information is hard to find. And more particularly, it’s useful to know where the growth is expected to be, particularly if it’s some place you’re not.

One source of information on the POP and signage market is Smithers Pira. In case you’re not familiar with Smithers Pira, quoting from their website, they’re: “. . . the worldwide authority on the packaging, paper and print industry supply chains. We provide world-leading expertise and market intelligence, and offer a range of testing services supported by comprehensive facilities in the U.K. and U.S.”

In predicting that the global POP / signage market will be worth about $49.8 billion (U.S.) by the year 2020, Smithers Pira offers the following interesting insights:

  • The global POP / signage market amounted to 12.8 billion square feet of material in 2014 and was worth about $49.4 billion.
  • Indoor signage accounts for about 72 percent of the market and outdoor signage the remaining 28 percent.
  • Overall, the global POP / signage is expected to grow by .8 percent annually to 2020. Indoor will grow by 1.2 percent and outdoor decline by .4 percent.
  • Asia dominated the market in 2014 with 48 percent of all volume and is expected to increase its share to 54 percent by 2020.
  • Latin America will increase its share by 1.5% by 2020.
  • Western European and North American output will continue a decline leading up to 2020.

In the next post we’ll test our knowledge of the size of each of the aspects of the POP / signage world market.

Sign industry is poised for growth in 2017. Is your shop?

The outlook for 2017 seems to be good for the sign industry.

The outlook for 2017 seems to be good for the sign industry.

According to Sign Media reporting on the latest quarterly economic report of the International Sign Association, 2017 should see growth that will make it a better year than 2016.

Four segments of the industry are assessed in the report- wide-format printing, electric signs, digital signage and architectural signs. All “are expected to show growth well above historic patterns through 2017 and even into 2018.”

According to the Sign Media article, static signage is expected to return to the levels before the early-2016 decline. And electric and digital signs are showing growth with an expected increase in 2016 of over 12 percent over 2015. This optimistic outlook holds good for architectural signs too, and demand is expected to remain strong through 2018.

All-in-all this sounds encouraging for the industry overall. The report was compiled by research firms IHS and Vandiver and Associates and sponsored by the national Association of Sign Supply Distributors. Further details are availablke from the 25th October 2016 edition of Sign Media.


How do you engage your employees?

Engaged, happy, productive employees.

Engaged, happy, productive employees.

I recently read that Pride Signs of Cambridge celebrated its thirtieth anniversary. Not bad for a company started in the basement of his home by president, Brad Hillis.

Hillis threw a party for his 150 employees and their families with food trucks, cake, and gifts.

This made me wonder to what degree companies in our industry engage their employees, not only in celebratory events, but on a day-to-day basis. Business experts constantly point out that engaged employees are more productive employees but, unfortunately, after many years of association with businesses large and small, I have to say that many business owners don’t get it. In some cases it’s so bad that there’s a palpable adversarial atmosphere between owners, management and employees. Low morale, low productivity, and high employee turnover are the inevitable result. It’s not good for the bottom line.

And it’s not just a bottom-line matter. Who wants to work in and adversarial environment? Even as the owner who, unlike the rest of the employees can’t just get fed up with the atmosphere and walk out, why would you impose such an atmosphere on yourself? This is where you and your employees spend most of your waking hours; aren’t they better spent in a pleasant, engaged, productive environment?

So, the question has to be asked. What do you do to engage your employees, make them part of the plan, give them a reason to want to get out of bed and come to work on even the most miserable of Canadian winter days?

A tip for you . . .


It's easy to calculate your cost of ink per square foot.

It’s easy to calculate your cost of ink per square foot.


Ink cost . . .


Knowing your sign shop ink costs is essential to proper costing and planning. A good way to calculate your ink costs is to total the cost of your ink over a period of time (a month could work but the longer the period, say three months, the more reliable the result). Total the square footage printed and divide it into the ink cost to determine a cost per square foot.

Kiwo about to release XTS (Xerox To Screen) direct imager for graphic screen printers.


KIWO XTS direct imager.

Following their success with the KIWO XTS direct imager in the textile screen printing industry, Kiwo is about to release a model for the graphic screen printing industry. It will simply be a bigger version of the textile machine which currently handles frames up to 42″ x 42″ O.D. The graphic industry version will handle screens up to 60″ x 60″.

This is how it works . . . The art room computer sends the file to a computer attached to the XTS. A coated, unexposed screen is fitted in the XTS and a black wax is melted by the machine and sprayed onto the screen to create the image. The wax immediately cools to solidify on the screen. The screen can then be exposed by a LED bar right on the XTS or removed and exposed in the traditional way on an exposure unit. Then it is washed out. The wax over the image area melts and the unexposed emulsion washes out in the usual manner.

One of the attractive features, aside from eliminating film, minimising pin holes, reducing exposure times by 40%, and setting up faster, is that the XEROX inkjet head (that sprays the wax) is capable of 1200dpi. This makes it suitable for graphic screen printing applications.

Kiwo expects to have its first graphic version in the market by the end of October.

Doug or Wendy at Stanley’s can tell you more about the KIWO XTS.

Caring for vehicle wraps.

Pre-wrapping decoration of vehicles forty years ago?

Pre-wrapping decoration of vehicles forty years ago?

One evening a week or so ago, when I opened the door to the pizza delivery guy, I noticed his brightly wrapped Fiat 500.

It led to a conversation (how can you not be fascinated by this “artform”?) in which he told me that he didn’t have a car of his own but that his boss allowed him to drive the Fiat provided he kept it clean and shiny. I thought that sounded like a good win-win proposition – he has wheels and the boss has a mobile billboard. But no, apparently I was overlooking something.

Pizza Guy said that was not as cool as it sounded because he couldn’t just run the car through an automatic wash like any other vehicle. He said that the high-pressure hot water would damage the vinyl wrap. If true, this can be a major disadvantage in Calgary’s winter of filthy cars and freezing weather. Who would want to hand wash a car outdoors in sub-zero temperatures?

I wondered if Pizza Guy was right about this. I also wondered if the graphic shops issue car-wrap care and maintenance instructions to their customers. So I looked for good information and found it at that ever-reliable source, Sign Media Canada.

Here’s what Pizza Guy needs to know and what every graphic shop should be telling customers . . .  Hand wash with water. Pre-rinse and then wash gently with a mild detergent. Use a soft cloth and don’t scrub. Rinse with clean water and dab dry.

There are waterless products for cleaning wraps but Pizza Guy will have to be careful if he’s going to use these because the product he uses will depend upon whether his wrap is gloss film or matte. I’m not going to advise him on these – he should consult the shop that did the wrap.

Let’s hope Pizza Guy’s car was wrapped by a reputable shop and that it understands the concept of added value – such as nicely prepared care instructions.


SGIA Specialty Graphics Industry Survey 2016.

Okay, so what's going on here?

Okay, so what’s going on here?

As far as I know, there is no reliable or even current survey of the Canadian Specialty Graphics Industry, so the next best thing is a survey conducted by the SGIA in the United States. The 2016 version of the survey provides some interesting insights.

It’s always a good idea to read these surveys because they’re bound to be at least partially applicable up here, if for no other reason than to indicate trends. On the other hand, if you do business in the U.S., you should definitely read them. In the meantime, if you haven’t yet read the 2016 SGIA Specialty Graphics Industry Survey report, here are some of the more interesting highlights.

  1. To put the results in perspective, note that they were obtained from the responses of 37 U.S. industrial printing businesses.
  2. A strong majority of industrial printing sector companies exclusively serve business-to-business customers.
  3. The survey companies were large: the median number of employees is about 60 and median sales revenue is about $6.5 million.
  4. 90 percent classified themselves as multi-technology. The top two technologies are digital followed by screen printing.
  5. The most common types of equipment purchased in the previous year were pre-press production tools and software for screen printing.
  6. 2015 equipment purchases of over $5,000 were made by 89 percent of respondents. Of those, 85 percent made production-related equipment purchase of over $50,000.
  7. The most purchased digital presses were solvent roll-to-roll less than 96 inches in width.
  8. Purchases plans for 2016 are high too.
  9. When buying production equipment the most important considerations are said to be purchase price, range of capabilities, and cost to operate.
  10. The most served market areas are transportation, medical and appliances.
  11. The products areas most served are ceramics, glass, and sheet plastics.
  12. The median sales growth in the previous year was just over 12 percent.
  13. 49 percent imcreased staff numbers.
  14. 65 percent reported that prices remained unchanged.
  15. The biggest challenges to growth are reported as finding new cstomers, downward pressures on prices, and recruiting production personnel.
  16. The most common methods undertaken to attract new customers were company web sites, referrals and outside sales.

The highlights are interesting, and while they’ll give you some insight into the industry, for a better understanding the full survey results are available from the SGIA.

Stanley’s announces digital and graphics blog!

Stanley's announces digital and graphics blog!

Stanley’s announces digital and graphics blog!

Stanley’s is pleased to announce the launch of a blog for the graphics and digital industries.

The format will be similar to Stanley’s blog for the textile screen printing industry that has been running for a number of years. The emphasis will be on information, news, technical tips, product announcements and anything else beneficial to your business. The intention is to blog twice a week. One post will be a quote for amusement or inspiration under the headline: “That’s so good it should be on a billboard”, and the other will be an article.

We know how busy you are and how time flies so we’d like to email an invitation/reminder once a month to summarize the posts for the month and to remind you to visit the blog. But we don’t want to email you without your express permission so in order for us to put your email on the mailing list, would you mind calling your email address into one of the Stanley’s offices? The toll free numbers: Edmonton 1 888 424 7446; Calgary 1 800 661 1553; Richmond 1 800 383 5565; Cambridge 1 877 205 9218. Alternatively you can email

We look forward to keeping you informed on matters relevant to the industry.