Category Archives: General

Not so static media

How can I make static media less static for my customers?

In an era when digital media is muscling in on the traditional sign and billboard territory of static media, there are encouraging accounts of static media remaining relevant by effectively employing creative ideas.

Sing Media Canada recently reported on one such creative idea. A division of L’Oreal Canada placed static ads that were not so static in fitness clubs in Toronto and Vancouver. The not-so-static aspect involved a sample bottle of Lipikar body lotion attached to the static ad. While the ad promoted the product, the sample bottle enabled club members to try it.

Not only was it a clever idea enabling interaction between a static ad and its target market, but it was cleverly based on research that showed that 85 percent of gym users run errands within two hours of a workout. The hope was that the target would buy the product while a favourable impression of it was still on their mind.

How many static media customers do you have who could benefit from this kind of creativity?         

Is poor taste poor business?

Now THAT is really bad!

Every now and then a billboard or sign makes news because of perceived poor taste. They’re often of a political or sexual nature, and often they’re pretty bad. I realize that “bad” is a matter of interpretation but some that have made it onto the news really do cross the line. However, this isn’t about the degree of “badness”, it’s about whether your shop will take a print job if the image or text is “bad”.

Is it good business practice to take any job regardless of content? Is there a downside for your business being associated with a controversial sign or billboard? Is it fair to expect your staff to work on any job no matter how much it might offend them? Have you considered what you might do if approached to print a “bad” job?

One wonders about the production process behind these signs and billboards. Is the print shop proud of it’s work? Does it even care?

Does your shop care?


Demonstrate your Roland

At the recent Adobe MAX 2017 in Las Vegas, Roland collaborated with Coca-Cola in an interactive project. Attendees were able to design their own Coke bottle labels which were then produced on a Roland TrueVis VG-640. Apparently it was a huge hit with thousands of attendees taking home a Coke bottle with their very own label design.

People are charmed by the gesture of giving.

So what did this project do? Well, it demonstrated a few well-known traits of human nature. First of all, people are intrigued by the connection between creativity and technology—as in seeing their own label design on a Coke bottle. Then people also like receiving something for nothing—like a free Coke—because we’re all charmed by the gesture, even if the gift is something simple. And we all have a tendency to collect curios to remind us of a pleasant place or experience—like keeping a Coke bottle with your own label on your “trophy” shelf. And finally, we like to show our “trophies” to family and friends and tell them about the experiences they represent.

This was a clever project. Adobe got to show off their design software, Roland got to show off what their printer-plotter can do, and Coke got to promote their brand.

So what a small Canadian graphics shop can learn form this is that the human traits on display in this project can be used by it too the basis for marketing tools, either individually or together. The scale will be different but the principle will be the same—find a way to attract attention to your shop and it’s capabilities by giving away samples of what your Roland can do. Consider partnering with someone else to your mutual benefit. If the big guys (Adobe, Roland, and Coke) can do it, why not smaller guys too?

Expanding your income-producing capabilities

Selling more to existing customers is said to be a lot less costly than finding new customers.

For a small sign shop with, say, a Roland printer-plotter, this could mean finding more printed items to offer—there’s almost an unlimited variety of stuff you can print on your printer-plotter from lawn signs to T-shirts. Couple a little research with some creativity and you could produce an offering of products to enable you to proactively approach customers instead of waiting for them to approach you.

A Roland desktop engraver.

But even if you extend the range of output your Roland printer-plotter, what about the types of signs it cannot produce? What about engraved signs? You know, washroom signs, name plates, and so on. This is where you may need another piece of equipment such as an engraver (you can get desktop engravers without a huge capital outlay) and start offering engraved signs. You’d do your homework first of course and crunch all the numbers. But who knows, it might work out to be an additional income generator.

And if one idea doesn’t work out, keep looking. When you add a new item to your product offering, tell your customers and the rest of the world. It’s a much better strategy than sitting waiting for customers to approach you for what they think you may be able to produce.

Every staff member is an ambassador for your sign shop

The face of a dislikeable customer service person. It’s going to cost you business.

In spite of it often being pointed out that people like to do business with people they like, some business owners and staff still don’t get it.

Here’s a story of how a sign shop just lost a customer because of two staff members doing their best to be dislikeable. And the worst part about it is that they lost a customer over something unrelated to printing. We can all learn a lesson from this experience.

I’ve used this sign shop in question in the past for various small printing jobs such as personalized mugs, mouse pads, and plaques. Not big jobs but then they have no idea who I am. Like any other “small” customer I could have been someone involved in politics who may one day need lawn signs, or someone associated with a company who may one day need a big order of POS signs. Just because someone has only bought a few mugs and a couple of mouse pads in the past, you can’t make assumptions about future purchases.

Anyway, I knew that they also served as a FedEx agent. So when I recently had a FedEx parcel for pickup, I took it to this print shop. Two people were sitting at desks each about ten feet behind the front counter. Without getting up one of them asked me what I wanted. I told her that I had a FedEx parcel to drop off. She told me to just leave it on the counter. I said I’d like to have it weighed since I didn’t know the weight and I also didn’t want to leave a $1,200 original pencil drawing lying on the counter. She reluctantly got up, weighed the parcel, and sat down again. I asked about insurance and was told that since I was paying FedEx I would have to call FedEx for that information. If I were paying them, she’d find out about the insurance. The second person agreed with her. They weren’t going to help me.

The indifferent attitude and no attempt to be helpful was a big turnoff. I took an immediate dislike to them and, by extension, the sign shop. And since people do business with people they like, and avoid people they don’t like, they lost me as a customer. Okay, so they will survive just fine without my occasional mug and mouse pad orders, but what if I were a customer with a big sign order coming down the pike?

Every staff member needs to understand what being dislikeable can do to your business. Do your staff members understand this?


The wordless billboard

Message delivered in a nanosecond.

We’ve all heard that a picture is worth a thousand words. I doubt if there’s ever been a better example of the wisdom of this expression than a certain YMCA billboard. It had a basketball hoop sticking out of the middle and the YMCA logo in the upper right corner. There was nothing else on the billboard. A basket ball hoop and a logo on a plain white background — nothing else.

Only a complete idiot or someone intentionally obtuse wouldn’t instantly understand the message. It could be absorbed in a nanosecond. You’d have to be driving by at way over any legal speed limit to not have time to get the message. Leonardo da Vinci once said: “Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication.” He probably didn’t have billboards in mind but the concept applies to billboards. This board imprinted on one’s brain an image of a basketball hoop and the YMCA logo — message delivered. But better still, you can bet people told their friends about the clever billboard — message delivered some more.

I hope the designer won an award or at least received a handsome bonus. This board was sheer genius. Not all messages can be delivered this way but, with some thought, there are probably many.

Winter supplies deliveries

I’ve planned my supplies for winter.

Winter in Canada can mean shipping problems. If you’re a sign shop receiving vinyl and ink deliveries for your Roland, you should know that these items are okay to ship even when it gets really, really cold like down around minus 35 Celsius. But what you must also know is that these items have to be brought up to room temperature before you use them.

If your shop does graphic screen printing, keep in mind that one of the products most sensitive to freezing is emulsions. They will separate when thawed after freezing and cannot be reconstituted once that happens. UV ink can be shipped in low temperatures but must also be brought up to room temperature and stirred before using.

If your shop does conventional textile screen printing you don’t have to be concerned about plastisol inks freezing. But again, they too must be given a chance to warm up to room temperature and stirred well before you attempt to use them. And be careful to not put plastisol containers near a heat source to thaw because you could trigger a gelling reaction in the bucket, particularly if you get distracted and leave the bucket there for longer than you should.

Some shippers offer heated service but it’s of course quite a bit more expensive than regular shipping. And heated service has been known to fail if a vehicle breaks down or if the shipper is careless about overnight storage. Also, heated shipping is usually only offered between main centres. So if you’re outside a main centre, say, in a rural area, your winter shipments are at risk even if you request heated shipping.

All of this is just not worth the cost and hassle. If you’re concerned about winter shipping, call Stanley’s and discuss it with them: Cambridge – 1 877 205 9218; Calgary – 1 877 661 1553; Edmonton – 1 888 424 7446; Richmond – 604 873 2451

The money thing . . . employment or your own sign shop?

Industry salary survey.

Signmedia has conducted its 11th annual survey of the sign-making industry in Canada. It was an online survey to be completed by 4th September, so if you didn’t participate it’s too late now. However, when the results are published you should make a point of studying them.

If you’re employed in the sign-making industry you’ll want to know how your pay stacks up against the industry norms in your part of the country. You may also want to know how it stacks up against other parts of the country. This is the type of information that helps you plan where you choose to work and live. If you’re not realizing your market value where you are now, you may want to do something about it.

If you own a sign shop with employees you’ll want to know how your payroll relates to market norms. It’s useful information that may help your planning and budgeting. Your employees are likely to be aware of the results of the survey so you’d better be too.

If you’re a one-person sign shop owner or have just a couple of employees, you’ll also be interested in the survey results. You’ll want to gauge whether you may be better off as an employee at a big shop rather than an owner of a small shop. However, like so many small business owners, the pay may be secondary to your need for independence. The numbers may not matter. Or perhaps you already know that you do better with your small shop than you would do working for a big shop. And that’s fine but you should still study the survey results to at least you’ll be aware of how you compare with the rest of the industry.

So, regardless of your circumstances in the industry, check out Signmedia’s salary survey results.

Unlawful signage

Does your shop comply with sign regulations?

Is your shop meticulous about complying with regulations for proper positioning of signage?

Members of The Sign Association of Canada (SAC-ACE) are concerned about the the amount of unlawful signage. The problem is not a shortage of regulations in most jurisdictions, the problem appears to be inconsistent application of the rules and, in some cases, a lack of enforcement.

The problem of course is that those companies willing to take a chance on not being caught are able to cut corners, incur lower costs and under-bid law-abiding rivals. And it seems that there’s a fair chance they won’t be caught.

Here’s an example of how dodging regulations save costs. Some cities have introduced a requirement for land surveyor certification to ensure that signs are installed at appropriate distances and in accordance with permit applications. This sounds like one way to enforce regulations but there is of course a cost attached — apparently between $1,200 and $1,500. The SAC-ACE points out that, “sign companies willing to take the risk of not following the law can offer a cheaper product, faster.”

So the objective is to encourage proper regulation enforcement to level the playing field. But, realistically, there are always businesses willing to cut corners and offer their products at a lower cost than they would be able to do if they were conducting legitimate business.

The SAC-ACE encourages reporting of enforcement issues. Where does your shop stand on this?






Slaps created by the Roland team.

Slaps? Your Roland can produce them, so what are they?

Ben Fellowes, writing for the Roland website, says that “slap” is: ” . . . the term given to sticker art that goes beyond the realms of mere graphics and into an artistic world inhabited by mad creatures  and bizarre characters.” Apparently slap designs draw inspiration from graffiti, street art, tattoos, surfing, and skating.

Another feature of slaps is that the stickers are contour cut in any shape and size you can imagine — something your Roland printer/cutter can handle.

If you’re not producing slaps on your Roland equipment, perhaps you should be. Stickers are expected to be cool and in demand for a long time to come. They’re popular with bands, hip businesses, boarders, and people who slap them on their laptops and just about anything else they want to decorate. There’s bound to be a market for slaps in your neck of the woods—you just have to get out there and find it or, perhaps, create it.

Your Roland is ready and waiting . . .

How do you compete for business?

Tell them abut your signs.

I recently received a promotional email that got me wondering why I hardly ever see any promotional material from smaller sign shops—not even signs. It seems ironic that one doesn’t see sign shops using signs to promote their shops.

The promotional email came from a large printing company that prints everything from business cards to billboards. This particular email was promoting their sign business with the headline: “Summer display solutions. We’ve got you covered this summer for all of your outdoor marketing needs.”

They included images of lawn signs, banners, canopy tents, teardrop flags, and sandwich boards. In short, all the stuff a smaller sign shop can produce on a Roland. But if the big shop is telling everyone what they can produce, and the smaller shop is not, guess whose business is going to grow and whose is going to remain small or perhaps even disappear.

How the small sign shop promotes its work depends very much on the market and other local circumstances. One thing is for sure though, if the small sign shop doesn’t promote itself, it’s going to remain a small shop, if it remains at all.

A design oops!

Small details matter

Here’s more feedback from a member of the target audience for the signs you produce—me!

Like any other consumer, if I take the trouble to read your customer’s advertising sign—which is after all why you produce it in the first place—then I expect to be able to get the message right away. If I don’t, your customer would have wasted his or her money paying you to print the sign, and that’s no way for you to build a repeat customer base.

Even if the design complies with all the conventional wisdom for making the message clear and easy to absorb quickly, the smallest oversight can still mess it up. Consider this example of a vehicle wrap that didn’t turn out as intended . . .

I was driving behind a Mini wrapped to promote a local coffee shop. Overall it was a very attractive and well-designed wrap inasmuch as you knew the name of the coffee shop right away. But there was a flaw which detracted from the effectiveness of the message the design was trying to convey.

Across the back window was bold lettering which said: “We might not be number one.” Underneath was smaller lettering which began: “But we sure . . .” and I couldn’t read the rest because it was partially covered by the window wiper. So the message would have been wasted on most people with more important things to do than be annoyed by a poorly-positioned window wiper (or message).  However, I was curious, and for the next kilometer or so I drove behind the Mini until I figured out that the full line was: “But we sure have a lot of fun!”

The lesson here is that details matter. An otherwise great piece of sign design (in this case a vehicle wrap) can be spoiled by a small but important detail, such as the positioning of a window wiper.

Your sign business can start with a Roland, but that’s not enough . . .

What can you and your Roland put on this?

So you have a Roland printer-cutter and you’ve discovered that you can produce great signs with it. Now what? Do you wait for customers to beat a path to your door? And what if they don’t? Unless you’re in extraordinarily fortunate circumstances they’re not going to beat a path to your door — you have to go out and find them.

And finding customers often means showing them that they’ve always needed what you can provide, they just didn’t know it. Here’s an example . . .

I know a coffee shop owner who has a lot of difficulty attracting new customers. Part of the reason is that even people walking by don’t notice the coffee shop because the landlord insists that all the tenants have the same black and white awnings and name signs — it’s hard to be noticeable. There are of course ways she can attract attention and one of them is to place a sandwich board to alert passers-by that they’re outside a coffee shop. I don’t need to tell you how effective a sandwich board can be if it’s eye-catching, and what’s more eye-catching than a funny quote or expression?

So in this case, if  a sign shop approached the owner with an offer to rotate a series of sandwich boards outside her coffee shop, say weekly, I suspect she’d go for it. From the sign printer’s perspective it could be expanded to include coffee shops around the city (obviously not competitors on the same street) and the signs could be rotated among them.

A quick search yielded some great examples of sandwich board material for coffee shops:

  • “We don’t speak Pig Latin, Klingon or Starbucks. Please order a small, medium or large”.
  • “Depresso; the feeling you get when you run out of coffee”.
  • “Hello darkness, my old friend.” (Accompanied by an image of a black coffee).
  • “We are open. Coffee awaits.”
  • “You’re going to do amazing things today but you need a cup of coffee first.”
  • “Coffee dealers and local milk pushers.”

Sandwich boards like these are bound to attract attention, a smile and business. And why limit the idea to coffee shops?  But you have to give it some thought, be creative, and get out there and find work for your Roland.


A tip for you

Write it down . . .


A tip from Richard Branson . . . “If you don’t write down your ideas, they could be gone by morning. Write down lists to keep track of your goals and you’ll be amazed what challenges you overcome.” Don’t lose another great sign idea because you didn’t write it down when you thought of it.

One consumer’s perspective on store signs

I’m that consumer. Allow me to explain something I’ve been telling business owners for years, particularly owners of small stores. Let’s use one of my favourite types of small retail businesses to illustrate the point — coffee shops. I’ve just been reminded of this topic by an image of a shop sign in the latest Sign Media magazine.

As a consumer I can tell you that unless the coffee shop has a readily-recognizable name such as, say, Starbucks or Second Cup, passers-by (particularly those in vehicles) are not going to know what the shop is offering. The exception to this of course is if the name includes the product on offer in text or graphics in a way that’s eye-catching and not over-shadowed by the business’s name.

Show them what they’re looking for.

For instance, the sign that reminded me of this topic had the shop’s name in small lettering and the word “coffee” in lettering at least four times the size of the shop’s name. If the less-than-memorable name of the shop had been the dominant word passers-by would likely have taken little notice, even if they were looking for a cup of coffee.

Many business owners spend a lot of time picking a name for their business and naturally want to proudly display it. For many types of businesses, that’s putting the emphasis in the wrong place — consumers care more about what you have to sell them than they do about your name. They’re overwhelmed by signs and are looking for the word or image on their mind, in this case it’s coffee. So show them “coffee” because, frankly, they don’t care about your shop’s name, they care about what they want.

Sign manufacturers could do customers a favour by pointing this out.


Appearance is everything – what does your email address say about your graphics and sign shop?

What’s your email address?

I’ve been updating Stanley’s email lists as part of a general upgrade of their online presence and noticed that many email addresses fall short of advice I received years ago when business went online.

The advice assumed that you had a web site in your business’s name — a fundamental requirement for a print shop if you are to be taken seriously in today’s market place. So, assuming you have a web site, the advice was to take the next step in the construction of a serious business image by having your email address reflect your web site address.  This might sound a bit frivolous but unfortunately it’s how things work.

I’m not a fan of small businesses portraying themselves as big businesses — there’s no disgrace to being a small business (in fact, there are many advantages) but in any case, why would you risk the embarrassment of being exposed as phoney? However, there is a certain minimal standard of business-like behaviour required to give potential customers and others confidence in your shop. So back to your email address and what it does to convey a serious business-like impression . . .

You decide which of these email addresses are more likely to inspire confidence and which make the business look a bit rinky-dink:

A1 Signs and Shirts

A1 Signs and Shirts

Signs 4U            

Signs 4U            

Everyone knows Hotmail and Gmail email addresses are free, and that’s fine for personal purposes, but not for your business. You don’t want people to wonder how established and serious your business is if it apparently can’t afford a few bucks for a business-like image. This includes something seen many times a day by many people — your email address.

Footnote: The business names and email addresses used above are fictional. If they resemble real-life names and addresses, it is purely coincidental.



Pitching ideas to customers

Plan your pitch!

We’ve pitched ideas on this blog before about using your Roland printer/cutters to diversify your product offering. When you get down to really examining them, the Roland series of machines are quite amazing in their versatility. The obvious question then becomes why not use that versatility to broaden your product offering? Surely this is something to consider as one solution to an increasingly competitive market place.

Something else your Roland offers you is access to the Roland web site where you can find a lot of useful information to promote business success. You should check it out from time to time. One such article by Ben Fellowes offers advice on how to pitch a customer a new idea. This applies to the type of new ideas we’ve encouraged as a means of diversifying your business using the many features of your Roland.

The point of course is that if you don’t pitch the customer appropriately, even a brilliant idea that could make you and the customer a lot of money might never happen. In the course of running my business I had potential suppliers pitch ideas and products but some of the presentations were so pathetic and the preparation so poor, that they left a bad impression. An “unprofessional” pitch raises questions about how “professional” the idea or product delivery is going to be.

Fellowes offers three main pieces of advice: (1) carefully plan your conversation; (2) be clear, precise and offer immediate value; and (3) put on a fearless performance and knock it out of the park. He also mentions some tips that I really like such as: be natural; draw on a board instead of using a slick Powerpoint presentation; crate a conversational atmosphere by allowing the customer to speak and ask questions; keep in mind the “elevator pitch’ concept; and create and show prototypes.





Look beyond the obvious (and a web site tip)

Look for what your Roland can do beyond the obvious.

Success stories are always a pleasure to tell. I know that equipment and consumable manufacturers like to tell them when their products are involved because it obviously promotes their business. But I like to tell them because its a way of showing what can be achieved – it’s a way of inspiring. A way of looking beyond the obvious.

In this case the story involves a business that started out screen printing skateboard decks and then morphed into a successful decal printer when they acquired a Roland VersaCAMM printer/cutter. The shop is Inkgenda of Costa mesa, California. Their Roland opened up a new world. It got them into magnetic signs, vinyl banners, static clings, window displays, custom decals, and even heat transfers for Tees.

Success has been such that their Roland is running all the time. Sometimes it runs unsupervised like when running, say, ten six-foot banners using Roland’s take-up system. One of the owners claims he can walk away and let the machine print: “It’s like a Crock-Pot – push the button, come back in two hours.”

So that’s the inspirational part of the story. Perhaps it can spur you on to expanding your business with the versatility of a Roland printer/cutter. And keep in mind that Stanleys can help you with this, all you have to do is call 1 877 661 1553 or 1 888 424 7446.

Here’s the web site tip part of the story . . . I visited the Inkgenda website and found that a number of the pages listed on the menu bar brought up error messages. If I were a potential customer it would have turned me off. So the tip is this: check your web site a couple of times a day and make sure it’s working. If you wouldn’t allow your shop door to jam and prevent potential customers in, why would you allow your web site to do it?


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.