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The future of graphic design in a digital media age

Responding to opinions that the days of printed graphic media are numbered in an article on the future of graphic design, someone wrote: “As for print media, I still stand firm on it. There are just some things you can’t do in digital media: providing billboards, postcards, business cards, all sorts of media that you can feel and put in your hands. Sure, the volume may be less, but that doesn’t make it any less relevant.” Where do you stand on this?

Typeface trend for 2019

Typeface trend from U.K. for 2019

From Printsome in the U.K.: “After several years of domination in the Digital and Graphic world, sans-serif typefaces are giving way to the likes of Bookman and Old Style fonts once again in an effort to reclaim originality and expression, You’ll find the best uses of these styles in food packaging, artistic websites, fashion brands and luxury products. Digital products are excellent opportunities to break the mould of sans-series usage . . .”

What do you think? Give you any ideas?Worth taking note of for Canada?

Stanley’s B02-440 Premium Frontlit Banner

This is a white substrate for frontlit display and billboard applications. It offers a smooth surface and stable performance for vibrant and consistent print quality. Call Stanley’s Edmonton, Calgary and Richmond offices for more details or to discuss how this film can be used in your shop.

Recovering damaged roll of premask

Here’s a tip from Northstar Truck & Lettering of New Jersey. If you have a roll of premask tape that has been damaged by excess cold or heat in, say, your van, about 15 to 25 seconds in the microwave will apparently restore it to original usable condition. If the roll is too long, cut it in half as it’s better to have two smaller rolls than no roll at all. BUT DO NOT TRY THIS WITH CLEAR TRANSFER TAPE.

Stanley’s super smooth blockout banner

Here’s another in the family of Stanley’s films. It’s the Stanley’s Blow-440 Super Smooth Blockout Banner. As the name implies, it’s a super smooth 13oz blockout banner. It offers a true matte finish on a tightly-woven base fabric with a special coating for high resolution printing. Use it for hanging banners, post banners and displays. It’s printable on both sides. Rolls come in two sizes – 38″ or 54″ by 300 foot rolls. Fir more information, call or pop into Stanley’s Edmonton, Calgary, or Richmond branches.

Roland enters direct to garment printing.

Roland VersaStudio BT-12 Direct-to-Garment Printer.

At the recent Long Beach Show Roland showed their new direct-to-garment printer—the VersaStudio BT-12. This could be of interest to digital and sign shops looking to diversify. It obviously can’t offer the speed, volume, and diversity of textile screen printing equipment but for a digital and graphics shop asked to do small garment orders, it might be ideal. Wendy at Stanley’s, Calgary can tell you more but the essential details are that its print size is 8.5 ” x 11″, it prints on 100% cotton substrates, and costs about U.S.$5,000.

Stanley’s SoFlat Frontlit Non-Curling Scrimless Banner

With the popularity of roll-up displays this is a banner substrate you should know about. It’s seamless, super smooth, and non-curling at the edges. Solvent, eco-solvent or UV inks? No problem, use any of them. It comes in 36 inch wide x 300 foot long rolls. Stanley’s staff at Edmonton, Calgary, or Richmond can tell you more.

Simplicity in outdoor sign design.

Any doubt what is being sold here?

Leonardo da Vinci reportedly said: “Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication.” Simplicity is also urged in effective sign design. For instance, just a few simple steps can deliver effective signs: understand the brand you are marketing or what you are selling; reduce it to a single thought and translate it into a single image; remove everything else (potential distracting clutter); use bright colours; use very few words; make the product or logo bold.

Stanley’s Print Media features five popular films

Do you know that Stanley’s offers a family of five popular films under their own brand name? Call or pop into their Edmonton, Calgary, or Richmond offices and ask about their film. They have: Stanley’s SoFlat Frontlit Non-Curling Scrimless Banner; Stanley’s Blow-440 Super Smooth Blockout Banner; Stanley’s B02-440 Premium Frontlit Banner; Stanley’s BLO-610 Premium Blockout Banner; and Stanley’s SAV-140G Print Vinyl. We’ll be featuring each of the five films in upcoming posts.

Henry Ford was wrong.

You need the break. Business 24-7 is unhealthy.

Henry Ford is reported to have said: “I do not believe that a man can ever leave his business. He ought to think of it by day and dream of it by night.” If he did indeed say this, and was implying a 24-7 business preoccupation, we must hope that he wasn’t addressing small business people like digital and sign shop owners. Today we know more about burnout and balanced, healthy lifestyles. And neglecting family, recreation, and ongoing education to be totally preoccupied with your business, hardly seems balanced or healthy and is flirting with burnout.

A little advice can go a long way.

Needs eye-catching colour and message and to be positioned on the sidewalk!

So your coffee shop customer asks for a window cling to promote a new selection of pastries. The coffee shop is on a street with a lot of passing foot traffic and the owner figures that a nice big window cling will do the trick. But this is where you come in . . . How many passers by are going to turn their head to look at the window? Wouldn’t the message be more easily seen if it were in their line of vision like, say, an A-frame sitting on the sidewalk? Value-added service such as good advice can impress and snare a repeat customer.

Printed signs holding their own against digital.

Digital signs and some of the amazing interactive technology associated with them seem to be stealing the limelight nowadays. But you wonder sometimes whether it isn’t a case of technology running around looking for an application. In other words, are all digital signs practical, cost effective, and a justifiable alternative to printed signs? As industry blogger, Arthur Piccio, noted in a 2016 post, “It’s usually far cheaper to print signs instead of investing in digital ones. Furthermore, digital signs have very particular maintenance issues and consume power even during the day.”

Add non-graphic content to your graphics

Have you noticed a growing eye-catching trend in advertising graphics such as wall murals, floor graphics, and signs? It’s where a non-graphic item is introduced to attract attention and compliment the graphics. For instance, an Adirondack chair in front of a mural promoting tourism in Newfoundland or skis, boots, and helmet with a resort promotion. Give you any ideas?     

Shop size

It’s an industry of mostly smaller firms.

Have you ever wondered how your shop’s staff size compares with the rest of the Canadian digital and sign industry? More than half (56%) have 10 or fewer employees. Another 15% have 11 to 20 employees. There are the 4% with a 100 or more employees but it’s still an industry of primarily small businesses.    

Where are the females?

I wonder why there are still so few of us in this industry?

Do you know that the sign industry in Canada is apparently dominated by men? And it’s not even close—77% of people employed in the Canadian sign industry are men according to Sign Media. There doesn’t seem to be any rational explanation at a time when in other industries parity is becoming the norm, and rightly so. What’s the ratio in your shop?

Typical employee benefits in the industry

The benefits where I work are great!

How does your shop compare when it comes to employee benefits? Of the 20 benefits enjoyed by employees of the sign industry in Canada listed by Sign Media, paid vacations topped the list at 77%—not a big surprise there. But here are some others: dental/group benefits 60%; medical insurance 55%; bonuses 53%; mobile phone 52%; paid sick leave 47%; and life insurance 46%. At the bottom of the list is an interesting item, gym membership 5%.   

Sign maker of the year

This could be you.

You know how we encouraged you to enter Sign Media’s Sign Maker of the Year competition? And you probably said, “Nah, don’t think so. We’re just a small shop in a small town.” Well, Speedpro Signs of Grande Prairie, Alberta has just been announced as a regional winner. Your shop too could win and enjoy the free publicity and bragging rights. But you have to enter. Target next year.   

Looking back and looking forward

What does 2019 look like for your shop?

According to Sign Media 2018 was another growth year for the sign industry but that looking forward, ” A slight concern on the horizon is a slowdown in the world economy after roughly 10 years of steady growth.” What is your sign shop doing to maintain the momentum in 2019? 

Editing and quality control

What?! How did that get through quality control?

How carefully does your shop edit sign or billboard text? Here are some examples of billboard “typos” that probably cost the print shops each a repeat customer . . .

  • Not eveything needs to be done in a New York Minute.
  • ABC Chilren’s Academy
  • Be a Biomedical Technincian
  • Alway’s there, when you need us.
  • A tasty contraditcion

Spot them all at first glance? Could something like this slip through your shop?


Better signs

You know how there’s this ongoing discussion about the best fonts to use for maximum impact on signs? Well, according to, for easy application and readability you should try Helva Demi Bold or Impact in upper case letters. Might be worth giving it a try.


Do you realize that posters are as popular as they’ve ever been? The good news for you though is that instead of having to turn them out on a cumbersome lithographic press such as when posters first became popular, you can now churn them out on your Roland. If you’re looking for another revenue stream for your shop, posters might be worth investigating.

Roland at the SGIA Expo


Did you visit the Roland booth at the SGIA? Roland reports an increased buzz around their booth with a new company mantra, “Built to Build Your Business.” If you didn’t go to the show or visit the Roland booth you missed out on a series “How I built My Business” presented by influential Roland users. This is the kind of stuff that provides ideas and stimulation for advancing your shop. Time to make plans to attend next year?

Beyond fierce sign shop competition


Ever wondered what you can do to work around the fierce competition in the sign industry? Acryl design of Winnipeg diversified to where signs are now just about 20 percent of their business. They escaped what is known as a red ocean and headed for a blue ocean. Want to know what that means? Check out Blue Ocean Strategy by Kim and Mauborgne. It will start you thinking about heading for a blue ocean too.

Training sign shop staff

Trained and ready to print!


Have you heard of the sign design program at W.J. Mouat Secondary School in Abbotsford? It provides a certificate for its students—apparently the first to do so in Canada. This means that the graduates have a document to take along to job applications that speaks to their training and ability. A good place for you to know about when you’re looking for qualified staff?

Go ahead and be nuts

Go ahead, be nuts!

Are you aware of the message that  Larry Ellison (Oracle) had for innovators in business—businesses like a sign shop looking for an innovation to differentiate it from all the other sign shops? “When you innovate, you’ve got to be prepared for people telling you that you are nuts.” In other words, don’t stop innovating because of the opinions of others that you may be nuts.

Employee recognition

Have you ever heard what Rosabeth Moss Kanter had to say about employee recognition? “Recognition is so easy to do and so inexpensive to distribute that there is simply no excuse for not doing it.” What do you do in your sign shop to recognize an employees’ contributions? Money isn’t everything.

Small team; big things

Small team. Big things.


Do you know that the vast majority of sign shops in Canada are typically small businesses with small teams? However, as Jason Fried of Basecamp said: “There’s nothing wrong with staying small. You can do big things with a small team.” This can be particularly true of sign shops. How high does your small sign shop team aim?

Sign installation truck consideration

You need the right installation truck.


Do you know that Jeff Stutt writing for Sign Media Canada points out the importance of the chassis of a truck intended to be turned into a boom truck for installing signs? He says that most truck dealers have little or no experience building a boom truck specific to a sign installer’s needs. Before settling on a chassis, consult with an industry professional.

Vehicle wrap care


Do you know that if you’re in the vehicle-wrapping business there tips you can give your customers about protection of their wraps? For instance: they should keep out of the sun as much as possible; use distillate-free wax for polishing after every wash; and use UV protective sprays even after waxing, especially in the heat of summer.