Keeping signs simple. But how?

Can a design be any simpler and any more effective in conveying its message?

Sign and design experts have for a long time been arguing that for a sign or billboard to  effectively convey its message, the design should be kept simple. As with many of these suggestions and ideas, you’d be justified in asking for a tip or two on how to do it.

Well, how about this from the French writer, poet and journalist known as Saint-Exupéry (1900 – 1944): “Perfection is achieved, not when there is nothing more to add, but when there is nothing left to take away.”

Surely a simple but profound technique applicable to so much in life, including design?

A big small business problem area: emails and voicemails

How long do I have to wait for you to get back with me?

At a recent business presentation about local print advertising in Bridgewater, Nova Scotia, the point was again made that the small business community (which includes most Canadian sign and screen printers) is really bad about answering emails and voicemails promptly. In fact, it’s such a commonly-acknowledged and widespread problem that the participants just burst out laughing.

But it’s not a laughing matter and it’s not just a rural Nova Scotia issue; it’s a problem all across the country.

Here’s what we need to realize . . . Customers are impatient. If they’re looking for a product or service and email or call about it, they want an answer right away. If you don’t make a point of responding to inquiries promptly (within minutes if possible, but certainly within a couple of hours) your competition is likely to get the business. This means that the money and time you spent on advertising to get the potential customer to contact you, would have been wasted.

So, the takeaway? If you or an employee are not on the phone or computer responding to inquiries as they occur, commit to check regularly (every hour on the hour?) for email and voicemail inquiries and answer them, even it’s only to reassure the potential customer that you’ll be back with details shortly.

Did you enter The Best of Canada’s Sign Industry awards (BOCSIes)?

Yes, we are nagging and being repetitive but it’s for a good cause—we want to see you promote your shop by winning an award (or at least trying). It’s too late for this year because entries closed in a few days but it’s not too early to target the awards next year.

Imagine the bragging rights and ready-made advertising material if your shop wins a BOCSI award! In addition to that your shop would be mentioned in Sign Media Canada. And even if you don’t win, the process of involving your staff in entering is bound to boost morale and pride in their work. It could drive them onto greater effort with an eye on the awards the next year.

Resolve right now to enter next year and involve your staff right away. It can only be good for your shop and business overall.


Large format technology – ready for it?

Time to contemplate a large format future?

A recent article in Sign Media Canada pointed out that not being able to offer large format printing due to a lack of large format equipment or inadequate equipment, hurt printers’ bottom lines.

And not only the occasional loss of business should be a concern but the permanent loss of a customer could be really damaging to the bottom line. With increasing demands for large format solutions provided quickly and economically, it sounds like time to contemplate the status of your business and research your market to determine where and how it may fit into a large format future.

Film – choosing the right one can be a challenge

Picked the wrong film again!

Film is not film is not film. There are differences. Picking the right one is important.

Film manufacturing has become a lot more sophisticated over the years and manufacturers have established ways for users to make the right choice based on application needs, compatibility with ink, durability requirements, and adhesive removal considerations.

Check with your Stanley’s representative when selecting a film for your particular application with all its special needs and requirements to make sure that you end up with the best possible film for the job.

Sign Manufacturing Day

Future employees at Sign Manufacturing Day.

There is still time to reap the benefits of Sign Manufacturing Day organized by the International Sign Association for October 4th.

Testimonials by sign shops that have participated in the past confirm benefits such as hiring new employees, accepting interns, and forging stronger relationships with schools.

For an industry always on the search for keen, trainable employees Sign Manufacturing Day is a great way to build your labour force. The International Sign Association has developed a toolkit with everything you need in order to make the day a success.

In order to participate you should register at

Roland Texart RT-640M

The Roland Texart RT-640M.

Roland has announced the Texart RT-640M, a dye-sublimation printer for soft signage, apparel and textiles. It will print both directly onto fabric or onto transfer paper for customizing rigid substrates and 3D objects.

The RT-640M has some pretty impressive features including ErgoSoft Roland Edition 2 RIP software, advanced 8-channel print heads that lower running costs by providing efficient ink coverage, and an adjustable front roller and media take-up for no-skew printing.

As we have often noted, if you’re looking for opportunities to expand your product and services offering in this competitive industry, fabric printing might be an option. In that case, the RT-640M might be what you’ve been waiting for.

Give Stanley’s a call for more information.

Raise your shop’s profile

Be noticed!

In the previous post we urged you to join an industry association and suggested you check out the Sign Association of Canada. And if you’re already a member or decide to join, you should take advantage of their offer to raise your shop’s profile.

Here’s what they’re saying: “Do  you have any interesting projects, new partnerships, or photos of iconic signs? If so, we’d love to profile your company. Send industry-related announcements, news, and pictures to”

Having your business profiled in a trade magazine can’t hurt; quite the opposite. You may want to take advantage of this offer.

Join an industry association for the many benefits.

Check out the benefits of joining an industry association.

If you take your shop and industry seriously, one thing you need to do is join at least one industry association and participate in its activities.

Participation brings benefits such as influence through committee or task work, savings on products and services through special membership discounts, inside information, and a general awareness of developments in the industry that may benefit your shop.

One such organization worth considering is right here in Canada — the Sign Association of Canada. If your shop is not member, it should be. You can log onto their website right here and apply for membership.


Be a sign consultant, not just a supplier

Now this is good use of a simple design . . .

A recent article about outdoor signs advised sign customers that the role of signage in their businesses was too significant to forgo having an expert consultant.

It urged sign buyers to think of the “sign consultant” not only as an expert resource but also as a point of contact for future signage requirements. The suggestion that this need was pretty much the same as the need for a trusted attorney or accountant might have been a bit of a stretch, but the point is taken.

But turn this around and view it from a sign printer’s perspective, and it suggests that perhaps you as a sign printer should present yourself to your customers as their sign consultant rather than just the sign supplier.

Elevating yourself from sign supplier to trusted sign consultant makes sense, don’t you think?

What is your shop doing to take advantage of customer quirkiness?

Aah . . . thank you!

What is this quote about? . . .

  • “What does your business do to take advantage of this quirkiness? If you’re not making cookie-like gestures for what you perceive to be economic reasons, your small business may be committing false economy.”

It’s about charming your customers and differentiating your shop from the competition using an apparently simple concept with potentially big benefits. And It doesn’t have to be about cookies, it can be any other similar idea.

Curious? Find out here.


Hate prospecting, meeting new customers?

Research the person before meeting.

You’re not alone if you hate prospecting, meeting new customers, or interacting with people you don’t know. It’s a common dilemma among introverts in particular, and many small business owners are introverts.

The problem this poses for the introverted shop owner is that interacting with customers and prospects is an essential part of business survival and growth. But fear not, there is a lot of advice you can access to help overcome this issue. One source is Beth Buelow’s book The Introvert Entrepreneur. Here is just one passage of advice from Buelow . . .

“We have a treasure trove of mobile information at our fingertips, often right in our purse or pocket. I highly recommend tapping into it in advance of any event or meeting you’re attending. If there’s someone you’re interested in meeting, visit her website, check out her social media profiles, and even read a few blog posts or articles to get a stronger sense of who she is. Use web-based information to build a bridge between online and off-line.”

Is your business secure in the increasingly digital world?

Rogers for Business has just raised an interesting issue regarding the internet. They point out that the upgrade to 5G brings good news and bad news. The good news is that 5G allows for much faster download and upload, more reliable coverage, and more stable connections. The bad news is that small businesses will be needing additional ways to protect their key information (financial and everything else) on internal servers and in the cloud.

Rogers says that now is the time for small and medium business in particular to upgrade the security of their internet-accessible data. They recommend that you think like a hacker and identify weak spots and vital data. The process should include consideration of the necessity of storing certain data—the less you expose, the better. And train your staff to spot and avoid suspicious activity like phishing—apparently only 16% of small business train their staff in internet security.

Internet security is a complex topic that cannot be ignored. You will probably need third party assistance such as an IT consultant to ensure that you’re covered. Hacking can be costly—I tell you this as a past victim of an attack that took $8,000 to fix.

New technology from Roland.

Roland’s new METAZA MPX-95 Photo Impact printer is ideal for gift personalization and industrial and medical part marking. It will mark gold, steel, silver and titanium.

The MPX-95 has a removable base plate and base unit to allow imprinting onto larger items. There are kits that allow expanded application possibilities such as the Gift Kit (personalizing gifts) and a DPM Kit (direct part marking).

The MPX-95 includes easy-to-use software, a built-in laser pointer for precise set-up, automatic surface detection, and it is compact and runs quietly.

Talk to Rob at Stanley’s in Edmonton (780 424 4141) or Graham in Calgary (404 243 7722) about an MPX-95 for your shop.

Plastic waste.

We don’t want our products ending up here.

Plastic waste is a huge problem. It’s a pity that it has taken so long for most of us to finally become aware of it. The big question of course is what can we do about it.

As with any problem of this magnitude the solution isn’t a single, one-off cure. It starts with small, individual efforts that gradually escalate until collectively they stem and then solve the problem. One of these individual efforts has to come from our industry. Some of our output is on plastic and related materials that are part of the problem.

As individual businesses in the sign industry we should be aware of the problem, keep informed, and look for alternatives to the problematic materials we use.

What is your shop doing about this?


Signs people don’t know they need.

Awaiting gags.

A sign shop window in Lunenburg, Nova Scotia recently caught my attention. It displayed a number of signs one would never think of ordering but, like the candy racks at the supermarket check-out counters, it had stuff that suddenly seemed like a good idea.

The one that caught my eye was the “Chipmunk crossing” sign. Who’d think to order a gag sign like that, but when I saw it, $20 seemed like a reasonable outlay for a sign that suddenly struck me as a good idea. It was perfect for us because we have a chipmunk that regularly crosses the gravel country road at the end of our property to take peanuts from us.

The lesson from this is that if you have a display window, website, portfolio or some other way of bringing your offerings to the attention of potential customers, perhaps a series of well thought out gag signs could add an extra revenue stream.

Act big!

Who’d know that she’s just a one-person sign shop?

The Canadian sign industry has a number of big players but there are a vast number of smaller shops, some are even one-person and home-based shops. And it’s commonly assumed that the little guys can’t compete with the big guys because they’re not as “professional” or as “business-like” as the big guys. But this doesn’t have to be true.

Sadly, this perception exists in spite of small shops matching the big guys for quality and price. The reason? The little guys perpetuate it by their behavior, by how they present themselves. So what can small shops do about this?

Well, first off, pretending to be bigger than you actually are is phony and if caught out will be a customer turn-off. But you can level the playing field by acting big, by matching the big guys in professionalism. Well-designed stationery (letterheads, quote pads, business cards etc.), a well-designed and printed business name sign (you’re in the sign business, remember), a professional-looking portfolio, and an appropriate dress standard when visiting customers all help to give customers confidence.

And above all, pay a lot of attention to communication. This means answering emails promptly and answering phones immediately. Make sure that when someone calls the phone is immediately answered by a real person. This might mean contracting an answering service, but whatever arrangement you make, an immediate, polite response to a call is vital. These things equate to “professionalism” in customers’ minds.

So while you shouldn’t pretend to be big, you should act big.

Visibility in signs is about more than just size and colours

With good reason it’s recommended that a designer of a billboard or sign meant to be visible from a distance should pay attention to the size of the graphics and the colours. But just as important is simplicity—a consideration often overlooked.

Less can be more inasmuch as adding too much to the design can distract from the message being conveyed. More and more it seems that we want our information in short, sharp soundbites. Maybe it’s laziness or maybe we’re gradually being conditioned that way by the social media influences in our lives, influences like Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest. And while we don’t really need to know the reason, we do need to know that simplicity of design is more likely to convey our intended message.

Monitor calibration

Calibrate your monitor.

Here’s something often overlooked, even by graphic designers. Monitors display colours in a different way from print products. So this is a reminder that monitors should be calibrated—the monitor’s user guide or online resources can be consulted for guidance.

If this basic but important step is taken colours on your monitor will come out as intended when printed.

Roland’s TrueVis VG2 Series improvements

The Roland TrueVis VG2 series of printer-cutters.

The Roland TrueVis VG2 features new inks and colour modes for detailed colour reproduction. It also offers increased print-cut accuracy and smart new automated pinch rollers. And there are enhanced warranty programs to provide more confidence.

Rob or Graham at Stanley’s can tell you a whole lot more about the VG2. Rob is at 780 424 4141 and Graham is at 403 243 7722.

Sign Expo Canada

Attending industry events is so important to the survival and progress of your shop that we’re going to keep bringing them to your notice and encourage you to attend.

The next one to know about is the Sign Expo Canada at the International Centre, Mississauga, Ontario on September 20th and 21st 2019. If you’d like to consider exhibiting there are still spots available. You can see the floor plan here.

If you’re not exhibiting you should join the many other attendees from around the world to see what the Canadian sign industry has to offer. If you’re hesitating, ask yourself why, if some people can come from other countries to attend, you can’t come from another province, Ontario city, or even close-by suburb. Be engaged in your industry. Attend.



Strategy considerations

A resource for finding new, less-competitive markets.

Kim and Mauborgne’s book, Blue Ocean Strategy, was primarily written with larger businesses in mind but there is much that applies to small business as well. if you are disinclined to sit and read their book why not buy the audio version and listen to it while doing something like walking or on your daily commute to the shop? It’s bound to give you food for thought if you’re looking for ways to advance your business.

The basic premise of the book is finding new markets away from where the competition is intense and where you and your competitors are beating each other up. It’s possible but not without a bit of effort and that effort includes accessing the kind of information available from Blue Ocean Strategy.

Sign Manufacturing Day

Sign Manufacturing Day organised by SAC-ACE.

If you contact you can find out about Sign Manufacturing Day. It’s an opportunity to participate in an event whereby you host students from local schools to learn about the sign making industry directly from professionals.

The potential benefits are obvious, the most obvious being that you’ll be building a labour pipeline. Shops from seven provinces (BC, Alberta, Saskatchewan, Ontario, Quebec, New Brunswick, and Nova Scotia) participated last year; it’s a concept that’s spreading.

Fraudulent trading firms

Usually there are red flags.

Beware of companies that send random purchase inquiries by email. is warning about UAE-based fraudulent trading firms. They remind us to not be impressed by fancy websites and glowing testimonials because they can easily be fake.

Here is an example of what they’re talking about. It’s an excerpt form an email received this week . . .

”  Dear Sir/Ma,

We are interested in purchasing some of your products. This products are needed ASAP at our head office in Dubai U.A.E, We would like to know if you offer services to international customers, We have a private shipping company who handles our shipping when products are ready for collection. We would also like to confirm if you accept wire transfers. Kindly let us know ASAP.

Sales Manager”


Now the SCOTYs

We’ve encouraged you before to enter the BOCSIs (Best of Canada’s Sign Industry Awards) as a means of promoting your work and your shop. Now they’re adding the SCOTYs (Sign Company of the Year Awards).

The thing about entering these industry awards is that not only can it earn favourable publicity but it will motivate staff and build team spirit—who isn’t motivated by a competition?

You can find out more and enter at



Printing on canvas

Now that is a good idea worth pursuing!

Sign Media Canada spoke with Ginny Mumm of Roland and reported as follows in their editorial: “She says as print technology improves and consumers’ understanding of what is possible in printing expands, print shop owners are increasingly asked to produce graphics and images on canvas.”

If this is true, why wait to be asked? Why not gear up to print on canvas and then get out there and offer it? It may well spark a need among your existing customer base that haven’t thought of printing on canvas and don’t know that you can print on it.

What if digital signage is not your core competency?

Strike an outsourcing deal.

You may have a long-standing customer who approaches you about digital signage. No need to get ulcers just because digital signage is not your thing, not one of your shop’s core competencies. If turning them down flat may cost you a customer, there is another alternative—outsourcing. You could strike an outsourcing deal with a shop that specializes in digital signage. Obviously you’re going to research potential shops carefully and find one you can work with and who is willing to work with you. Pull this off and you would have created a team to address your customer’s needs for both static and digital signage.

Focus or diversify? Don’t head off blindfolded.

Don’t head off blindfolded not knowing whether you should focus or diversify.

I’ve just read a Shopify blog post that encourages new entrepreneurs to narrow their focus. There’s much to be said for this concept in certain circumstances such as the subject of the post, a three-year-old men’s jeans company that has grown into a million-dollar business. The business focuses only on “jeans for men that are as comfortable as sweat pants.” On the other hand, I’ve also just read about a company that started out as a sign shop and is now diversified into posters, t-shirts and vehicle graphics. This owner credits diversification to the success of his shop.

So, focus or diversification? I guess it depends upon variables such as your industry, resources, location, and market. The important thing to know is that your shop’s success could depend upon one or the other of these two options. You therefore need to study both and make an informed decision rather than just stumble along blindfolded and not knowing where you’re going.

Does your shop give back to the community?

Giving back to your community can get your sign shop a lot of attention.

It’s not just a noble gesture to give back to the community, it also makes good business sense. According to, The Sign Cellar in Kamloops encourages local not-for-profit organizations to get in touch so that they can help them with their signs for events or for marketing their services. So, quite rightly, having heard this, we immediately have a favourable impression of The Sign Cellar. This of course means that you can be pretty sure that local businesses have the same favourable impression. So, ask yourself, who are some of those businesses going to think of first when they need signage? Exactly! Now ask yourself how your shop can give back to the community.

The BOCSIes are coming around again


This could be you.


Sign Media and the Sign Association of Canada’ Best Of Canada’s Sign Industry awards are coming around again. Entries for the 2019 version open on May 1st. Why not take a shot at getting your shop on the industry map by entering some of your best work? Recognition through awards like this are good for business as well as a boost for the morale of the shop.

You can find all you need to know here at the BOCSI website.