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2024 Women in Signs: Alicia Brothers

She entwines her community contributions with sign technology.

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Don’t ever stop advancing in the sign industry.” — BROTHERS

Alicia Brothers

Alicia Brothers | Senior project manager, Poblocki Sign Co. (Boston)

ALICIA BROTHERS HAS been intrigued by signs since she was two years old, when she watched her craftsman grandfather painting and lettering signs by hand in his shop. A third-generation signmaker, she formally entered the industry at the age of 16, beginning with flatbed and large-format printing at a mom-and-pop vinyl shop. She then worked at Cadwell Sign (Holliston, MA), whose owner Mindy Murray mentored her on how to be a woman in the industry and how to effectively communicate with clients for the best results.

When Murray retired, Brothers knew that she needed to keep going, so she transitioned to Poblocki Sign Co. She is now working primarily with ADA and exterior signs, and the continual advancement of signmaking technology keeps her engaged in a field where being a woman creates its own barrier. Sometimes she has been the only woman on the sign production floor, she recalls, but by immersing herself in all technological aspects of signmaking — vinyl, printing, laser, polymer, finish and more — she has built enough accreditation to stand her ground. “As a woman I feel you need to have a strong personality and backbone to set standards and expectations for a predominantly men-driven construction industry,” she notes.

FOSTERING YOUNG TALENT: Alicia Brothers worked with students in a youth design studio for a Kendall Square installation.

For Brothers, community and technology are intertwined. In 2021 she was introduced to Innovators for Purpose, a nonprofit youth design studio and learning lab that involved her in the Voices of 2 Blocks project. She volunteered her time and expertise with the team and a group of design students to create an installation in Kendall Square in Cambridge, MA.

Brothers also worked under a partnership with Blackstone Valley Regional Vocational Technical High School and Assabet Valley Regional Technical High School, both in Massachusetts, where she mentored students in one-on-one fabrication internships as a production leader. Fabrication as a discipline is not widely taught in vocational schools or offered as a career choice for students — “a lot of it is teaching designs, not making a sign,” she adds. Many students she worked with showed interest in the vinyl department, while others gravitated toward laser technology and the 3D printing realm.

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Those same avenues are what Brothers has her eyes on in the future. “I look forward to the advancement in technology with 3D printing, seeing where ADA signs are going, what new technology in digital creation is now coming forward,” she says. She hopes that the next generations will find inspiration in the technique and art of signmaking, guided by mentorship, as she has.

Out in the installation field, Brothers works side-by-side with union contractors. She sees her work not so much as a challenge but an empowerment. Around her, women’s standing in the sign industry continues to evolve, evidenced by the fact she now leads a management team in Poblocki’s Boston office where six out of eight members are women. She enjoys teaching and growing the team, while Poblocki continues to hire and train women for the industry.

“It’s definitely empowering, and it’s making a slow footprint and a change in a way that more women are interested,” Brothers says. “More women are becoming signmakers, sign creators and project managers.”

Her attitude to signwork, both the equipment and the people that handle it, revolves around moving forward — including the best advice she has ever received. “Don’t ever stop advancing in the sign industry,” she concludes. “There is always a way to build a sign.”

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