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4 of the Most Fun Sign Projects in Years

All contribute to a positive environment as well as having been a joy to do.

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“IT IS FUN TO HAVE fun but you have to know how,” is one of Dr. Seuss’s most famous lines, and an important lesson for all signmakers — as four Brain Squad members relate.

UNDER THE SEA

There’s nothing better than seeing a delightful smile on a child’s face. That was the response from the students (and staff) at Sand Lake Elementary in Orlando, FL after local Image360 South Orlando completed a vibrant and exciting library wrap last year that teaches the alphabet and basic fun facts, promotes positive uplifting messages and invites students to choose a book to read.

Image360 South Orlando’s owner Marco Milliotti, his wife Ana and their staff teamed with local graphic designer Kharolys Naranjo during summer break to cover the walls, half of which were cinderblock, with whimsical animals and under-the-sea designs of the school’s stingray mascot, fish and octopi, and even a yellow submarine to mark Milliotti’s love of The Beatles.

walls of water: Image360 South Orlando covered the walls of this school library with colorful undersea creatures and more.

It was critical for Milliotti’s team to exactly measure down to ¼ in. every area of the library including outlets and light switches. What type of vinyl would adhere to this wall and conform to a textured rough and porous brick surface? They used Arlon DPF 6700 vinyl with Arlon 3220 Matte laminate for its beautiful “paint-like” finish, touch and feel, which they imaged on their HP Latex 560 wide-format printer. Seven full rolls were required to wrap the entire library.

“It was our first time using this material for the textured surfaces,” Milliotti says. “We didn’t have much of a problem. The doors and windows, however, were a bit more of a challenge. We found the vinyl to be a more super aggressive adhesive and it took a learning curve to handle it. In the end, we had to reprint three of the doors. It was also critical for us to clean the surface thoroughly to remove any dust or debris that could interfere with adhesion.”

The project took nearly 50 days to complete: one month for the creative design process, two days to prepare the files for the final art, about three days to print and prepare the material, and seven full days to install the wall graphics, columns, windows and doors.

School staff remarked that the final design is “absolutely amazing” and that the concrete walls look painted. Moreover, the students loved the colorful graphics and the attention-grabbing story they tell.

For Milliotti and his team, the fun part was the month-long plus process and final outcome. “It’s like climbing a tall mountain and reaching the summit where you have this amazing view,” he says. “Seeing the vibrant colors output from the printer and then putting all the pieces in place like a jigsaw puzzle produces a happy outcome and is very satisfying.”

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GET YOUR JOLLIES

When Studio Dzo (Austin, TX) was approached by Lee Ann and Burke Jolly, owners of Jolly Bodies Fitness to help update their visual brand identity and roll out a new look for their first location in Little Rock, AR, they immediately knew it was going to be a fun project.

“The spirit and energy that Lee Ann and Burke brought made the entire creative process awesome,” recalls Russell Toynes, Studio Dzo’s co-owner and creative director along with Elizabeth Arenella Toynes, co-owner and controller. “No idea was too wild. The amount of creative support and excitement we received from them only fueled us to pour more time, energy and magic into the brand design and the signage. It is truly a magical space and the happiest workout center.”

happy faces: Studio Dzo designed the signs and branding around a smilely-faced logo.

The signage package included one showstopping organic multicolored illuminated exterior sign, two illuminated interior signs that slowly morph with lava-lamp-like waves of color, one printed vinyl wall graphic, some small plotted vinyl over the gym entrance, and an Instagrammable moment wall made from 31 locker doors painted, trimmed and arranged in a rainbow herringbone pattern.

Even at 5 a.m., the 228-in.-long exterior welcoming beacon brings a smile to every gym member’s face as they arrive. The 6-in.-deep routed-out show-through cabinet backed with Acrylite Day/Night acrylic faces presents a black appearance in the day and a bright white illuminated appearance at night. The team used 5000K temperature white LEDs to illuminate through a custom printed gradient for an organic multicolored lava lamp-like color drop shadow on a low profile 3 x 12-in. aluminum raceway mounted flush to the exterior.

Once members enter the gym, they are greeted with two interior illuminated signs.

Right above the reception desk is the 213.5-in.-long interior Jolly Bodies logo sign. The second sign, the can’t-miss 4 x 4-ft. ‘Smile’ icon with satin white faces and white acrylic returns, achieves the same gradient effect through LED illumination.

“The undulating color gradient was something new for the LED programmers,” Toynes says. “Dialing the specific colors and having them flow slowly in a random lava-lamp-like pattern proved much more challenging than anyone expected. It was quite a bit of trial and error to get it to look the way we had envisioned.”

After finishing the project in a year, the owners of Jolly Bodies and its gym members were “excited, astounded and speechless,” Toynes says. “Not only do they love the results but everyone who walks in is mesmerized by it all. The photos posted by everyone are proof of how well our work has been received.”

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MONUMENTAL FUN

As residents and shoppers pass by one of the busiest intersections in Whitemarsh Township, PA, they are greeted with a new Electronic Message Center (EMC) monument. Created by Treasure Sign (Willow Grove, PA), the project became a labor of love for the six-employee, family-owned business.

“It wasn’t just the magnitude of the project that made it so much fun,” says Jim Convey, who operates the business with his brother Chris. “It was all of the different elements that we were able to mix together for one creation that made it so unique. From the basic natural elements of the rock and dirt to the most advanced technological aspect of the EMC, we designed, manufactured and installed every aspect of it.”

paying tribute: Treasure Sign designed this EMC monument to match a veterans monument across the street.

The project, which took nearly a year to complete, began with a design that mirrored the stonework and lighting from a newly constructed veterans monument across the street. The design used a mix of stone, metal and plastic, even including the same rock used for the veterans monument and the same LED garden spotlights. The goal was to allow visitors to feel that both sides of the intersection were designed by the same firm.

Treasure Sign built a three-sided, right-angled stone monument complete with up-lighting, flower bed planters and three separate EMC panels (two 4 x 8 ft. and one 4 x 4 ft.) that linked together to form one giant EMC measuring 4 x 20 ft.

The cladding on the structure’s aluminum front, back, sides and capping are painted navy blue to match the township’s seal. Treasure Sign used a 9mm pixel pitch, and Old World Stone Veneer Charcoal Ridge Ledgestone Veneer for the rock.

Midway through the build, Treasure Sign’s team had an idea. What if the stone veneer could continue around the back of the sign? The township officials gave them the green light to make it happen. All of the dimensional graphics on the structure’s front are Formed Plastic from Gemini with the ultra-detailed graphics on the township seal element as Gemini flat-cut acrylic. Finally, they planted 10 large blue liriopes in the five planter boxes to mimic the plantings across the street.

“This was our most fulfilling sign project in our 35-year history,” Convey says. “We have constructed many great signs and have been involved in a lot of huge projects in our days. But no singular sign ever consumed more of our thoughts and time than this sign. But we loved every second of it.”

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BACK TO NATURE

The perfect project for Jake Zani, Rule Signs & Graphics (Randolph, VT) arrived at the right time, with the right amount of challenge, and with an organization — The Orange County Parent Child Center — that is well connected to other daycare centers in the state. The job also afforded “an excuse to buy some very fun masonry tools,” Zani says.

The initial meeting with the center’s director emphasized their new ID sign be 100% wood (preferably locally sourced) and incorporate the existing rough-cut granite posts on site. “We have done all-wood projects before, but nothing of that scale, and usually attached to existing finished framework,” Zani says.

local source: Rule Signs & Graphics combined natural and existing components for this sign.

This job required joining wood to granite, as well as smoothing, leveling and drilling into the granite. Zani, his father and brother manufactured a framework to fit over the posts. The heat-treated Vermont-wooden frame had to be capable of supporting the two signs (each made of three layers of ½-in. pine and fir planks, about 100 lbs. each), squaring and stabilizing the entire structure, Zani says. The cross beam at the top also weighs about 250 lbs. and the sign faces feature 88 hand-cut shapes and letters.

The day of the installation never got above 30º F but Zani, his dad and brother worked all day to get it done. “We ultimately designed and built an inner framework out of pressure-treated pine with two larger, very nice heat-treated pine planks on either side (to basically sandwich the top 18 in. of the granite posts),” Zani says. They also used floor joist hangers and two heat-treated pine planks as the lower cross bar infrastructure and joined the larger wood posts to the granite using expansion-style concrete anchors.

The signs themselves are attached to the crossbars using deck joist ties flipped upside-down to act “like a poor-man’s heavy-duty french cleat,” in Zani’s words. “Essentially, the very thing that made the signs difficult to move around (their weight) is what is holding them in place on the framework; the joists are just there to keep the panels from rocking forward.”

All things considered, this project took Zani himself about 50 hours, spread over a leisurely 12-month timeframe, and with some manageable new challenges. Dad and brother’s involvement brings the total work hours to about 75.

“Easily the most elaborate, most ecologically friendly and most rewarding project we have done to date,” Zani says. The project transformed a pair of rough-cut granite posts with a banner stretched between them into a locally-sourced, dimensional wood-lettered sign that incorporates and compliments the beautiful granite posts.

PHOTO GALLERY (96 IMAGES)
📷 Image360 South Orlando | Studio Dzo | Treasure Sign | Rule Signs & Graphics

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