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A Fond Farewell

Robin Donovan says goodbye to Signs of the Times and the sign industry.



Robin Donovan

NEARLY 10 YEARS ago, I thought I’d botched an interview for an entry-level job with Signs of the Times after I described overly bright, LED-lit roadside signs as an eyesore. I was hired anyway, and soon found a home not only writing and editing, but ultimately updating and overhauling various trade publications with our parent company, including Signs of the Times, which I rejoined in 2016.

Today, I’m announcing my departure. And if 2020 has been a year of sad news and disappointments, let me share this: I think Signs of the Times has never been stronger. I’m happy to be leaving just as the industry, under stress, has exhibited some of its most creative work in decades.

It’s no longer surprising to see a 3D printer in a shop cranking out samples and prototypes, to hear that a CEO is equally adept at back-end web programming as nailing the bottom line, or to see Gen Z artists and designers igniting interest in the storied arts of sign painting, gilding and neon bending. 

As Eric Larsen of Wagner Electric Sign Co. and I discussed on a recent podcast, the greatest challenge facing the industry now is its own self-promotion – the ongoing ability to attract bright new minds and industrious spirits. To me, a bigger mission than sharing installation tips or design tricks has always been driving a culture that puts people first. Signmakers are well-positioned to do this, particularly if they can do the difficult work of broadening workplace cultures to be more diverse, equitable and inclusive.

With that spirit in mind, I’m pleased to announce the Women in Signs Awards, launching in June 2021. And with our acquisition by SmartWork Media, you can also look forward to a new infusion of digital products and ways to connect online.

As Dale Salamacha underlines in Shop Ops this month, our plans are always subject to the whims of the universe, our lives sweet but precariously short. Build something that you’re proud of, and help others to do the same.


I leave with a deep respect for the tireless efforts of entrepreneurs everywhere, the hard work of fabricators and installers, and the eye of artists and designers – the shared vision of adding beauty to our world.

Today, I find myself gripping the present less tightly and feeling more open to a future that holds untold new adventures, opportunities to learn and stories to share. Thank you for allowing me to share yours for so many years. It has been a pleasure.



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