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Room Service — For Signs



Call it what you will, too many irons in the fire, spinning plates, not enough hours in the day; it’s all too common for a small custom signshop [Amigo Arts, Monroe WA]. But you know what? It’s still possible to win!

It seems like in the custom design and fabrication world, we are constantly working behind the eight ball with deadlines, so when the big fish comes along we do whatever it takes, no matter what projects we already have rolling.

At times I feel that we have our own little version of those popular, reality hotrod-build shows. “What else could go wrong?” Or, “why can’t anything be easy?” Well, I guess there is some merit to the saying that if it were easy, everyone would do it.


This adventure started with that all-too-familiar phone call from someone with a really cool idea that you know deep down you might not really be able to fit it in. The call we got from PicsArt Photo Studio was surprising, not only for the idea they had, but because they found us all the way from San Francisco. Of course, this didn’t mean dollar signs for us. More so, it meant another feather in our cap, another chance to do something that few smaller shops get a shot at. After all, what’s a few more hours to my day, right? After a few volleys of design and questions, we came to an agreement and then they asked if we could make this programmable-LED sign – for their new corporate office overlooking San Francisco Bay – work on one controller! Naturally, we said sure, we can make that happen.

For the most part this project was pretty straightforward. Reverse-pan channel letters mounted to an oversized face cabinet. The challenge was to make all eight channels individually controlled by one, easy-to-use remote. Easy enough, that is, to cue the reality show drama, moving targets and wrong parts shipped.

As if the two-week timetable weren’t tough enough on our little crew, I realized that we had to finish even sooner to get the sign on a truck to ship it. Fast forward about a week and a half. With parts fresh from paint and bleary-eyed from a different install the day before, it was time to assemble this sign. After trying for an hour or so to bind the remote to the first channel on the remote, I realized I had to call the manufacturer. While talking to the tech, we decided they should send me another set of controllers that would be much more stable. The rub was that the sign had to be in San Francisco on Saturday, and it was now Wednesday night. Time to change the plan, call the rental truck company and start charting a road trip!



This was our Plan B: Overnight the new part to our hotel in San Francisco and reassemble the sign in the hotel room on Saturday. Install on Sunday then enjoy the city. After packing up, we got in the rental. (Of course, I decided to take my family, in solidarity, along with me.) After about 16 hours, we finally made our destination, meeting the new parts at our hotel.

While my family enjoyed the pool on Saturday, I had work to do. Full teardown and reassembly on the hotel room table. I was very appreciative of the neighbors in the room next to us for putting up with the sound of my drilling the sign face to mount the letters and a few expletives while working.

Finally, at midnight, we got things lit up and fully programmed. Woohoo! Not only that, but it probably looked like a techno show happening through our hotel room window.

We got the sign installed a day early and we heard the best compliment you can get from a client. “This is finally a win for us,” the office manager from PicsArt told us upon completion. Being designers and creators has been so awesome for us in our shop, and moments like these are definitely the reason we love our job.



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