Biologists postulate that, to break an organism out of cocoon-like homeostasis, some type of external pressure or force — the need to eat or procreate, or to face a looming predator — must provide impetus. Otherwise, it would remain complacent. Of course, people are no different — except that inward forces may also spur us to leave the familiar and comfortable and pursue stressful, risk-laden enterprises that test our mettle and help us reach our potential.
Such was the case for David Schachterle, owner of Cedar Falls, IA-based Signs & Designs.
As his career has evolved from its roots as a one-horse signshop to his current ownership of a 10-person entity, Schachterle has maintained his focus on distinctive design and fabrication.
Schachterle studied fine art at St. Cloud State in St. Cloud, MN. He’d never considered signmaking a career path, but when his wife, Linda, landed a teaching position, David took a job at Dick Mott Signs in Olathe, KS. After working there for a year, he returned to St. Cloud State to earn his degree.
In 1981, the Schachterles opened their Iowa Falls, IA, shop after demand required more space than their in-home pottery studio could offer. The 3,000-sq.-ft. shop’s unusual layout proved advantageous.
"The shop had been a fruit warehouse," he explained. "So, there were massive coolers lined up along the walls. We removed the shelving and refrigeration units, and I set up a spraybooth and an assembly area for tradeshow graphics."
Their mom-and-pop operation specialized in handlettered, wooden signs. Schachterle’s equipment comprised saw horses that he bought at an auction, wooden ladders and a brush kit. While he enjoyed being in a relatively noncompetitive situation, Schachterle felt like he was shortchanging his ability.
"Being the only signpainter in a small town is fun, and it makes you a bit of a celebrity — you’re the artist in residence," he recalled. "But, it became repetitious making the same type of signs. I’d propose something unusual to customers, and they’d usually balk at the extra cost. If I wanted to do something truly unique, I’d often have to give it away."
During his formative sign-industry years, Schachterle eagerly absorbed the tutelage of fellow "Hawkeye" signmakers. He credits Nancy Bennett, owner of Centerville, IA’s Dannco Inc., and Mark Baty, co-owner of Baty Art & Sign (Waukee, IA), for helping him refine his hand-lettering skills and more effectively use color. Further, he credits a course instructed by the late Mike Stevens, author of Mastering Layout, with teaching him effective font usage, kerning and layout.
"The sign industry has changed a great deal since I started," he said. "I’ve adapted to modern technology, but it was helpful for me to gain a foundation of basic handlettering skills that have continually served me well."
On to bigger things
In 1990, the Schachterles again needed a larger shop to better exploit David’s talents. Thus, they moved to Cedar Falls, a town of approximately 25,000 in northern Iowa.
Concurrently, Schachterle bought a PC to aid design and bookkeeping. Next, he purchased a Roland CAMM-1 plotter, which represented a substantial shift away from exclusively creating handlettered graphics. Today, his shop employs a new Gerber Scientific Products Sabre
Find it here! ISA Sign Expo 2023
Whether you're looking to grow your business or advance your career, ISA International Sign Expo® 2023 is the only place to find everything you need to be successful in the sign, graphics, print and visual communications industry.
Success Is 10% Inspiration
U.N.I.T.E. Hosts February Events
April 1918 Issue’s Cover Art Repeated in 25 of Next 27 Months
15 Super Wraps for the Super Bowl
23 Historical Photos of Signs in Monochrome
5 Tips to Improved Sign Design Productivity
Photo Gallery6 days ago
15 Historical Photos of Signs in Color
Business Management4 days ago
16 Tips to Become a Better Sign Business Negotiator
Benchmarks5 days ago
5 Vehicle Wraps At Your Service
News1 week ago
2024 Women in Signs Awards Nominations Now Open
Product Buying + Technology2 weeks ago
Mark Kissling6 days ago
LED for Neon Retrofit for a 50-Year-Old Rooftop Sign
Electric Signs2 days ago
Right-Lighting 3 Varying LED Sign-Lighting Situations
Tip Sheet1 week ago
Getting Organized and Staying in Touch with Sign Clients Top February’s Tips