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Signs of the Times 2016 International Sign Contest — An Introduction

This year’s competition generates possibly the greatest quality in its history



I’ve been managing our sign competitions since 2002. Although the machinations of promoting the competition and navigating the pool of entries has its trying moments, the excitement I derive from seeing signs that practically announce they’re destined for the winners’ circle outpaces any stresses incurred.
Although ST’s 2016 International Sign Contest field, which comprised 285 entries, was slightly smaller than last year’s field, the quality of entries impressed me as probably the greatest I’ve collected over the last 14 years. Numerous veteran stalwarts, such as Danthonia Designs, GableSigns and House of Signs, submitted multiple entries, assuming familiar positions within the winners’ circle. However, several shops new to, or long absent from, the competition, such as Boardwalk Signs and Brix Design, also walked away with honors.
To evaluate these distinctive entries, we recruited four local sign-fabrication and design professionals who represent the industry’s diversity: Hannah Anderson, a designer for MSA Architects, who’s designed sign programs for various retail, healthcare, corporate and institutional clients, among others; Jansen Dell, director of creative services for the Cincinnati Reds; Kris Rutherford, a sign designer and fabrication manager for Hightech Signs, which fabricates ADA signage, donor walls, monument signs and numerous other sign types; and Paul Shoemaker, sole proprietor of Creative Blast, which sandblasts and carves 3-D, HDU signs.
For better ambiance than our office’s conference room could provide, we set up contest proceed-ings at Firehouse Grill, a nearby sports bar/bistro (if you ever eat there, you can’t go wrong with anything you order – their pizzas and fish tacos are tremendous, though). As some of you know, the contest process begins with the judges scoring the entries on a score of 1 to 10 based on three criteria: Theme, Complexity and Artistic Merit. The top 25-30% of each category advance to the next round; then, adjudicators verbally debut each contender’s merits and assign awards accordingly.
Each first-place winner is subsequently entered into the Best of Show selection process. In this case, two contenders quickly emerged: Custom Craftsman Signs’ (Sevierville, TN) wall sign for IX Nubes Vape Lounge, which won Unique Signs, and Creative Sign Resources’ (Ft. Wayne, IN) bracket-mounted sign for The History Center, which captured Commercial Building Signs. After considerable debate, Nubes prevailed. Some of you might recall that Absolute Perfection’s wrap for Harbor Vapor’s “Vape Van” earned the top spot in the last Vehicle Graphics Contest. For the record, we receive no payola from the vaping industry! The vape market has become a huge trend among young adults, and it’s not surprising that over-the-top signage designed to appeal to this demographic would make an impression.
We’re also proud to feature the 4th Readers’ Choice Awards. The nominees were gleaned from the judges’ first-round scoresheets, so some divergence from the judge’s ultimate selections occurred. Ten electric and 10 non-electric signs were selected for separate surveys, and three from each advanced to the championship round. A first-place category winner, Signs by Van’s Commercial Freestanding sign for the Freedom Meat Locker, emerged as the Readers’ Choice champion.
Thanks to the participants, the judges, the voters and our devoted magazine and readers. Without your support, we’d be unable to stage these competitions.

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