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The Year’s Top 11

A round-up of some of the year’s most interesting news items



Every December, the thought occurs to me (and many others, I guess), “Wow, has another year really passed by?” I’ve seen it written, “As a child, a year seems to take a century. In college, a year takes a year. When you reach old age, years seem like days.” As I slowly meander closer to the latter camp, the passage of time has apparently quickened.
Like the people who innovate, create and prosper within it, the sign industry itself gradually evolves and adapts with the times. Still, it’s important to look back at key events and moments that help shape the sign business. With this in mind, I humbly submit – reported in chronological order — what I believe to be the 11 Most Memorable Stories (10 wasn’t enough) posted on during 2013. Whether they were newsworthy, funny, poignant or another adjective, I found them to be the most interesting from among the 700-plus news items posted on the site this year. We hope you’ll agree.

Have a great holiday season! We hope the demands of your business still allow time to enjoy them with loved ones and friends.

1. Reid Swormstedt Passes Away (reported on January 17)
David R. (Reid) Swormstedt enjoyed a 40-year career with ST Media Group (then known as Signs of the Times Publishing Co.), and served as company president from 1979 until his retirement in 1994. His son, current Publisher/Editor Wade Swormstedt, wrote a moving editorial about his father’s legacy as a father and company executive.

2. Signs Now, Signs by Tomorrow Merge (reported on February 20)
Consolidation is increasingly the order of the day in many industries, and the merger of these two franchises signaled a concerted effort to compete with Sign*A*Rama and FastSigns, the most established of the sign franchises.

3. ASHRAE Provides Sign-Industry Exemption (reported on March 19)
The American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE) granted exemptions from its energy-efficiency standards to better enable nighttime sign use. The original standard mandated a 30% reduction in lighting brightness for signs in operation during overnight hours. However, the Intl. Sign Assn. (ISA) presented detailed information on electric signs’ technical and performance properties during ASHRAE’s Lighting Subcommittee and Standing Standard Project Committee at meetings held in Dallas in January and Atlanta in March. However, the exemption isn’t regarded as a permanent reprieve; rather, the sign industry is expected to provide an alternative proposal.

4. Chicago Officials, Cubs Management Agree to More Wrigley Field Signs (reported on April 19)
For decades, as other Major League Baseball owners have had scoreboards, outfield walls and seating-bowl facades retrofitted to accommodate more commercial signage, the Chicago Cubs’ Wrigley Field was upheld as an ad-free bastion. As if the Cubs didn’t need to make revenue and could survive alone on lovable-loser status. As part of the $500 million deal, the team requested a larger video wall and a 1,000-sq.-ft. sign in the outfield.


5. Lincoln Highway Centennial (reported on July 1)
Although Route 66 has become much more celebrated by road-culture and nostalgia buffs, the Lincoln Highway stands as the nation’s original, cross-country thoroughfare. Having once spanned from New York to San Francisco, the “Grandmother Road” celebrated its centennial in 2013. The gallery features several signs (many now defunct) along the Lincoln’s path.

6. ISA, Serigrafia Announce Partnership (reported on July 17)
Globalization has advanced hand-in-hand with consolidation in transforming the sign industry. Shortly after, Serigrafia’s SignFuture TEXTIL tradeshow in Sao Paulo, Brazil, Serigrafia and the Intl. Sign Assn. (ISA) made their partnership official. The timing for a partnership with a Latin American organization is apropos; with Brazil hosting the World Cup next year and the Olympics in 2016, all eyes will be on South America in the coming years.

7. ISA Develops Dynamic-Digital-Signage Advisory Panel (reported on August 22)
Reflecting the growing prominence of dynamic digital signage (DS), ISA hosted its first Dynamic Digital Signage Park at its 2013 Sign Expo in Las Vegas. It also created a seven-member DS advisory panel to address digital-display content and delivery, as well as provide end-user perspectives to the organization.

8. Hornet Signs Creates Firestorm With Bound-Woman Wrap (reported on September 19)
In an age of around-the-clock, ever-changing media, it’s hard to escape controversy. Brad Kolb, the owner of Waco, TX’s Hornet Signs, found this out the hard way when, in a test to see if it would grab attention, he photographed one of his female employees bound and laying down in a shop truck, and produced and installed the image as a wrap on the vehicle. Within days, media outlets nationwide had reported on the wrap; the furor compelled Kolb to destroy the wrap (wraps depicting an armed sniper and snarling zombie were also produced, but received less media scrutiny). To his credit, Kolb responded by raising money and awareness for a charity that helps women and children victimized by domestic violence.

9. Private-Equity Fund Buys Watchfire (reported on October 4)
When a private-equity fund buys a company, it usually signifies the company is dire straits and is being purchased for a pittance (see Chrysler), or is viewed as an up-and-coming entity. In Watchfire’s case, given the company’s July unveiling of its expanded facilities, it’s probably in the latter category. And, it reflects the growth of the DS market.

10. SEGD Changes Name (reported on November 8)
After approximately four decades as the Society for Environmental Graphic Design, its board voted to change its name to the Society for Experiential Graphic Design. According to the organization, its leaders view DS as the largest driver of sign growth in the future. Opinions varied widely among its members. It will be interesting to see if the new name serves as a harbinger for an organizational shift.


11. Nelson Mandela Remembered (reported on December 10)
Technology has increasingly segmented the world, so it’s the rare individual whose passing makes the whole world take notice. As the hero who led South Africa out of apartheid and became a global voice against injustice, Nelson Mandela was such a man. His passing earlier this month at age 95 was felt worldwide. Clear Channel Outdoor paid tribute with electronic billboards in 30 cities across the U.S. that quoted prominent leaders’ admiration of Mandela, and the Eiffel Tower was lit up in the colors of South African flag as part of France’s tribute to his legacy.



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