The (Sign) Power of Positivity

Five businesses modify their sign production to assist those affected by COVID-19.
An “Indiesign” is custom-designed by an independent artist who has lost work because of COVID-19 and follows CDC guidelines.

In our May issue, we devoted ample words to COVID-19 and how the virus is affecting the signage and graphics industry, with our headline feature in part checking in with sign businesses. Were they open or closed? If they were open, why had they been declared “essential businesses,” and what safety measures had they implemented? And in general, how were signshops grappling with their new realities?

This month, the focus is on sign businesses, print shops and sign-industry-adjacent companies that have altered their output or formed new initiatives to aid the COVID-19 relief effort, from honoring frontline healthcare workers to putting out-of-work artists back on the job.

An “Indiesign” is custom-designed by an independent artist who has lost work because of COVID-19 and follows CDC guidelines.

Indiewalls (New York)

Indiewalls is a New York City-based company that connects designers with independent artists in corporate design settings, with its client list including Marriott, Starwood and Hilton: “Exactly the type of business getting hit by the market freefall and hotel shutdowns,” said CEO Gavi Wolf. Waiting in line at his local grocer, Wolf was struck by “drab six-feet-apart” signage, and came up with a new concept. Today, each “Indiesign” is custom-designed by an independent artist who has lost work because of COVID-19. The signs present information in a positive and vibrant manner even as they adhere to CDC guidelines. A portion of the proceeds goes directly to the artist.

Custom floor, wall and window signs have been produced for several large hotel groups, with Wolf hoping to expand Indiesigns’ offerings to restaurants, supermarkets, pet stores and “really anyone who is open or opening up. …We want the process of sourcing signage to be easy, positive and more beautiful,” Wolf said. “We see a lot of opportunity in how signage is designed and purchased and we plan on helping it change for the better.”

ER2 Image Group had each of its employees signatures vectorized and then applied on the side of its building to promote unity.

ER2 Image Group (Hanover Park, IL)

ER2 Image Group’s COVID-19 response was multifold: vinyl application, signmaking and the manufacturing of personal protective equipment (PPE). ER2 branded a side of its building with “We’re all in this together,” in 3M IJ8624 vinyl. According to Alan Schellerer, vice president/partner of ER2, to further personalize the sentiment, each of the company’s 65 employees signed pieces of paper. The signatures were then vectorized, cut out of textured vinyl and applied near the quote.

The company has also donated 1,000 signs to the community, encouraging locals to express their appreciation for medical professionals or first responders as part of a positivity-driven social media campaign by ER2. Finally, Schellerer said that ER2 – typically a full-service grand format printing company – has converted much of its resources to producing PPE and “other types of COVID-prevention signage,” and is educating its staff about selling such signage as companies return to work.

Image360 Tucker produced 200 free graduation signs for a local high school.

Image360 Tucker (Tucker, GA)

The pre-pandemic versatility to produce virtually any type of sign or graphic has served Image360 Tucker well in recent months. In late March, Image360 offered a finite amount of free banners to Tucker-area restaurants to let potential customers know that take-out and/or delivery were available. The company also used its HP Scitex FB550 printer to produce 350 24 x 18-in. Coroplast yard signs for the local school system to indicate that playgrounds were closed throughout the school district. They also cranked out 200 free graduation signs for the local high school, “to give the seniors a fraction of their joy back,” per Senior Vice President Earl Walker. Image360 Tucker’s ShopSabre CNC router was put to use by fabricating sneeze guards – made with clear ¼-in. acrylic material – for essential businesses while Georgia’s shelter-in-place order was in effect.

The shop has since produced sneeze guards for other businesses after shelter-in-place was lifted in late April. The company has also made 12-in.-round floor decals for a local jewelry store to promote patron and employee safety. “These capabilities have not allowed us to ‘make up’ for the lost job opportunities caused by the pandemic, as our industry has been heavily affected,” Walker said. “However, it gave us the ability to fabricate orders while typical signage under ‘normal circumstances’ was being cancelled.”

An example of St. Louis Sign & Mural’s painted work on yard signs.

St. Louis Sign & Mural (St. Louis)

According to Dan Ricketts, the founder and owner of St. Louis Sign & Mural, when the COVID-19 pandemic hit the US, all of his “large jobs” were put on hold. He countered by offering temporary paper signage for window fronts, advertising his work on social media. A request came in about making a yard sign saying, “We are all in this together.” Ricketts posted a photo of that sign, and instantly received five additional orders. “I knew these were going to be a hit, so I came up with three more designs,” he said.

Ricketts spray-paints the background of the signs, pounces the design and hand-paints the sketch using lettering brushes and 1Shot or Alphanamel paints. St. Louis Sign & Mural donated $10 from each sign sold to Gateway180, a service provider for homeless people in St. Louis; Ricketts reached his donation goal of $500 in early May. “It’s been a great way to stay busy, improve my brush skills and help others all at once,” he said.

Synergy Sign & Graphics routed surgical mask extenders for local nurses and hospitals.

Synergy Sign & Graphics (Strasburg, OH)

Synergy Sign & Graphics has used its MultiCam 3000 series CNC router to cut surgical mask extenders – or “ear savers” – to donate to local nurses and hospitals. Owner Jim Dawson estimated that Synergy has donated 10 extenders for each one they have sold (to pay for material costs). Synergy has also beamed out the mask extender files to over 50 shops worldwide, crediting SA International’s EnRoute software for the smooth programming.

One of the shops on the receiving end of Synergy’s files was Signverse (Stoneham, MA), whose co-owner, Drew Juliano, was named one of Signs of the Times’ 2020 Makers of Tomorrow. “We have it down to a science now,” Dawson said. “We can make about 4,000 pieces in a little over two hours.”