Making An Impact

Digital signs and EMCs transform businesses with an influx of technology and contemporary design.
YESCO and SNA Displays contributed to this project for the Circa development in Los Angeles.

If signs’ core functions – attract, engage, inform – have not changed, the ability of signs to change perception is ever-growing. “Today’s technology is reminiscent of the Internet,” said John Kelly, vice president of DMS Sign Connection (Mount Airy, MD). “You can look like a business that is worldwide by how you present yourself online, and the same can be said for how today’s EMCs (electronic message centers) and electronic signs work for businesses of all sizes. It’s truly about the speed of business, as things change and evolve so quickly these days. EMCs and electronic signs allow customers to do far more than static signs ever could.” 

At the same time, the user experience – increasing ease of access and use of the software that controls the displays – has become the decision point for customers. Not only that, customers want more support to optimize their content and scheduling of their displays. Cloud-based software offers customers these capabilities. “Businesses have truly adapted to the message center concept,” Kelly said. “The future is being able to change things dynamically and immediately, and that’s what we are going to see as we move forward in the industry.”


As new properties that combine residential, commercial and entertainment venues are developed, building owners recognize the need for signage that communicates everything the property has to offer the community at large. Circa, a newly developed, two-tower collection of luxury apartments in the heart of downtown Los Angeles, draws more than six million visitors annually – with concerts, conventions and other well-attended venues happening in and around its property – providing a massive audience for its new LED displays. Consisting of two 35-story luxury residential towers, a two-acre rooftop amenities deck, and space for multiple high-end retail and dining establishments, the new development also features 18,365-sq.-ft. of state-of-the-art Empire Exterior LED displays from SNA Displays.

The Circa sign consists of three large screens, with the center screen being the biggest. The sign bends around the corner and is viewable from all sides of the South Figueroa-W 12th Street intersection. In addition to showcasing the property’s residential units, the huge digital platform promotes commercial tenants and nearby businesses along with out-of-home advertising.

YESCO (Los Angeles) was charged with the fabrication and installation of all secondary steel structural components, along with installation and integration of the electronics for the digital assets. YESCO also sought to tie together the floors of the parking garage to prevent differential deflection across the displays. “YESCO technicians generated detailed X-rays and surveys to ensure they were properly tying into the post-tension slabs,” said Rick Juleen, vice president of business development for YESCO. “Once the primary steel was in place, the specially designed SNA Displays subframes went up with ease. We were able to make minor seam adjustments on the ground prior to picking the displays so that little to no seam work was needed after the installation.”

Based on performance, the YESCO and SNA Displays teams were also awarded the primary electrical scope for the project. YESCO account executive Mitch Olorenshaw oversaw the installation process. “Managing the full scope allowed for both teams to be as efficient as possible on all aspects of the project,” said Olorenshaw. “This allowed us to meet critical deadlines from the customer, as well.”

The LED displays installed on the property’s eight-story parking structure were designed to match the bend of the structure’s architecture, so they include both convex and concave curvatures. All displays feature a 10-mm pixel pitch and in total, the trio includes 18,391 sq. ft. of LED canvas and over 17 million pixels. All Empire Exterior LED screens in the Circa project employ surface-mount device (SMD) pixel technology. This means that the LEDs in each pixel are packaged together, allowing for crisp, clear imagery and a widened viewing experience.


Lytle Signs Inc. produced an electric sign located on an interstate for Sinclair Boise Stage Stop.
Lytle Signs Inc. produced an electric sign located on an interstate for Sinclair Boise Stage Stop.

But you don’t have to go all the way to Hollywood to find really big-screens. Recently, Lytle Signs Inc. (Twin Falls, ID) produced an electric sign for the Sinclair Boise Stage Stop, whose owner, Bob French, was looking to attract customers off the interstate as well as draw people from the fuel pumps into his convenience store located along Interstate 84. With passing cars traveling at 80 mph along the freeway, and only having a 1,200-ft. exit, French recognized that a large-scale digital sign was needed to attract drivers’ attention. 

Lytle Signs has been providing electric signage and maintenance at the Boise Stage stop for over 20 years. “With the help of power savings incentives and design work by our team, replacement of the old message center made sense,” said Rex Lytle, chairperson at Lytle Signs. “Owner Bob French is always upgrading his facility and the services they provide, so this project fit perfectly into his strategy.” 

To meet French’s vision in replacing his existing 20-year-old sign, Lytle Signs had Daktronics create two different applications with different purposes and technologies. The first involved a through-hole 26-mm LED display on the interstate sign to draw people into the location; the second, a 10-mm SMD LED display on the store to attract customers pumping fuel. The Stage Stop now has Daktronics equipment consisting of an LED fuel price sign, a 10-mm single-faced message center on the main storefront for customers to view form the fuel pumps and a new high-rise message center on I-84, Lytle said. “It was critical to size the [sign] for interstate traffic and be able to do clear product graphics for the Stage Stop along with their advertising messaging.”


Rather than simply being a retail center where customers park outside of a store, run in for their item and leave, George Stone, owner of Clarksville Commons – an environmentally sustainable center featuring shops, offices, restaurants and a community commons area in Clarksville, MD – sought to make Clarksville Commons a community-driven entity. Stone recently partnered with DMS Sign Connection (Mt. Airy, MD) and Watchfire Signs to create an EMC that would meet the needs of the unique tenant base within the development, as well as the consumers and community members who consider Clarksville Commons a go-to destination. 

As Stone explained, the development is a fully sustainable, mixed-use commercial center with sustainability guidelines for all tenants. By incorporating solar roof panels and LEDs throughout the complex, Stone and his partners have created a property unlike standard commercial centers. Thanks to its daily activities, as well as the center’s architecture and development, community members are spending time in the development long after they’ve made their purchases or eaten their meals. 

“Our director of community relations is continually engaging the community to come and bring activities and events, so that when you come to buy your pizza you want to spend more time here,” Stone said. 

DMS Sign Connection collaborated with Watchfire Signs for an EMC project.
DMS Sign Connection collaborated with Watchfire Signs for an EMC project.

Because of the community focus, static signage simply wasn’t an option. Rather, Stone recognized the need for exceptional visibility offered by an EMC for both the numerous tenants, as well as the community at large. “Events are changing here daily, for the good of the community, so what we needed was an LED sign that was low energy, easily programmable, and something that could communicate with the community almost in real time about what is going on at Clarksville Commons,” Stone said. This particular implementation of the Watchfire Sign is unique because of the way the sign met the derivative architecture of the development, Stone added, which includes a silo element on the front of the center celebrating the area’s agrarian and rural setting.

The curvature of the signage reflects the center’s unique architecture. Two curved, 12 x 7-ft. panels wrap around the silo, and were placed about 4 in. off the silo on each end. “This kind of a sign is a dynamic entity and it provides a good way to create high visibility for everyone here, not just the bigger tenants,” Stone said. 

Kelly explained that the team pursued an evolutionary process to achieve the desired result. “This included looking at static signage and a digital reader board on the front of the sign facing the road, but nothing appealed to what everyone wanted,” he said. And though Stone embraced the unique design attributes of the sign, he was concerned about how it would be received by the community. “Since the first day it was installed, we’ve received so many comments about the how unique and different the signage is,” he said. “It really is a key communication tool.” 

As is evident by the unique attributes of today’s EMCs and other electric signs, marketers and operators who place value on site modernization and brand awareness via well-designed and installed signage see improved customer loyalty as a result of image and technology upgrades and by visually distinguishing their sites in their communities.


Signs of the Times July 2020

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