Signs of the Times magazine's 2017 State of the Industry Report

The July issue of Signs of the Times magazine includes its annual State of the Industry report which, among other things, sheds light on the most commonly produced types of signs and how electric signs are illuminated. Sign companies were asked what types of signs they make. Here are the percentages of sign companies that produce these types of electric (internally illuminated) and non-electric (commercial) signs.

Electric Signs

Cabinet signs 93%

Channel letters 89%

Electronic message centers 67%

Freestanding Main-identification signs 64%

Outline lighting 43%

Backlit awnings 40%

Dynamic digital signage 38%

These electric signs are illuminated by:

LEDs 75%

Fluorescent lighting 21%

Neon 9%

Other 14%

Non-electric signs

Banners 86%

Window graphics 85%

Vehicle graphics 77%

Dimensional signage (carved, sandblasted, etc.) 73%

Magnetic signage 73%

ADA/architectural signage 64%

Floor graphics 57%

Signs of the Times has been conducting various iterations of its State of the Industry report since the 1980s. To view the most recent report, go to




Cincinnati Art Museum Teachers Visit the American Sign Museum

The Cincinnati (Ohio) Art Museum, as part of its Summer Teacher Institute, brought 46, K-12th grade teachers to the American Sign Museum on July 20, 2017. This field trip included a three-part educational experience: a guided tour of the museum, viewing the neon tubebending process in action at the in-house Neonworks shop, and participating in a brush-lettering workshop inspired by the signs on view. 

The Summer Teacher Institute, now in its 15th year, is a three-day professional development program for teachers during the month of July. It is an adjunct to Evenings for Educators, also a professional development program, which has been conducted during the school year September- May for the past 26 years. 

Samantha Gaier, the Assistant Director of School-Based Learning for the Cincinnati Art Museum, said this year’s summer program theme, “The Art of Craft,”  ties in with a current art-museum exhibition: A Shared Legacy: Folk Art In America. Gaier had been extremely impressed by the American Sign Museum when she visited with her family.

She said, “Kevin Wallace gave a great public tour. I was amazed at how interesting he made argon gas and the neon process sound. During his tour, I was struck by the many different STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, Math) connections he made. I knew that the American Sign Museum would be a great partner for teacher programs, because it is a perfect blend of science and art."   

Known Errors in Latest MUTCD Available in PDF Along With Sign Sizes

The most current Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices was published in 2009. In 2017, the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) published a nine-page list of known errors in that document. However, the FHWA cautions "The FHWA intends to correct these errors via a future rulemaking action. This list of known errors is provided solely for the information of MUTCD users and does not constitute official changes to the MUTCD at this time."

The PDF of the known errors can be accessed at

Additionally, the MUTCD instituted new required sizes for regulatory signs that went into effect December 22, 2013. They are listed in a chart that can be accessed at

Federal Highway Administration Provides Information on Sign Retroreflectivity

The Federal Highway Administration website provides training courses, technical guidance and research specifically geared toward sign retroreflectivity. A PDF of one training course, entitled Traffic Sign Retroreflectivity: Basics of Sign Retroreflectivity & New Sign Maintenance Requirements, can be viewed in its entirety at The requirements are no longer new, having been established in 2007.

All of the related FHWA materials can be accessed at: 

Study Examines Wayfinding Signage in 3 United Kingdom Airports

A study published in the June 2017 Interdisciplinary Journal of Signage and Wayfinding, as presented by the Academic Advisory Council for Signage Research and Education (AACSRE), examines the wayfinding signage at three United Kingdom airports: Birmingham International (BHX), Cardiff International (CWL) and London Gatwick (LGW). The study, conducted by UK wayfinding expert Paul Symonds, focuses on static signage, rather than electronic of other changeable-copy signage.

To read the entire article, go to

USA Today Names American Sign Museum as Top Attraction in Ohio

USA Today recently compiled a bucket list of the top bucket-list attraction in each state. It chose the American Sign Museum in Cincinnati as the top attraction in Ohio.

The description states: Ohio: Colorful and unique signage is a natural part of any summer travel. If you find yourself stopping to take pictures or watch unusual signs, include a trip to the American Sign Museum in Cincinnati as a bucket list destination. Walk through rooms alight with neons, Burma-Shave sequences, Mail Pouch barn signs and more. The $15 adult entry cost includes free admission for up to three kids 12 and under, making this a great vacation spot for stretching your budget. The complete story for all 50 states can be found at:

Tennessee Billboard Law Ruled Unconstitutional

A 45-year-old, outdoor-advertising act in Tennessee has been declared unconstitutional by a Memphis district judge, because of content-neutrality issues. An April 3, 2017 article in U. S. Today states, "U.S. District Judge Jon P. McCalla said the 1972 law 'does not survive First Amendment scrutiny' because it bans some forms of commercial and non-commercial speech based on content." McCalla cited the 2015 Reed v. Gilbert SCOTUS decision in his ruling.  

The article also states, "Thomas' suit attracted allies among limited-government groups such as The Beacon Center of Tennessee, which say that billboard laws, by allowing regulatory exemptions for certain types of messages, impose undue 'content-based' regulation of speech."

To read the entire article, go to:

Report Says Dynamic Digital Signage Displays Increased Nearly 20% in 2016

According to a new report from Berg Insight, a Swedish research firm, global shipments of connected, digital-signage displays are estimated to have grown19.7% to 10.5 million units in 2016. Shipments to North America reached 3.0 million units, the report states.

Market growth was driven by greater demand for digital-signage solutions in all market verticals, technological advancements and a continued decline in prices, the report adds.   

Berg Insight forecasts that global shipments of connected digital signs will grow at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 16.7% in the next five years to reach 22.9 million units by 2021. As a result, the number of connected digital signage displays in active use worldwide will grow at a CAGR of 18.3% from an estimated 37.6 million in 2016 to 87.2 million units in 2021.

Berg describes the digital-signage industry as "highly fragmented."

More details about the research can be found at

Swormstedt Serves as Judge in Signs of the Times Annual Sign Contest

Wade Swormstedt, the Executive Director of the Foundation for the Advancement of the Sign Industry (FASI), served as a judge in Signs of the Times' annual International Sign Contest. The results will soon be published in the magazine's April 2017 issue.

Each sign was assigned to one of 9 categories: Sign Systems, Commercial Monument, Electric Monument, Murals/Exhibits, Commercial Freestanding, Electric Freestanding, Commercial Building, Electric Building and Unique.

Swormstedt has previously served as a judge in sign-design contests for Signs & Screen Printing en Espnaol magazine, the National Electric Sign Association (now the International Sign Association), the United States Sign Council and MACtac vinyl products.

CoSign Article Published in Signs of the Times' March 2017 Issue

An article about the past and future development of the CoSign program, which promotes economic development in communities by uniting designers, fabricators and end users to produce better signs, has been published in the March 2017 issue of Signs of the TImes magazine. Authored by FASI Executive Director Wade Swormstedt, the article outline the three iterations of the CoSign program in the Greater Cincinnati area, and the genesis of the program being instituted nationally this year. You can read the entire article at  

Iowa City Newspaper Lauds Projecting Signs Following CoSign Workshop at the American Sign Museum

Nate Kaeding is the Iowa City Downtown District's retail development coordinator. He and other representatives from his city came to the American Sign Museum on February 20-21, 2017 to attend the CoSign workshop. CoSign is a program that connects merchants, designers and fabricators in order to create new and better signs, and promote economic development in communities.

Nate wrote a guest editorial for the Iowa City Press-Citizen's February 21 edition under a headline of "2017 is the year of the projecting sign." He writes abut the importance of having appropriate signage, and how Iowa City has changed its sign code to allow this. A portion of his editorial reads: " The new creative signage will enhance the aesthetic and mood of downtown and add to our unique sense of place. This all will equate to more repeat customers at the stores, word-of-mouth marketing and economic vitality."

To read the entire editorial, go to  


Second FASI Scholarship Awarded to Texas A & M's Madeline Hunter

The Foundation for the Advancement of the Sign Industry (FASI) has awarded its second $1,000 scholarship to a college student who is pursuing sign-related studies. Madeline Hunter, who is in her first year as a Master of Urban Planning student, will assist Dr. Dawn Jourdan, Executive Associate Dean of the school's College of Architecture, in researching the sign-code development process. Hunter will interview planners nationwide about their creation and revision of sign codes.

FASI previously awarded a scholarship to Stephanie Onwenu, a junior at Michigan State University. FASI is offering these scholarships to member universities of the Academic Advisory Council for Signage Research and Education.   

Sign Research Foundation Releases 4-Part Typography Executive Summary

“Typography, Placemaking and Signs," the four-part white paper series originally released by the Sign Research Foundation in 2014, is now available, free of charge, in a four-page executive summary.

Written by the Fashion Institute of Technology's Craig Berger, and produced by SRF, the paper includes:

The History of Typography and Place;

Environmental Typography Best Practices;

Typography and the Code—ADA and Egress Codes;

and Typography Case Studies.

This executive summary highlights three key takeaways from the report:

  • Environmental typography is a natural outgrowth of the desire for people to explore and comprehend the outside world.
  • To successfully carry a message that resonates, typography must be successful on its own as well as integrated into a complete and effective overall design.
  • Codes and regulations apply to graphic information including symbols and type, and those who understand the intricacies and overlapping governance are usually the most successful.

The complete 54-page paper can be viewed at

The Signage Foundation Inc. becomes the Sign Research Foundation

The Sign Research Foundation (SRF), formerly The Signage Foundation, has a new name, look and website (, but it will continue its mission of empowering communities through research on vibrant and effective sign strategies, systems and codes.

“The new name better aligns with our mission of focusing on research into signs,” said Sapna Budev, SRF’s executive director. “We will expand our work in bringing together academicians, influencers and the industry to develop and promote stronger communities.”

The new website hosts the SRF's latest sponsored research, and icons on the website facilitate finding research under myriad topics: best practices, design, illumination, legal, placemaking, safety, sign codes, value of signs and wayfinding. Additionally, all of the research is listed alphabetically by title. All of the peer-reviewed research is available free of charge.

SRF will host its annual National Signage Research & Education Conference (NSREC) April 19 at the Mandalay Bay Convention Center in Las Vegas, and co-locate with the International Sign Association's Sign Expo. Academicians will present current research, SRF’s research projects for 2017 will be outlined. This year’s NSREC will focus on the future of signage and anticipate how signs must adapt to function in the cities of the future.

Hacking of Electronic Billboards Reported in Augusta, Georgia

An electronic billboard owned by Be Still Displays was hacked on the night of January 28 on the main thoroughfare of Washington Road in Augusta, Georgia. A similar hacking occurred in Atlanta in 2015. As of Monday, January 31, neither the display owner, Chris Withers, nor the Richmond Count Sheriff's Office, could explain how the hacking occurred.

A local television station, WRDW, reported that one billboard "showed a piece of jewelry and said "Look at that nice-a** jewelry. F****** sweet, isn't it." One image had the Starbucks logo on it and made a sexual reference.

Withers said he had to pay $10,000 to fix the problem, with new computers and an upgraded system with protection that will cost $2000 annually. He has owned 16 electronic billboards since 2010, and has been in the outdoor-advertising business for 20 years. To read two articles about the incident, go to

9 Sign-related Franchises Make Entrepreneur Magazine's Top 500 for 2017

Nine sign-related franchises are included in Entrepreneur magazine's Top 500 franchise list for 2017. The sign-related listings for this 38th annual compilation are as follows, along with the number of units added/dropped in the past year, and the corresponding percentage change. The year each began franchising follows.

 95. Fastsigns, 8 additions, 1.3%, 1986

100. YESCO Lighting Services, 3 additions, 3.3%, 2011

178. Sir Speedy, 8 deletions, -3.0%, 1968

179. Instant Imprints, 2 additions, 4%, 2001

223. Signarama, no change, 1987

224. Image360, no change, 1987

263. Speed Pro Imaging, 2 additions, 1.2%, 2005

461. Allegra, 7 deletions, -2.6%, 1977

478. PIP printing, 7 deletions, -8.4%, 1968

To see the entire list of the 500 franchises, from #1 to #500, go to

New Book Documents 23 Wall Mural Projects

A new book, simply called "The Walldogs Book," documents 25 events over a 23-year period, in which signpainters have created more than 500 wall murals on brick walls to help commemorate communities' histories. These artisans, who call themselves the Walldogs, have held annual events every year since 1999. The documentation is complete through 2016.

Most of the book is photos, with a listing of the project leader for every mural. The book was compiled and published by Jay Allen, an original member of the Walldogs Public Art Group, who owns ShawCraft Sign Company (Machesny Park, IL). Allen, who co-chaired the 1997 Walldogmeet (the first Walldog meet was held in 1993 in Allerton, Iowa), also wrote an eight-page introduction about the genesis of the Walldog movement, and why artisans from all over the United States and Canada (which has hosted two Walldog meets) would volunteer their time for such projects. He speaks about signpainter Nancy Bennett, who jumpstarted the Walldog movement.

Bennett, whose hometown is Allerton, recruited approximately two dozen Iowa signpainting artisans (who call themselves the Letterheads) to paint a mural in Allerton. Because of the wall's exposed tile, the mural started to fade after several years, and plans were made to refurbish it in 1993. The result was the first Walldog meet. (The Letterheads movement began in 1975 with seven sign apprentices in Denver, Colorado, who began sharing time-honored signmaking techniques.)

The 1997 event in Belvidere, Illinois, attracted 350 artisans, who produced 6,000 square feet of murals on 10 walls. Allen notes that the event won the 1997 Governor's Art Award for Community, which was presented by the Illinois Arts Council, and also first place in a contest hosted by the Illinois Department of Tourism in its Citywide Promotion category. In 2008, Belvidere was declared an Arts Friendly Community by the Illinois Arts Alliance and the Illinois Municipal League.    

The book is available on

American Sign Museum Featured in New York Times Best Seller Book

Atlas Obsura, a compilation of "over 600 of the most curious and unusual destinations around the globe," reached #1 on the New York Times best-seller list, even though it was only published in September 2016. It includes places of interest on every continent (yes, even several items from Antarctica!), and it includes a feature on the American Sign Museum, which it describes as "crammed with fiberglass mascots, neon marquees, and hand-painted 19th-century signs advertising cobblers, druggists, and haberdashers." Available virtually everywhere, the book will soon be in stock at the American Sign Museum. 

FASI Board Member Alan Weinstein To Speak Twice at American Planning Association's 2017 National Planning Conference

Alan Weinstein, an acknowledged expert on planning, who holds a joint faculty appointment at Cleveland State University’s Cleveland-Marshall College of Law and Maxine Goodman Levin College of Urban Affairs, and also serves as director of the colleges’ Law & Public Policy Program, will speak at two separate sessions at the 2017 American Planning Association's National Planning Conference in May. Weinstein also serves on the Board of Directors of the Foundation for the Advancement of the Sign Industry (FASI) and the Academic Advisory Council for Signage Research and Education (AACSRE).   

First, he will join Philip Garvey and Jennie Blanchard (from the Larson Transportation Institute at Penn State University) to present "A Guide to National Sign-Illumination Standards," which is based on Penn State research. The APA website states, "Learn about new, first-of-their-kind national sign-illumination standards."

Next, he will join two people who spoke with him at last year's APA national conference when they again address the monumental SCOTUS decision of Reed vs. City of Gilbert which was unanimously determined in 2016. Weinstein will be joined by James Carpentier, the Manager of State & Local Government Affairs for the International Sign Association (ISA), who will moderate the session, and Wendy Moeller, a board member of The Signage Foundation. The session is titled "What Do We Do Post-Reed?" and the APA website states "The U.S. Supreme Court’s 2015 ruling in Reed vs. Town of Gilbert created numerous sign-regulation issues for communities. Learn about the impact of the landmark case from experts who will review the decision, examine how subsequent federal and state court decisions have applied it, investigate how several jurisdictions have responded to it, and discuss common concerns with regard to it."

To read Professor Weinstein's report on the 2016 APA session on Reed vs. City of Gilbert, go to

FASI Executive Director Wade Swormstedt Helps Judge Sign Contest

Wade Swormstedt, the Executive Director of the Foundation for the Advancement of the Sign Industry (FASI) was one of four judges who helped determine the winners in the annual sign-design contest sponsored by Signs of the Times & Screen Printing en Espanol (SSEN) magazine. The winners will appear in the upcoming December/January issue of SSEN. Over the past three decades, Swormstedt has served as a judge in numerous sign contests for the Industrial Fabrics Association (IFAI), MACtac Graphic Products, the International Sign Association (ISA) and Signs of the Times magazine. When the SSEN issue is published, it can also be viewed online at