An Interview with the Society for Commercial Archeology

Sea Shell Motel Sign
Sea Shell Motel Sign, Wildwood, New Jersey

A few days ago we posted my interview with Danielle Kelly from The Neon Museum in Las Vegas. During the interview she mentioned that I must reach out to the Society for Commercial Archeology. She said if you love the older, lesser know signs and buildings of America’s roadsides and are interested in helping preserve them, those are the guys to talk to. So I did just that and they didn’t disappoint.

When I spoke to Ralph Wilcox, the Society for Commercial Archeology’s secretary, I envisioned this Indiana Jones-esque group of individuals combing through dilapidated commercial buildings in search of relics from the past. OK, so I over romanticized a little bit, but in truth the SCA is the largest national organization devoted to the buildings, artifacts, structures, signs, and symbols of the 20th-century commercial landscape. Read More

Updated: Interview With Bryan McCormick of Vegas Vernacular

Galaxy Building

Update: 4/22/2013: While I was attending the 2013 International Sign Association’s Sign Expo in Las Vegas a couple weeks ago, I had the privilege of sitting down with Bryan over lunch to discuss the latest happenings with the Vegas Vernacular. It had been about 6 months since our first interview and I wanted to get an update on the organization, what they are currently working on and what’s next……oh and to get my print of the Desert Moon Motel I ordered!

Although I loved meeting Bryan at the art exhibit back in September of 2012, this time around was even better. We went to an incredible little place to eat, called EAT, in old downtown and just talked signage. It was the first time I had ever just walked around that area and it really gave me an appreciation for what Bryan and his team are trying to document. Once you get away from the Strip, you realize that a whole other world exists. Just walking and driving down Freemont Street – away from the tourist traps – you quickly realize what Vegas was truly about. It’s not about the massive Casinos. It’s about the hundreds of family owned motels and businesses that lined the streets. Each one with a unique story. Each one on the verge of disappearing.

Although they have accumulated around 50,000 images, there is still more to be done. Much of their current projects are based on immediate necessity. Not only are the smaller motels and building being closed down, they are being torn down. Bryan said that just knowing what properties are next is difficult. Then trying to get in to photograph them can be an even bigger challenge.

But, aside from the constant need to document the signs, Bryan and his team are right in the middle of creating a platform to catalog and display the images. The best part of the platform, they want to make it available to other organizations, in other cities, to allow them to accomplish the same goal as the Vegas Vernacular. A national platform for all to use as inspiration and education. They have also spent some time trying to track down the artists, like “King” Richard Harris, who actually created the hand painted signage. Their personal stories are as much a part of the dialogue as the signs they created!

For the most part, things continue at breakneck speed for the Vegas Vernacular and the ever changing landscape of Las Vegas sure keeps Bryan on his toes. Let’s just hope he is quick enough to document it before it’s gone! Read More

The Spotlight Shines on Vegas’ Neon Museum

Neon Museum

Born From Necessity

As I sat across from Danielle Kelly, the executive director of The Neon Museum, I almost forgot that we were discussing old, beat up, and sometimes forgotten signs. In fact, I felt that we could have been talking about a recently discovered Picasso or Van Gogh original. That’s how passionate Danielle is about her beloved museum and the works of art that she and her team painstakingly curates.

Founded in 1996, The Neon Museum is dedicated to collecting, preserving, and restoring iconic Las Vegas signage to display and educate future generations on the area’s unique art form. But, according to Danielle, the path to what visitors see today when they come to the Neon Museum is a far cry from where they started. Read More

How-To: The Online Design Tool


Update: We just added a new video tutorial of our new design tool. Check it out:

Hopefully by now, you know that announced the full release of our brand new website this morning. Maybe you even had a chance to take a look at some of our professionally designed templates or you took some time to play with our online design tool. If not, shame on you . . . just kidding. You can read all about the new site here.

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The All New Officially Launches Homepage

It’s a huge day for us here at! This morning, we announced the full release of our brand new website, which includes features like a full-service e-commerce platform, online design tool and personalized design services and support (read the press release here). The new website is designed to offer our customers a best-in-class experience when shopping for signage online. Read More

Book Review: Business + Management: For Digital Print Providers and Sign Shops



Marty McGhie’s book, “Business + Management: For Digital Print Providers and Sign Shops” is a comprehensive business book focused specifically on the sign industry. But business owners from every industry can benefit from Mr. McGhie’s business acumen.

The book offers advice and insight about every single aspect of running a business. Topics include hiring management and staff, choosing software, attending tradeshows, growth, bills and collection, marketing and production, just to name a few. But the book, published in 2012, was certainly influenced by the country-wide recession; many sections deal specifically with ways to cut costs, stay lean and manage a business during tough times. Today we’ll explore some of Mr. McGhie’s tips for staying afloat during a downturn in the economy.

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An Interview With Antique Sign Collector Jim Oswald


Antique Signs

A few weeks ago, I had the pleasure of meeting with Jim Oswald, an antique sign collector. I was prepared to go in and see a room with a few dozen old signs and hear a few stories. Boy was I in for a pleasant surprise! Jim not only has hundreds of signs, he has a wealth of knowledge about what he collects. I stayed for over two hours before I could tear myself away . . . I could have spent an entire week learning from Jim and enjoying his amazing collection.

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A New Home for the American Sign Museum


Big Boy, Phillips 66
Courtesy of the American Sign Museum


When I was a child, it was a real treat to get a hamburger and a chocolate shake at JB’s Big Boy in Salt Lake City. The burgers were huge, with special sauce dripping from the bun. The chocolate shakes were served in a tall glass, heaped with whipped cream and accompanied by the frosty aluminum mixing cup that contained a second helping. But the best part of the restaurant visit was the huge, plaster Big Boy that stood at the entrance, holding a Big Boy Burger and grinning in his red-and-white striped overalls. Sadly, many great vintage signs disappeared when business owners updated to more modern signage.

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The Benefits of Signage [Infographic]

Signage is simply the best, most effective form of advertising for your marketing dollar. Here are a few more statistics about the benefits of signs.

The Benefit of Signs [infographic]


Signage is so ingrained in our collective minds that most of the time we go about our daily activities without even knowing they are there. They direct us, remind us and sometimes even inspire us to make decisions each day. For local small businesses, they are a priceless way to establish an identity and gain new customers.

Signs attract new customers and alert them that you exist. Recent surveys found that many customers would have never found a business unless they had seen its sign.

Signs help your business be more profitable. Installing a new sign, banner or yard sign, can increase business as much as nearly 16 percent. It’s a fast, easy way to plump up your bottom line without spending a bunch of money.

Small business signs are a vital part of the community. Many new people move into your neighborhood every year—your sign encourages them to drop by your business. Over 85 percent of your customers are neighbors—they live or work within 5 miles of your business. Your customers drive past your business daily; your signage keeps you top-of-mind. Studies show that consumers are more likely to remember your business from your signage than they are from television or radio ads.

Your signage draws people in on impulse. One survey showed that up to 45 percent of people reported stopping at a business on impulse last year. You’re already making money from customers who have planned to shop at your store—why not entice a few in on impulse? You’ll gain a new customer and they’ll gain a great new place to shop.



Infographic Transcription

The Benefits of Signs

Signs bring in new customers – The question was asked: How did you learn about us? The responses were: 50% On-Premise Sign, 33% Word of Mouth, 9% Newspaper, 6% Yellow Pages, 1% TV, and 1% Radio. Signs attract half of a start-up business’ new customers, 35% of passersby wouldn’t know your business was there without a sign.

Signs Increase Profits

Studies show that adding or changing a sign directly improves sales revenue. Here are the average increases in sales revenue for the Fast Food Industry: If you add one monument sign 9.3% increase and if you add a large pole sign (144 sq. ft.) 15.6% increase. And for the Retail Industry: If you add a large pole sign (144 sq. ft.) 8.6% increase, if you add a chain identity to the plaza identity sign 7.7% increase, if you add two new directional signs 8.9% increase, if you replace storefront wall sign with larger sign 7.7%.

What can signage do for you?

Research indicates that 85% of your customers live or work within a five-mile radius of your business. 17% of Best Buy’s walk in customers did so because of a sign.

Percent of Customers That Stop on Impulse:

Shopping Center

– Larger than 400,000 sq. ft. 20% on impulse

– 100,000 – 400,000 sq. ft. 25% on impulse

– Smaller than 100,000 sq. ft. 35% on impulse

Convenience Market 40% on impulse

Discount Club/Warehouse Store 20% on impulse

Fast Food Restaurant 40% on impulse

Sit Down Restaurant 15% on impulse

Service Station 45% on impulse

Supermarket 20% on impulse

Relocation = New Customers

13% to 20% of the population moves each year, which means you have 13% to 20% new customers to attract each year through signage.

How customers know about local businesses: 35% saw it while passing, 29% always knew, 14% word of mouth, 10% advertising, 6% all other, and 7% don’t know.

Signs Compared to TV & Newspapers

Billboard – A single on-site sign costs $.02 per one-thousand views

Newspaper – A 300 line newspaper ad costs $2.81 per one-thousand views and might only reach 53% of the market

TV – A single TV ad costs $9.82 per one-thousand views and might only reach 14% of the market

One Billboard – The value of on-site signage is equal to 24 full-page newspaper ads every year.


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