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New sign co. owner


New Member
After 20 years in the high tech field in various sales, marketing and business development roles, I've decided to embark on my own and jump into the sign business. My sign store will soon be open. I'm either going to startup a new business or acquire an existing one. I'm very much looking forward to this second career and to the help I can get from, and the assistance I can give to, signs101 members. In the near term my equipment will be a vinyl cutter and a wide format inkjet (HP 5500). I'm focused on the operations now and am doing tons of research so I can ramp my knowledge up very quickly. Any ideas on how to do this would be welcomed. I like the Sign of the Times magazine and would like to know how I can the last two years back issues cheap.
Paul Jester


Certified Enneadecagon Designer
You can contact Signs of the Times for Back Issues, I think Signcraft is a better magazine for a smaller sign shop.
What you don't say is if you have any backround or real expereince in signage or graphic design, what your goals?, are you starting out with vinyl and digital output? design? and working up to dimensional? or master that part only? There is also drifting into promotional items or just automotive graphics. LotS of newbies get into this because they see a potential, usualy get into the obvious easy part first, but if you have a strength, you can do it all, but push toward specializing at a certain market, there are great books out there, with a little more info, I can reccomend a few.


New Member
Thanks Rick. My plan is indeed to start basic but to advance quickly and to quickly find a defensible, and hopefully substantial, niche. I have limited graphic design experience. I'm hoping the hours I put in and the dedication to ramping up will pay great dividends. Your recommendations would be appreciated.
Paul Jester

Fred Weiss

Merchant Member
Welcome to Signs 101 Paul.

In addition to what you may pick up here I'd second Rick's suggestion of SignCraft magazine being the one to look to for a lot of what you'll be wanting to read about. I'd also recommend Sign Business magazine at National Business Media

Although the trade journals have expanded their coverages, historically Signs of the Times has catered to electrical signage and outdoor advertising. SignCraft has largely been about the craft of signmaking. Sign Business has followed the growth of computer aided signmaking and the business of signmaking.

Although a bit of a trip, I'd also highly recommend a trip to Orlando in April for the International Sign Association Expo. It's one of the largest shows of its kind in the world. You can learn more there in a couple of days than in reading 2 years worth of back issues of Signs of the Times.

International Sign Association Website



New Member
Thanks Fred. I really appreciate the advice. I'll look for those mags. I do plan to be in Orlando. I went to the very underwhelming ISA conf in San Diego but I have heard that the national show is quite different. It's also gratifying to see that people read and respond to these posts. I know I'll need some extra help now and then.


New Member
Welcome Paul and good luck with your sign biz! I'd be willing to come out and work with you for a week or two if you had Charger tickets you wanted to share.:biggrin:



New Member
New career.....

After 15+ years as a graphic designer and all around sign guy,
I've decided to put that all behind me and embark in the field
of plastic surgery. I plan on hanging a shingle, that I will craft of course, next Monday to start the week off fresh.
Wish me luck!!!!!!!

dennis j

New Member
Welcome Paul I also changed horses this year I was in construction for 30 years, I have been helping my wife with the sign business part time for the last four years this year decided to go full time sign business. My wife and I learned the same way you are now books, magazines, sign shows & forums.

Good luck :smile:


Certified Enneadecagon Designer
Ah that helps Paul-to me, to be markketable, you have to get your design skills up, knowing the software is only 10% of the battle-being a decent designer is the trick. Practice your eye while practicing your software. What I did was find logos or layouts I liked and copied them, that way I trained my eye and my skills. Some great books to start with are:
"Big Book of Logos" (there are 3 volumes, the latest is the best one) by David Carter
"Logolounge" by Bill Gardner
"Logo Design for Small Business "-Dan Antonelli
"Mastering Layout Mike Stevens on the Art of Eye Appeal"-Mike Stevens

Great Mags are also:
"A Magazine about Letterheads", and
"AutoArt Magazine"

Sign design to aspire too...
"Environmental Graphics: Projects & Process : Projects & Process" by Wayne Hunt
"This Way: Graphic Ideas for Sign Systems and Way Finding" by James Grayson Truelove

Other design resources are:
How Magazine
Communication Arts-though noot sign oriented, a good source for design ideas.

Here is Signcrafts book and video section-https://signcraft.com/secure/cart/default.asp

You are kinda close too Mclogan in Anaheim, they have a selection of some of those books from Signcraft as well.
Most of all have fun and show us your progress, we have a great group here that realy help out with design critiques and information.

rick s

New Member
Hi Paul,
Best of luck in your new endeavor. San Diego is a beautiful
city with incredible beaches and surf. A bit tough to keep
nose to the grindstone with that kind of weather out there !!
I'm new to this site as well, but would be happy to help
in any way possible (know a bit about architectural signs).


New Member
Again...many thanks. That list of books/mags will keep me busy when I'm not out networking/selling/weeding/cursing and pulling my hair out.

Bob Rochon

Seasoned Sign Freak

in addition to others welcoming you to the sign trade, I figured I'd share an objective view point that I didnt see mentioned above.

You are entering an extremely over populated career with the view from the consumer that our job is easy and takes little talent or skill, hence it carries little value. In addition they are correct in the fact that the industry is over populated with underskilled machine operators with the greatest skill obtained is the ability to type on a keyboard and wield an exacto knife.

If you plan on a satisfiying career in the sign industry and want to even come close to a decent living, You best plan on finding and learning skills go far beyond the ability to purchase some equipment and pump out plastic.

If you rest on the above abilities you will fall into the trap of providing letters by the Pound, making little money and getting burned out and frustrated in a short time.

You might also use your sales skills and marketing skills to better yourself and hire a designer untill you learn the skills, and you might even find that your more profitable doing just that.

Good luck, I dont mean to discourage you, just let you know of a few hurdles you will observe down the road.

Dale Horn

New Member
Bob has some extremely good advice there P.J. Also check out SignCraft article "Is your shop a success?" #123 April 2002. :thumb: on some days I've learned there's little you can control except your attitude.


Certified Enneadecagon Designer
I have to agree with Bob,
There are a lot of skill sets you need to have to really be succesfull, I have to say, if you can design, but not be able to swing a hammer, you are in big trouble. If, through your reading you find you lack insome certain skill set, find someone who has it, and team up with them, or learn the other ones also, knowing some construction helps, knowing basic hardware and installation helps. Vinyl signs can make decent money IF you stand out above the rest and build up a clientelle, but that really does take years considering the amount of people getting into this proffession-learning dimensional signs as well, will give you a wider customer base.


New Member
All great points. Thanks. I do have great ambition and will be constantly on the lookout for ways to differentiate myself in a meaningful way. I welcome the challenge to take my business to a level where skill and quality and intense customer focus and satisfaction is valued. It won't be easy but I think I have the skills, experience and perseverance to make it pay off. Thanks (yet) again for the suggestions and reality-checks.