Businesses continually look for new and effective ways to advertise. While traditional printed signage is a consistent and reliable form of promotion, electronic and interactive signage is entering the marketing space. Global visual communications provider FASTSIGNS International Inc. branches out into the world of electronic signage, offering it alongside digitally printed applications to its customers worldwide.
FASTSIGNS Past and Present
The first FASTSIGNS originated in Dallas, TX in 1985. After co-founders of the original operation launched three successful centers, the company began offering franchise opportunities in 1986. At present there are 110 corporate team employees and over 540 facilities in eight countries including Canada, Mexico, Saudi Arabia, the U.K., the U.S., and Australia, where it is known as SIGNWAVE.
Numerous applications and forms of assistance are offered by FASTSIGNS. The company’s centers offer consulting, project management, file transferring, design, production, delivery, and installation for a variety of visual communication solutions. Additional output includes point of purchase signage, decals and labels, digital signage equipment and content, wide format printing, exhibit graphics, and trade show displays.
Clients crossover into many industries, such as businesses, organizations, and events of different scales. With such a large geographic reach and customer base, no request is ever the same, requiring it to pinpoint and assess every order to find out what is right for its customers’ needs.
“There is never a typical order. Our goal is to identify the business challenge and then determine the message to communicate; that drives the decision on displays and software and content management systems as well as any other types of signage needed. Often it begins with one department and then others get involved when the expense is large or the messages cross departments,” explains Catherine Monson, CEO, FASTSIGNS.
Facility size and machinery used throughout the company differ. Center sizes range from 1,400 to over 6,000 square feet with the production area utilizing the most space as it is home to the shop’s production tables, flatbed cutters, engravers, laminators, routers, and other finishing equipment. Some facilities house one or two printers while larger shops may possess multiple printing devices. Solvent and UV printers are used from Canon Solutions America, Epson, Hewlett-Packard, Mimaki USA, Inc., and Mutoh America, Inc.
FASTSIGNS began offering digital printing in the early 2000s. “One of the reasons we adopted this technology is because it cut down on production costs and processes, making an even greater end product for customers,” says Monson.
The company’s ink evolution began with aqueous ink, followed by solvent, then eco-solvent and latex. Because franchise owners began adopting the digital printing technology in different ways, many shops were using different inks as each became comfortable with the new format.
Digital print did present a learning curve. Some challenges included daily printer maintenance and convincing customers that digitally printed output was just as durable and reliant as the vinyl signs they were accustomed to. Customers now see the longevity and benefits of digitally printed signage and shops are more adept at mounting printed decals.
In 2009 the company started offering electronic signage, with a larger roll out into the franchise system in 2011. Because the franchise traditionally created one-dimensional signage, staff had to be educated on moving graphics, timelines, screen resolution, and video encoding specifications.
“We are growing from selling a one-image, static sign into a revolving door of images and information that can be recycled and changed with the click of a mouse. Center teams that are adapting electronic signage into their product and service offering have to learn new programs to handle the content, as well as the scheduling. It requires more immersion and new training, but it aligns with the expertise we already have in place when it comes to understanding visual communications needs,” shares Monson.
In part two of this Web-exclusive series we take a look at how FASTSIGNS incorporates electronic signage with its print work.