By Peter Saunders
In 2006, a new breed of sign industry publication was born. Sign Media Canada made its debut that year with a digital signage-themed cover, but when readers opened its pages, the first news item they saw was about the Letterheads, an organization committed to keeping traditional signmaking techniques alive.
Ever since then, this magazine has become a vital bridge between the old and the new—between the art and craft of signmaking and the many advanced digital technologies that have revolutionized the industry of late. It is not that Sign Media Canada speaks with one, authoritative voice advocating for such a balance in the sign industry. Rather, it has become a vibrant forum for many voices, representing every corner of the overall industry; from the booming out-of-home (OOH) advertising sector to the fleets of trucks that continue to install and maintain signs; from the print service providers (PSPs) who are seizing the higher profit margins of specialized, value-added wide-format digital graphics to the dimensional sign fabricators who have adopted computer numerical control (CNC) technology to complement their handiwork with unprecedented speed and accuracy; and from the artisans still bending neon tubing for a retro look to the engineers adapting light-emitting diodes (LEDs) to better meet the needs of public-facing signage both outdoors and indoors.
Interacting with the community
This year marks not only the 10th anniversary of Sign Media Canada itself, but also the 10th year for two key ways for the magazine’s readers to interact with it and with the larger community—the National Sign Competition and the Salary Survey—and, for that matter, 2016 is the 10th year of the annual State of the Industry Report.
National Sign Competition
When it was launched in early 2007, the National Sign Competition became the first and only contest judged by a panel of experts that spanned the full breadth of the Canadian sign industry. To enter, companies did not have to be customers of a particular manufacturer or distributor, nor members of specific organization or trade association. They just had to be Canadian.
Readers of Sign Media Canada were invited to showcase their talents in a competition dedicated to recognizing the very greatest achievements in the sign and graphics business. And the collective response to that call to action was tremendous. Submissions arrived from all across the country for the inaugural event. If the entrants had anything in common with each other, it was a spirit of originality in their work, rather than simply doing what had been done before.
In the final count, there were winners that first year from British Columbia, Ontario and Quebec. Future editions would also see winning projects from Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba and Nova Scotia.
The competition continues to grow. Indeed, a record number of entries were submitted this year, the winners among which can be found in this issue starting on page 34.
At the same time as the very first National Sign Competition’s winners were announced, Sign Media Canada began to conduct its first annual survey of the signmaking industry across the country, on an anonymous basis. Reader input was provided online—and even by fax at the time—and the results were published later that year in a special section.
Since then, the annual survey has become a valuable ‘snapshot’ of the industry. By collecting data and showing trends in demographics, business sizes, revenues and evolving professional roles, it has become a way to check in each year on the state of the sign industry.
State of the Industry Report
Speaking of which, another major annual feature in Sign Media Canada is the State of the Industry Report, which leads off each year’s special Buyers’ Guide edition. As a unique compilation of both hard data and anecdotal reflections and predictions from experts throughout Canada and around the world, the report looks back at the previous year and ahead at what’s yet to come.
“The need for signs will continue to grow,” said Shikatani Lacroix Brandesign president and Sign Media Canada editorial advisory board (EAB) member Jean-Pierre Lacroix in the first report, “but there is new pressure on the industry to adapt and change.”
His words have remained true ever since and the State of the Industry Report has tracked that process of adaptation and change, focusing particularly on such dynamic trends as the incorporation of LEDs into greater numbers—and wider varieties—of signs, the growth and diversification of wide-format digital inkjet printing, the replacement of some static signs with digital signage networks and the demand for eye-catching innovation in OOH media.