Monthly Archives: June 2013

Does Your Signage Do More Harm Than Good?



Signage provides information, gives direction and promotes businesses. Well-designed, properly installed signage in good condition it is an asset to your business. But when those elements aren’t in place, your signage can do more harm than good.

Here are the top 6 issues that make signage more of a detriment than an asset.

1) Signs With Unfortunate Wording

One of the main purposes of signage (especially signage that advertises sales and special events) is to draw people in and make them want to buy your products. Unfortunate wording can have the opposite effect.

This sign in a New York City shoe store window doesn’t inspire confidence; it makes me want to go out and comparison shop. Probably? If you can’t state something with complete certainty, it shouldn’t be on your sign. What kind of service and quality could I expect from this store? Well…maybe it would be really good. But probably not.


The grammar on this sign makes me wince every time I drive by. The verb “Park” should be joined by another verb: “Sell.” I won’t go into an entire grammar lesson here; either you get it or you don’t. If you don’t, then you probably want to get a second opinion next time you’re trying to come up with wording for your sign.



The creator of this sign was probably counting on Google Translate to provide the correct words in English. This obviously didn’t work.



2) Outdated Signs

Holiday signage is a great way to add a festive touch to the exterior of your shop. But when the holiday is over, the signage should be taken down immediately.

If you still have Christmas signage up five weeks after the holiday, are you that far behind with your client orders, too?


3) Poorly Maintained Signs

Signage isn’t meant to be a “set it and forget it” part of your store.Your signage may need occasional repair. When signs are damaged, they should be fixed promptly.

Hopefully this restaurant is a little more fussy with its food quality than it is with the quality of its signage.



Every so often digital signs go on the fritz. If your digital sign freezes or is not displaying properly, turn it off and call the sign company to fix it.



4) Signs That Aren’t Being Used to Their Full Potential

The recession has hit my town hard and many businesses along Main Street have closed. How can you tell when a business is shut down? The message marquee on its sign is blank.

But what if you’re still open for business? If you have a marquee on your sign, it should say something. Anything. If it’s blank, people may think you’ve closed for good.

This business typically has a message up on its marquee. So when I drove past recently and saw that it was blank, I immediately wondered if they had closed down. Nope.



The business is still open; they’ve just neglected their sign. Not only is this sign not as effective as it could be if it was advertising specials; it’s actually doing harm by causing potential customers to wonder if the business is closed.

5) Signs That Need to be Replaced

No sign lasts forever. Eventually old, worn signage must be replaced. If you leave signs up way past their prime, customers can get negative impressions about your business:

You’re lazy. Otherwise you’d take down an obviously ruined sign.



You’re broke. Why else would you leave a raggedy sign up?



You’re blind. Can’t you see that your sign is faded and has holes in it? This sign was probably provided by the manufacturer of the car wash product. A quick phone call might result in a free replacement.



You’re out of business. This sign for an orthodontist is so old and ruined that I thought the guy had gone bankrupt. Nope, he’s still in business…



6) Signs That Need Installation Attention

Perhaps you weren’t as thorough with your sign installation as you should’ve been. Maybe a really windy day caused one corner of your sign to came loose. It doesn’t really matter why your sign came undone…it just matters how quickly you fix it. If you leave it as is, no one can read your message.

This business is “Now Accepting” something. New patients? Donations? Criticism about their crappy sign? It’s impossible to tell.



This business is…well, we don’t know. Because we don’t even know what this business is. The sign is all folded over so we can’t read a thing on it.







No matter what kind of business you own—your customers have the following questions:

Is this business legitimate? Customers want to do business with companies that look like they’ve either been around for awhile, or will be. It’s ok if your business is new, but you should project confidence and security. If you just slap up a couple saggy banners on the front lawn, your business will have a temporary feel. Instead, properly install your temporary banners above your doorway. Make sure that your yard signs are kept in good condition. Your signs should never give customers the impression that you’re headed for bankruptcy…or already closed.

Is the business owner organized and professional? Customers don’t want to deal with haphazard, disorganized businesses. If you haven’t removed Christmas signage yet, now’s the time (well, the time was actually four weeks ago, but better late than even later).

Does the business owner care about me as a customer? Customers are aware that businesses must work hard to project a good image. So if you’re slacking off you might be projecting a different attitude—one that says “I don’t care what you think… just come in and spend your money here anyway.”

Does this business have a good reputation? A business that wants to protect its reputation begins by looking like a reputable business. A business that doesn’t care has worn-out, tattered signage. A business that has screwed up with customers so many times that the owners have just given up has signage that is slumped onto the ground.

Is this business equipped to handle my needs? If you don’t seem to have the time or inclination to repair or replace broken signage, you might not have the time or inclination to deal with your customers’ needs. Or you might not have sufficient funding to take care of all your company’s financial needs, which may mean that you don’t have sufficient funding to get your customers’ projects underway.

Your signage provides the first impression of your business to potential customers. Make sure it’s working for you…rather than against you.

Times Square – A History of Signage

Times Square

When you envision the bright lights of New York City in your mind, chances are you are thinking of Times Square.  It’s the most popular tourist attraction in NYC with 39 million visitors each year.  It’s brightly lit signage gives the square it’s personality and has helped make it into an iconic landmark in the city. Signs in Times Square have greatly evolved throughout the years and embraced the latest technological advances.

Longacre Square: Then and Now

Times Square was initially called Longacre Square. The thriving business center was most widely known for candle making, manufacturing horse carriages, and was where the stables for horse drawn city carriages were located. The square got it’s name from London’s Longacre Square, which was where London’s horse carriage trade was centered.

42nd and Broadway, 1898.

42nd and Broadway, 1898.

42nd Street looks much different today:

42nd Street March 2009 photo by John Stephen Dwyer

42nd Street March 2009 photo by John Stephen Dwyer

The Astor Hotel

The Astor Hotel was completed in Longacre Square in 1904. The hotel encompassed an entire city block, had over 1,000 rooms and offered numerous ballrooms and restaurants.

This steel engraving, circa 1903 (?) could have been used as an advertisement for the hotel while it was being built.

This steel engraving, circa 1903 (?) could have been used as an advertisement for the hotel while it was being built.

Times Tower/One Times Square

With Astor Hotel adding excitement to Longacre Square, the owner of the New York Times, Adolph S. Ochs decided to move his newspaper’s operations to the square.  Times Tower was less than a block from the Astor Hotel.  Ochs convinced NYC mayor George McClellan to rename the area Times Square in honor of his newspaper.


This 1919 photo shows a crowd gathering to see the score of the World Series from a scoreboard on Times Tower.

This 1919 photo shows a crowd gathering to see the score of the World Series from a scoreboard on Times Tower.

On December 31, 1903, a fireworks display was set off on the roof of the building, kicking off an annual New Year’s tradition that still continues today. Today, the building is known as One Times Square, and it certainly looks a lot different than it did in the early 1900s:

New Year’s Eve, 2012. Attributed to Replytojain.

New Year’s Eve, 2012. Attributed to Replytojain.

Today, One Times Square is mostly vacant. It’s exterior is considered to be one of the most coveted advertising spots in the world. According to The Real Deal, One Times Square generates over $23 million per year in advertising revenue.

A Famous Subway Station

Mr. Ochs also convinced Mayor McClellan to put a subway stop at Times Square, which led to even more growth and development. The mosaic signs (pictured below) were installed in 1904, when the NYC subway system first opened.

42nd Street Subway Station. Courtesy Gryffindor, WikiCommons.

42nd Street Subway Station. Courtesy Gryffindor, WikiCommons.

Although the mosaic sign is still present and in pretty good shape, the most noticeable signage for the 42nd Street subway station is a bit flashier:

NYC Subway Station 42nd Street, 2005.

NYC Subway Station 42nd Street, 2005.

Duffy Square Now and Then

Duffy Square is the triangle island that sits right in the middle of Times Square, between 45th and 57th Streets. There, modern tourists will find the TKTS building and can also get a great view of One Times Square and its surrounding neighbors.

Duffy Square, 2008. The red roof of the TKTS building is in the foreground.

Duffy Square, 2008. The red roof of the TKTS building is in the foreground.

In 1904 Duffy Square only had a few signs with incandescent bulbs. These signs replaced the hand-painted wooden signs of previous years. The addition of so many lit signs gave Times Square the nickname “The Great White Way.” This was not necessarily a positive nickname, as many people felt that the lighted signs ruined the aesthetic.

Duffy Square, 1904. Just a few lit billboards.

Duffy Square, 1904. Just a few lit billboards.

The Smokin’ 1940s

The Camel billboard was Times Square icon from 1941 to 1966. It was installed on the exterior of the Claridge hotel, at the corner of Broadway and 44th. The man on the billboard blew huge, five-foot “smoke” rings generated by a machine placed behind the sign. The rings of steam were released out into Times Square every four seconds.

During WW II, the man on the billboard was depicted as a soldier, sailor and airman.

Camel Billboard

In April 1999, billboards advertising cigarettes were removed in 46 states as part of a $206 billion agreement. Well before then, the Claridge hotel had been replaced by a movie theater. More recently, the space was taken over by a filming studio for Good Morning America, whose signage reflects current trends in Times Square:

2004. Courtesy WikiCommons, Tjeerd from Amsterdam.

2004. Courtesy WikiCommons, Tjeerd from Amsterdam.

The Seedy Seventies and Giuliani’s Times Square

In the 1970s and 1980s, Times Square fell into disrepair. Buildings went vacant and many of the open shopswere selling pornography or showing X-rated films. The area was definitely not a tourist attraction.

August, 1973. 42nd Street and 7th Ave.

August, 1973. 42nd Street and 7th Ave.

In the 90s, Mayor Rudolph Giuliani and several New York City developers created the Times Square Alliance, which was responsible for making a plan to get rid of the seedy businesses and bring back the tourists. During the next decade, most of the XXX bars and clubs were ousted, and the theaters showing porn were replaced with theaters showing…Mary Poppins:

Mary Poppins, New Amsterdam Theater, 2012.

Mary Poppins, New Amsterdam Theater, 2012.

A host of family-friendly business replaced shops selling XXX DVDs:

Nothing is more family-friendly than Disney! Photo courtesy of Luigi Novi.

Nothing is more family-friendly than Disney! Photo courtesy of Luigi Novi.

The 25,000 square-foot M&M World store is the largest candy store in New York City. With its rainbow of candy-coated goodness, it’s every kid’s dream:

M&M’s World NYC, 2012

M&M’s World NYC, 2012

New Signage Technology

Due to new technology, the signage in Times Square continues to change and evolve. In 2008, the first sign powered exclusively by nature was installed at the corner of 42nd Street and Seventh Ave. Four wind turbines and 45 solar panels powered the sign by Ricoh:

Courtesy Ricoh USA

Courtesy Ricoh USA

At over 9,000 square feet, the LCD NASDAQ sign is the largest continuous sign in Times Square. It most certainly will be eclipsed by even newer technology as the signage industry continues to innovate.

NASDAQ Sign, Times Square 2012

NASDAQ Sign, Times Square 2012

What’s Your Favorite Times Square Sign?

Do you embrace the newest technology, or prefer something more quaint and historic? Does your favorite have flashy lights and design, or does it evokes a warm, happy feeling of one of the greatest cities in the world? Comment below and tell us which is your favorite!