9 Tips to Create Effective Trade Show Displays


Participating in a trade show can potentially be a great way to build your business; or it can be a waste of time and money.  Trade shows provide the opportunity to tell people face-to-face about your business while increasing your brand recognition, but if your booth looks boring, or people cannot tell what exactly you are offering, they will walk on by.

You can spend thousands of dollars setting up a trade show booth only to find that people give your display no more than a cursory glance as they pass by. Here are some helpful tips to design an effective, attractive display that generates interest and excitement in your business.

Do Your Homework


How large should your booth be? Most trade shows employ the 10’ x 10’ system for determining booth space. You may be able to rent more space, say 10’ x 20’, but let’s assume that 10’ x 10’ is the norm for most small and medium sized businesses. Make sure that the dimensions of your display take full advantage of the space you rent, but not so that it appears cluttered or hard to navigate.

Is electricity included or available to rent? If you are running a computer or digital sign, don’t forget to bring enough extension cords to plug in all your electrical equipment.
Trade shows often supply vendors with a table and a few chairs for no extra cost. You might arrive to find the tables draped with an attractive cloth – or you might find a bare table with a scratched, stained top. Make sure to ask up front what you’ll be getting so that you can bring your own table cloth, extension cords and extra lighting if necessary.

Make your Brand Recognizable


People approaching your booth should not only be able to decipher the name of your company but also have a good idea of what products or services you offer. If your company name doesn’t identify what your company does, use graphics to help you convey the nature of your business.

Send a Clear Message

If you could convey one message to the person walking past your booth, what would it be? Your display components cannot educate your potential customers about every aspect of your business – that’s why you’re standing there, ready to provide them with the details and hand them a brochure, catalog and business card. Identify one aspect of your business that you’d like to promote with your display. Here are a few that you might choose to focus on:

  • Uniqueness – does your product or service offer something no one else has?
  • Price – do you offer the lowest prices?
  • Customer Service – do you have a more liberal return policy than your
    competition, or a better trained sales staff, or more prompt response?
  • Longevity – has your company been around for a long time? Do you have more experience than others?
  • Quality – is the quality of your product superior to that of your competitors? How?


Let’s say your company has been in business for 25 years and you decide that you want to focus on your longevity. Design your display around that key aspect of your business. For instance, your banner might say, “XYZ Company – Serving You for 25 Years!” Stop there. You’ve created a specific idea in the minds of people walking past your booth – your company has been around a long time, which may translate in their minds  as great service and quality product. After all, you’ve been around for 25 years – you have to be doing something right! Your banner doesn’t need to say, “XYZ Company has been around for 25 years. And we have great customer service. And our widgets do a little dance, unlike that of the competition. And they’re aluminum – not plastic. And we have the lowest price.” Your sales staff can tell people all about your great customer service when they step into the booth. Customers can hold the widget in their hands to admire the aluminum construction. And maybe they can even see a demonstration of your widget doing its little dance.

Keep Your Design Consistent

In addition to a consistent message, the colors and design elements of your display should be consistent across all components of your display. Don’t be tempted to use the old vinyl banners you bought three years ago alongside your shiny new trade show display – unless they look like they go together.

Too many small signs all over the place will distract from your larger displays. Let the large pieces show off your logo and promote your message – you and your staff are there to provide the other details.

To keep your display looking professional, NEVER use hand-written signs anywhere in your booth.

Be Visible

Design your display pieces with bright, bold colors. Use a font that is easily readable and that is a good size. Keep text to a minimum so that your message is conveyed quickly. A large triangular, square or round hanging banner above your booth will allow people to see your message the minute they walk in the door.

Use lighting to emphasize your display pieces and give your booth a brighter appearance. Install a few soft lights around your booth – they illuminate your message and product and temper the harsh fluorescent lighting typically found in convention halls.

Create an Open Space

One mistake typically made at trade shows is to place a table right across the front of the booth. The table may be a nice spot to place brochures, but it also essentially blocks people from entering your booth and creates a “them and you” dynamic. A table across the front of the booth also encourages sales staff to sit behind it. You’re paying them to be stand up, interact with customers and give them all the magnificent details of your product, not to slouch behind a table. If you must have a table, place it along the side of your booth, and leave the front clear so that you can greet people and encourage them to step inside to learn more about your company.

Another common practice at trade shows is to place posters on portable easels at the front corners of the booth. They are so lightweight it’s easy to bump into them. People don’t want to chance tripping over your display and causing a scene by knocking it into the aisle, so they may avoid stepping into your booth. If you want to create visual interest in the front corners of your booth, try pop up banner stands as an alternative. There are no legs to trip over, and the banner provides more space for your message.

Make it Comfy

Have you ever walked a trade show as a visitor? It’s exhausting. Those convention halls are huge, so your visitors are walking a long distance on concrete floors. Draw people into your booth by staging a lounge area with some comfortable overstuffed chairs and a small end table with information or things they can interact with. They’ll appreciate the chance to sit down and you’ll be able to start up a conversation.

Clear the Clutter

Your trade show booth is supposed to be earning its money by projecting a very specific image of your business. Hopefully a professional one. If your booth is sloppy and cluttered, people will think that your business must be the same.

A few housekeeping tips:

Avoid tables of large, messy piles of catalogs, brochures and business cards. Place one or two brochures on the table, or hand them directly to visitors as they enter your booth.

Coats draped over chairs and water bottles sitting on display tables give your booth a disheveled appearance. Instead, place coats, handbags, computer bags and other personal items where they are not visible.

Have a small broom or portable carpet sweeper handy. If the guy three booths down is giving away free peanuts, you might soon have shells all over the floor in your booth. Conduct a quick sweep every now and then to keep your booth looking tidy.

The Final Word

Participating in a trade show isn’t cheap, but it can be worth every penny if you take full advantage of it. Make sure you spend plenty of time pre-planning and designing your display so that potential customers will want to stop and have a look, and you’ll end the show with a full appointment book or a stack of business cards from potential clients.


Using Design Elements to Create an Effective Sign

Just remember to Keep It Simple Stupid

Just remember to Keep It Simple Stupid

We’ve all seen them…ugly, unreadable or confusing signs. These signs don’t help the businesses they advertise, they hurt them. Customers shouldn’t have to struggle to decipher your sign.  Its purpose and message should be obvious. Here are some simple rules to create an effective sign for your business. After all, your sign is one of your most important marketing tools. Why not do it right?

Design Elements of an Effective Sign


If your customer can’t make out the words your sign it’s virtually useless for your business. Recently, a small business in my town posted a banner in front of its store. The banner was pink and had the name of the business written in a script font. I drove past the store several times, each time wondering what the business was. Based on the banner design, I could tell that it was something catering to female customers, but I couldn’t read the loopy script font. Finally, after weeks of driving past, there was a traffic accident down the street and I was stopped right in front of the banner. After a few minutes of squinting, I finally realized that it said, “Alluring Nails.” I’m just guessing, but I bet the lady who rear-ended the car in front of her was craning her head in an attempt to read the sign and failed to watch the traffic.

The typeface on your sign must be legible, especially for drivers who want to read it while driving by. Avoid cursive or novelty fonts at all costs! A sans serif font, such as Helvetica or Arial, is the easiest to read on typeface larger than 14 pt. While you can certainly emphasize an important word by using a different font, don’t mix several fonts on one sign. Avoid using all caps; it is difficult to read.

This sign uses a sans serif font.

This sign uses a sans serif font.


Be very careful when using images on your sign – the image should make an immediate connection to your business that the customer will understand.

A new pet store spent a lot of money on a billboard that generated confusion, not sales. It featured a large electric guitar, amp and musical notes surrounded by fish and a lizard. The strange combination of images didn’t seem to make much sense and the sign had only one small line of text that wasn’t readable from the ground level. Only when the billboard was removed and re-designed did people understand: the name of the store was “Rock Star Pets.” The new billboard featured the store name in large, easy-to-read print with a large guitar propped up against the “R” with several fish placed in an array around the perimeter of the sign. The redesign was much better – its primary focus was on the business name and used images to make the connection between rock stars and pets. The store began receiving more calls about its selection of fish instead of about its strange, confusing sign.

There are several other things to consider when using images. If you choose to use a photo, make sure that it is clear and large enough for the image to be easy for customers to see and know what it is.

Images can be used to replace information but can be too much when paired with a lot of text.

Your logo is often the best image to use on your sign. It makes the connection in the reader’s mind between your business and your message and builds brand consciousness.


An effective sign gets its message across quickly and clearly. A sign placed on the street should have only a few words and be very simple, since motorists will have mere seconds to both read and process your message. Three to five words is considered ideal for a street sign.

A sign in the window or hanging over the entrance to a business may be read by customers as they walk toward your store and can have more information to excite the customer about sales or special merchandise.

Signs placed at the point of sale can have more information than a street sign. This will give the customer something to read as they wait in line and may give them information about your products or services that will help them make their purchase.

Tailor your sign to its environment and you will generate informed, interested customers.

Color Combinations

Type and Background Color Combinations

Extensive research has been conducted to determine which color combinations are the easiest to read. Research has proven that the best combinations are text of either black, dark blue or red on a yellow or white background. White text is the most difficult for the eye to process.

Approximately 8% of men in the US are color blind. The combination easiest to read for people who are color blind is dark blue text on a yellow background.

When using more than one sign to promote your business, stick to the same basic color scheme to unify the pieces and avoid a carnival-like atmosphere. There should be coherence between your signs, logo and other promotional materials.

White Space

Leave plenty of white space. The space doesn’t actually need to be white – the term white space refers to space on your sign void of text or images. White space allows the eye to be drawn to the text – which, after all, is the message you want to convey. Too many images or too much text can overwhelm the reader and do not leave enough time for them to process all the information on your sign before he or she has passed it.

Studies show that 30% to 40% of your sign should be white space.

Your Message


A sign is not something that should be hastily slapped together and thrown up in your store. Before you begin designing, spend some time thinking about the message you want to convey. Do you want to tell the customer about a special sale? Increase brand awareness? Give customers detailed information about your product selection? You won’t be able to convey all of these messages on one sign. Instead, use several signs with each sign conveying a singular message. This way, you’ll get the most return from each sign.


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!









15 Surprising Facts About the Las Vegas Sign

You know that what happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas (unless the paparazzi is watching). And you know that you’ve made it to Vegas when you see the iconic sign. But do you know these surprising facts about the “Welcome to Fabulous Las Vegas” sign?

1) The sign might say, “Las Vegas,” but it isn’t actually inside the city limits.

It’s located at 5100 Las Vegas Boulevard South, which is in the neighboring town of Paradise. In fact, much of the old Vegas strip is technically located in Paradise. So all that time you thought you were in Vegas… you weren’t.

2) The sign is smaller than most Vegas signs.

It stands only 25 feet tall. Compared to the famous Vegas Vic sign, which stands 40 feet tall, it’s a dwarf.

3) The sign was placed in 1959.

Thanks to Hollywood, you probably think of the sign when you think of the gangsters that founded Vegas. But the sign wasn’t actually put into place until 13 years after Bugsy Siegel opened The Flamingo. And while the gangsters of early Vegas certainly were adept at marketing, the Welcome to Fabulous Las Vegas Sign wasn’t their idea.

4) The sign was commissioned by a salesman.

Ted Rogich, a World War II vet, moved to Nevada and started a small neon sign company called Western Neon Co. He admired the neon signs of the city, but he noticed that, while there were tons of signs advertising the local casinos, hotels and restaurants, there wasn’t a sign advertising the city itself.

5) The sign is designed in the Googie architecture style.

Think you’ve never heard of “Googie?” Well, you’ve certainly seen it. This style of design was popular during the 40s and 50s. Remember The Jetsons? Their combination of futurism, the atomic age and space travel was a great example of Googie. When the Welcome to Fabulous Las Vegas sign was created, Googie was a typical design style used on motels, restaurants and diners.

6) The designer of the sign was female.

This was a big deal in 1959. Betty Willis, who had attended art school in Los Angeles, was working in Vegas as a commercial artist before she began designing neon signs. In an interview, Betty once said, “Most people are surprised when they find out a woman designed the sign. It was a man’s business back then. It wasn’t a woman’s field because when you work with neon signs, you have to not only design them, but you have to learn the nuts and bolts of how neon, light and electricity work. You have to learn about pressure points and weight and wattage of lamps. You work with engineers as well as artists. Most women back then weren’t interested in such technical stuff.”

7) The sign was a bargain.

At only $4,000, the Welcome to Fabulous Las Vegas Sign was a bargain. In comparison, the roadside sign for the Stardust Hotel and Casino was replaced in 1967 for $500,000.

8) There’s $7 on the sign.

Across the top of the sign are 7 white circles, each with a letter from the word “Welcome.” Those circles are actually designed to portray silver dollars, since Nevada is the “Silver State.”

9) The sign was never copyrighted.

Betty gave the design of the sign to the city of Las Vegas as a gift. As such, she never copyrighted her design. So now you can buy a Vegas keychain, Vegas magnet, Vegas bumper sticker, all with the “Welcome to Fabulous Las Vegas” sign and Betty doesn’t get a dime. Considering how many tourists go through the city every year and how many souvenirs they buy, Betty’s gift turned out to be worth a fortune.

10) People once risked their lives to have a photo with the sign.

Tourists stood in the middle of the road in order to get their photo with the legendary sign. The city eventually decided that the possibility of dead or injured tourists was bad for business, so in 2008, it installed a parking lot by the sign. Now it’s much easier to get a photo… you just have to wait your turn.

11) The sign is on the National Register of Historic Places.

Because… it’s historic. It was nominated and approved in 2009.

12) Brandon Flowers wrote a song about the sign.

The Killers lead singer wrote an album in 2010 called, “Flamingo” (referring to the iconic hotel that started Vegas). On the album is a track called, “Welcome to Fabulous Las Vegas,” which refers to the sign.

13) The original is one of three.

While driving around Vegas, you might feel like you keep seeing the sign. In different places. No, you haven’t had too much to drink (well, maybe you have… but that’s not why you keep seeing the sign). The city installed a replica on Las Vegas Boulevard in 2002, just inside the city limits. And in 2007 another replica was installed on the Boulder Highway.

14) You can buy a piece of the sign.

When the lights on the sign are replaced, they’re sold as commemorative souvenirs. The proceeds are donated to charity.

15) The sign is going green.

You might want to get your commemorative light bulb while you can. Earlier this year, the Consumer Electronics Association made a $50,000 donation to Green Chips. That organization will use its donation to make the Welcome to Fabulous Las Vegas sign solar.

What Coca-Cola Teaches Us About Branding

Coca-Cola is undoubtedly one of the most recognized brands on the planet.  In fact surveys show that 94% of the world’s population recognizes the red-and-white logo.   Every day across the world, more than one billion bottles of Coke are sold.   Why the everlasting popularity? While sound business practices and global reach certainly have an impact, Coca-Cola has one HUGE advantage its competition does not have…logo longevity.  Let us explain.
The First Coca-Cola Logo
The first glass of Coke was sold in 1886, after pharmacist Atlanta Pemberton mixed up a concoction and added soda water to it. The first logo was created when Pemberton’s accountant, Frank Robinson named the product and wrote it out in Spencerian script. Here is what it looked like.

Pepsi’s Logo
Pepsi was created just a few short years after the first glass of Coke was served. Its original logo was very similar to the Coca-Cola logo. In 1898, this is what Pepsi’s logo looked like.  Hummmm….pretty similar, no?


But Pepsi didn’t stop there. Beginning in the 1950’s Pepsi started changing and developing its logo, sometimes changing it drastically. Meanwhile, Coca-Cola’s logo remained the same.


The Pepsi logo incorporated a third color, blue. It still maintained the same script (aka font), but added the bottle cap image.



Then, Pepsi ditches the script altogether and the word “cola” and changes to a completely different block style text.



The bottle cap logo is changed, but the colors stay the same. This logo remains unchanged for around 16 years.



A dramatic change in Pepsi’s logo.



The current Pepsi logo is now very different from the original Pepsi logo of the 19th century.


“So What?” you say.  “What’s the big deal?  I like the new logo.  It looks modern and fresh”.

Ok so let’s compare.  Pepsi is above and the current Coca-Cola logo is below.  Still pretty much the same.


So why is this important? And what does this mean in terms of marketing?  Well here is the answer.

Coke vs. Pepsi: It’s In Your Brain (not your taste buds!)

In blind taste tests, people consistently prefer Pepsi over Coke. Yet when both beverages are labeled, Coke wins every time. Researchers have coined this phenomenon the “Pepsi Paradox,” and for a long time could only guess that Coca-Cola’s marketing was responsible for the mental preference.

In 2004, Read Montague, a researcher at Baylor College of Medicine, did an interesting study that revealed just how ingrained the Coca-Cola brand has become in the minds of the millions of people who prefer it.

Montague performed MRI scans on volunteers while they drank both Pepsi and Coke. When people drank samples of each, without being told which was which, they preferred Pepsi. The MRI scans showed that the Pepsi caused greater activity in the ventral putamen, the part of the brain that registers pleasure.

But once the volunteers were told which beverage they were tasting, they immediately switched their answers and stated that they preferred Coke. During that taste test, the medial prefrontal cortex of the brain lit up on the MRI. That part of the brain is associated with memories and self-identification. The higher-functioning prefrontal cortex actually over-rode the more visceral part of the brain that acknowledges pleasure—branding beat out actual taste.

Logo Longevity Leads to Brand Domination

So if people actually prefer the taste of Pepsi over that of Coke, why do our brains change our minds once we know we’re drinking Coke? Because we associate Coca-Cola with strong memories and identify the brand in positive ways.

Coca-Cola’s marketing has always been about creating feel-good memories. The old-fashioned Christmas advertisements with the vintage Santa Clauses, the “I’d Like to Buy the World a Coke” commercials, the more recent adorable baby polar bears… all are designed to evoke warm, fuzzy feelings about the brand.

Since the basic Coca-Cola logo hasn’t really changed since its inception, consumers can take all of the feel-good advertising and associate it with one image.

When considering Pepsi, that isn’t the case, since the basic logo has changed so drastically over the years. So every time Pepsi releases a new feel-good campaign, consumers must connect it to a different image.

Bottom line: create a great logo and stick to it.  Create plenty of positive associations with your brand and you too can dominate your market.


20 Fun Facts About the Hollywood Sign

When you think of Hollywood, you might think of Humphrey Bogart gazing into Ingrid Bergman’s eyes in Casablanca. You might imagine Cary Grant tooling around the foothills in his 1929 Caddy, or Marilyn Monroe with her pouty lips and swirling white skirt in Some Like it Hot. Or maybe you think of the modern Hollywood, with starlets toting around miniature canines in expensive handbags and reality TV stars giving interviews on the Tonight Show with Jay Leno.

No matter what comes to mind, the Hollywood sign stands sentinel over all of it, an icon that stands for the glamour, optimism and grandeur that has defined Hollywood since its creation. Just for fun, here are 20 facts you might not know about the Hollywood sign.

1) The Hollywood Sign is almost 90 years old.

The original Hollywood sign was constructed in 1923, the same year that Rin Tin Tin gained fame as a canine film star. Though it wasn’t originally meant to be an icon for the film industry, the sign was created during the beginning of the glamorous, decadent Golden Age of Hollywood: in 1925, Ben Hur was released with its record-breaking production budget of $3.95 million.

2) The Hollywood sign wasn’t created with the movies in mind.

The sign wasn’t created to advertise movies and starlets; it was created to advertise real estate. Developers S. H. Woodruff and Tracy E. Shoults began developing a new neighborhood called “Hollywoodland.” The sign was meant to act as a huge billboard to draw new home buyers to the hillside.

3) The first sign didn’t say “Hollywood.”

To advertise the Hollywoodland development, the sign was composed of 13 letters that spelled out the development’s name: “HOLLYWOODLAND.” The last four letters of the sign wouldn’t be dropped until 1949.

4) The original Hollywood Sign was bigger than the current sign.

The original letters were constructed of large sections of sheet metal and stood as high as 50 feet tall. They were held up with a complicated framing system that included wooden scaffold, pipes, wires and poles.

5) 4,000 light bulbs graced the original Hollywoodland sign.

The bulbs were timed to blink so that the words “HOLLY,” “WOOD,” and “LAND” each lit up consecutively, followed by the entire word. This was not considered tacky, but rather quite progressive and modern. Each bulb generated only 8 watts of electricity, so 4,000 were needed in order to create the impressive display that Woodruff and Shoults needed to sell building lots.

6) The sign was a very expensive billboard.

Considering that the original Hollywoodland sign was only intended to be an advertisement for a real estate development, it was quite expensive. The construction cost of the sign was around $21,000, which is roughly the equivalent of $250,000 in 2013 dollars. Imagine building a new neighborhood and paying a quarter of a million bucks to advertise it with one sign!

7) An Englishman designed the Hollywood sign.

Thomas Fisk Goff, the artist who created the Hollywood sign, was born in London in 1890. He immigrated to the United States and settled in Los Angeles in the early 1920’s and opened the Crescent Sign Company. Woodruff and Shoults commissioned Goff to create and install the sign. In addition to owning a sign company, Goff was an artist who painted landscapes on canvas.

8) The sign had its very own caretaker.

The real estate developers hired Albert Kothe to act as caretaker. In addition to other responsibilities, Albert was in charge of the maintenance of the Hollywoodland sign. One of his jobs was to replace the lightbulbs on the sign when they burnt out, a large task considering the number of bulbs and the height of each letter.

9) The original sign was only meant to last for 18 months.

Since it was only intended to be a temporary advertisement for the new real estate development, the Hollywoodland sign was designed to be in place for about 18 months, while lots were sold.

10) The Hollywood sign was the site of a suicide.

Sadly, the allure of fame and fortune was not reality for many who flocked to Hollywood in hopes of becoming actors and actresses. One such unlucky girl, Peg Entwistle, left New York City and moved in with her uncle in Los Angeles while she tried to become a film star. Despite her efforts at stardom, Peg failed to land the big role she’d hoped for, and on September 18, 1932, she hiked up to the Hollywood sign, climbed a ladder to the top of the “H” and jumped to her death.

11) The Hollywoodland sign went dark in 1939.

The stock market crash of 1929 and the subsequent Depression during the 1930’s halted real estate development. Since lots were no longer being sold, illuminating the Hollywoodland sign was no longer a priority. Times were tough, so caretaker Albert Kothe stripped the copper wiring from the sign and sold it for scrap.

12) The sign was hit by a car.

You might not think that a sign perched on the side of a steep hill would be in danger of being hit by a car. But one night, Albert Kothe had a little too much too drink. He drove his 1928 Ford station wagon right off the cliff just above the sign. The car rolled down the hill, smashing into the “H.” Luckily, Albert was OK, but both the Ford and the “H” were destroyed.

13) The sign was almost torn down completely in 1949.

In 1944 the city of Los Angeles purchased 455 acres from the Hollywoodland developers, including the land on which the Hollywoodland sign sat. The city didn’t necessarily want a huge real estate billboard, but they let the sign sit there for another five years until they decided to tear it down. But residents who had come to love the sign protested its removal. The city, along with the Chamber of Commerce, agreed to salvage it, with the understanding that they would remove the “LAND” from the end of the sign so that it represented the community, not a real estate development. They fixed the broken “H” and renovated the rest of the letters.

14) The Hollywood sign is an official landmark.

By 1973, the sign was seriously deteriorated again, broken-down and rusty. The city slapped another coat of paint on it and also declared it “L.A. Cultural and Historical Monument #111.”

15) In the 1970’s, the sign went to pot.

On January 1, 1976, prankster Danny Finegood hung curtains over the last two “O’s” in the sign, changing it to read “HOLLYWEED” to commemorate the introduction of a more relaxed marijuana law in California.

16) A playboy, a rocker and a singing cowboy saved the sign.

The paint job in 1973 didn’t last for long. Five years later, the sign looked worse than ever. The Chamber of Commerce determined that it needed a very expensive overhaul. Hugh Hefner held a fundraiser at the Playboy Mansion. Each of the nine letters was auctioned for $28,000 to raise the needed renovation money. The benefactors for each letter were as follows:

H- Terrence Donnelly (a newspaper publisher)
O- Alice Cooper (rock star)
L- Les Kelley (businessman and creator of the Kelley Blue Book)
L- Gene Autrey (singer and actor)
Y- Hugh Hefner (founder of Playboy magazine)
W- Andy Williams (singer)
O-Giovanni Mazza (Italian movie producer)
O- Warner Bros. Studios
D-Thomas Pooley

17) The Hollywood sign was lit for the Olympics

In 1984, Los Angeles hosted the Olympic Summer Games. During the games, the Hollywood sign was illuminated for the first time since 1949.

18) Modern visitors can’t hike to the sign.

Because the sign is perched on a very steep hill and because the city of Los Angeles doesn’t want to be sued, visitors are no longer allowed to hike right up to the sign. The city might be worried that they will plummet to their deaths, get bitten by a rattlesnake or start a brush fire that will consume some of the expensive real estate below the sign.

19) The Hollywood sign has almost as much security as Fort Knox.

In order to keep people away from the sign and keep the sign from being vandalized, a specially-designed security system was developed. The Department of Homeland Security even got involved… that’s how serious L.A. is about protecting its iconic sign. The security involves razor wire, infrared technology, 24 hour monitoring, motion sensors, alarms and helicopter patrols.

20) The sign has its very own trust fund.

The Hollywood Sign Trust was created in 1992 for the purpose of maintaining and promoting the Hollywood sign. It continues to care for the sign today. The most recent renovation included a shiny, new paint job and webcams that allow Internet visitors to see the sign 24/7.

3 Tests for Company Signage

Here are some of the best sign design tests you can do to ensure maximum effectiveness of your company signage.

The “Glance” Test

The decisions business owners make in designing their logo and signage at the start will make a big difference on the amount of foot traffic their sign generates for their retail or office locations. It is well known that a company’s sign can generate as much as 50% of its walk in traffic. Over the life of a company, optimizing the signage can have a major effect on the bottom line.

To pass the “glance” test, you want to remember that your sign will be glanced at quickly, usually from a moving vehicle, and it will be competing with multiple distractions. The layout for the sign should be considered and maximized for “glance” recognition. Sign dimensions should be considered in order for your business to compete with nearby competition. If your business is local, it’s important to make sure your signage does not immediately brand you as small-time; rather it should look as good or better than the national chain stores which often inhabit the very same space as you, the small independent shop or business owner.

The Combination Test


Here we see a strip mall already inhabited with businesses. The picture is presented in low resolution to remind us how a potential customer generally sees the signage. We can see that the corner store’s owners, who already have a location advantage, designed their logo and signage so the word and icon don’t muddle together when viewed from a distance. At this angle, the other signs are almost illegible, with some combining their icon and typeface, yet they are only ten feet away from the correctly designed sign.

The Space Test


Here we see a local burrito business, placed in between two national chains in a strip mall. Our intrepid burrito stop has thoughtfully used the full vertical and horizontal space, and left enough white space in the logo so that it can be read at a distance. The business also used a deep red to overpower or at least compete with the polished presence of Dunkin’ Donuts and Comcast. Well played!

So, to raise your bottom line; give attention to your sign. If your logo is too complex to be read at a distance, consider having a simplified version of it created.

Got questions about your design?  Just contact us and our experts will be happy to assist you.



How to Choose A Sign Company

There are many companies in the sign industry to choose from, each offering a wide variety of sign types and materials. So how does a layman know which company to choose? This article presents some guidelines to help you make the right choice for your business.

How to Start

Organize your thoughts and prepare a list of types of signs you like, materials you like, where you intend to install the sign, who will be viewing it, how long you need it to hold up, and what environmental / weather conditions the sign will be subject to.

Then search the web or contact other business owners to decide which sign companies to call.  Prepare your list of questions and discussion points using the helpful information below.

You want to select a company that provides a full suite of services, such as sign design, manufacturing, installation, retrofitting of buildings, securing of permits, and even long-term maintenance of your sign.  This way you don’t have to go to multiple sources to get your job done.

You also want to discuss materials. With so many different materials and lighting systems available today, you want to choose a company that understands your application and is willing to recommend the best materials for you; materials that will withstand the test of time and work within your budget.

The Best Sign Companies

  • Have friendly and supportive staff. After all, this will be a working relationship and you want to be sure you pick a company that you feel comfortable working with.
  • Offer a wide variety of products. You may need one sign today and another tomorrow. It will be easier on you to find one company that you like, that can meet all your signage needs, versus having to shop around for each different type of sign.
  • Have experience and knowledge. Good sign companies will have years of “lessons learned” under their belt. You can often tell the quality of the provider by the quality of the questions they ask. A good sign company will ask the right questions regarding placement, materials, budget, and timing so that they deliver the best possible product to you, within your budget. We once had a customer come to us wanting a corrugated cardboard sign on a tight budget. After careful questioning we discovered that this sign was to be posted outdoors for a month. We were able to recommend a plastic sign instead, that would hold up to the harsh Michigan weather, and still stay within budget. This is the difference experience and asking the right questions can make for you.

Other Considerations

Cost, quality, and follow-up service are important considerations, as well being able to handle securing appropriate permits for you. An experience sign company will handle this process for you.

The materials used in your sign will greatly impact how long it will last and how expensive it will be to maintain. If the sign is to be exposed to harsh weather and temperature conditions, and you want your sign to last for many years, you will want to be sure the sign is constructed from durable materials and that you can afford to keep it in good condition. A dilapidated sign will not do your business any good.

The bottom line: The right sign company for you will provide a quality sign that will satisfy your unique communication needs at a reasonable price you can afford. Contact us today.


Key Factors for Sign Visibility

Ever have trouble reading a sign when you were driving by a business or standing in the parking lot? This article will give you some idea as to why and what you need to think about when considering a new sign for your event or business.

For starters, there are many factors that impact the visibility and hence, effectiveness, of a sign. According to the International Sign Association, the top 5 are: SIZE, ANGLE, LOCATION, LUMINANCE, and CONTRAST.  We are going to add CONTENT as a critical factor as well.

When planning the SIZE of your sign, it is important to consider your audience.  How far away will the people be when viewing it?  Will they be on the road driving? Will they be standing on the street? or in your lobby? Next, you want to consider how fast they are traveling.  Are they driving? standing? walking?  If you make your sign too small, they may have difficulty seeing it from the distance and velocity they are traveling.  If you make it too large, with too much content, they may have difficulty taking it all in during the time they are passing by.

The next factor to consider is ANGLE.  Where will the majority of people be positioned when viewing your sign? People see things most clearly when they are directly in front and facing them.  You probably can’t please all your viewers, but you definitely want to position your sign at an angle where the majority of viewers can clearly see it.

LOCATION, location, location.  This is true for successful retailers, and true for successful signs as well.  Trees, landscape, buildings, parked cars, traffic and even people can obstruct the view of your sign.  You want to determine the proper height and setback when planning where to install your new sign.

LUMINOSITY.  During the day, signs made from most materials are easily seen.  But at dusk, dawn and night the visibility of different types of signs diverges. If you want your sign to be clearly visible at night, consider producing it with reflective material, lighting it from the exterior, or via internal lighting.

Have you ever seen a sign with yellow letters on a white background? or grey letters on a black background?  You had trouble reading it right?  That’s because there was not enough contrast between the sign background color and the text color.  When designing your sign, be sure to select background and text colors that present a strong CONTRAST to each other so that your sign is clearly visible.

Last but not least, we broach the topic of sign CONTENT.  It is very tempting to fill your sign with too much information.  The best, most readable signs use the K.I.S.S. method – Keep it Simple.  You don’t need a lot of text to get your message across.  A great graphic and 1 or 2 brief lines is all you need.  Think twice before adding more because most people will be unable to read it all, unless they are standing there waiting for an elevator.

For an additional information on the science involved behind this article, please view:
Federal Highway Administration Sign Visibility Research