Interview: David Allen from Allen Signs in conversation with Output
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By Morwenna Kearns
12 March 2012
A colour-changing sign for Chameleon Print has earned Allen Signs a nomination in the Sign and Digital UK Awards
Can you tell me about the work that achieved Allen Signs a nomination for the Individual Sign Project of the Year Award?
It's a sign featuring a chameleon with an LED eye that changes colour, which we produced for Chameleon Print on the High Street in Lincoln. The owners wanted to create a dramatic sign which would be completely different to other signage in the area and draw attention to the new business. We retrofitted the store's original fascia and projecting sign and worked with Applelec to create the chameleon character and bring the creature's eye to life using LEDs.
To create the chameleon, a rim and return outline of the creature's shape was formed in stainless steel enabling the feature to be offset from the sign fascia. We then cut 5mm deep opal acrylic to the same shape and mounted it on a supportive backing material directly behind the rim. The entire chameleon was covered in a vinyl print of the quirky chameleon character created by Lincoln-based graphic design company Optima Design.
Why did you decide to enter the awards?
The Sign and Digital UK Awards is one of the industry's most prestigious competitions and it's always nice to receive recognition for doing a good job, especially from your peers. Winning an award would be a testament to the hard work of our staff and hopefully instil an even greater sense of pride. It feels good to able to say you're an award-winning business or a member of an award-winning team. As a business it also helps you to stand out from the crowd and gives potential clients confidence in your abilities and the standard of service you provide.
What are you looking forward to seeing at Sign and Digital UK?
It's always a good opportunity to catch up with contacts whom we don't see on a regular basis. This year we're looking for all types of digital print media for our new HP L26500.
What have been Allen Signs's biggest achievements?
In 2010 Allen Signs celebrated its 45th anniversary which was a significant milestone for us, especially given the current economic climate. In fact we have managed to withstand three recessions and keep growing. My father and mother set up the business in 1965 and I joined the company upon leaving school in 1985. My wife and I took over the running of the business in 2008 and have continued to invest in both people and technology. We recently purchased an HP 26500 latex printer which will enable us to streamline the production of vehicle wraps and increase our output whilst also continuing to improve the quality of our print.
Many of our staff and clients have been with the company since the early days, which is an achievement these days. The sign industry is becoming increasingly competitive and there are a lot of big players out there so I feel proud to say we've been working for some clients for 45 years.
What are your opinions on the signage industry? What changes would you like to see?
The signage industry continues to be a competitive environment to work in and at our level the opportunities to grow are few and far between. With competition comes the challenge of maintaining standards and profitability and this can sometimes be a difficult line to walk. However, providing high standards of customer service is more important to us than offering the cheapest price.
With the vast array of new products and equipment that is continually becoming available it's sometimes evident that suppliers are finding it difficult to keep up in terms of knowledge and experience. Assumptions are being made about performance and characteristics based on a brochure or a manufacturer's conference without any practical experience; as the industry goes forward training and product experience from suppliers will be key. With there being so many places to purchase what is in effect the same product, picking the right supplier is essential both for us as a sign company and for the manufacturers themselves.
I also believe that more companies, large and small, joining organisations such as the BSGA will help the industry have a stronger voice with legislators, giving us a chance to be involved in the implementation and content of the ever increasing burden of regulation that our industry faces.
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