Posted on Thursday, February 28th, 2019
If you were getting SignCraft thirty years ago, your January/February 1988 issue would have included an article on a young Oklahoman with a busy commercial sign shop. Since then, Mark’s signs and pinstriping have appeared in SignCraft many times. Along with signs, he has also built a reputation for his fine art. He recently finished building a new shop and is busy doing both signs and art.
Mixing fine art and signs:
Signs and fine art have always worked well together for me. Right now I’m back to doing more sign work again. I never really quit, but I did slow down quite a bit when I was doing more artwork. The sign shop got put on the back burner but I was still doing logos and a few trucks and signs.
In 2017, I sold my place in Weatherford, which was west of Oklahoma City, and moved to Shawnee. It’s east of Oklahoma City but closer to the metro area. I just finished building a new building for my shop here. It’s a 4000-sq.-ft. metal building, and I took about 1700 ft. in the front for myself. The rest I plan to lease out.
Weatherford was a nice little college town of about 12,000. Shawnee has close to 40,000 that’s just 25 minutes from Oklahoma City. I’ve reconnected with some of the builders in the city that I used to do work for. I’ve also picked up a lot of local work, and I still do a lot of work for customers back in Weatherford.
It’s hard to educate customers on the value of design, but as you get more work out there some of them start to see the difference. Many are looking for cheap-and-fast, but I’m picking up more customers who want something better.
I use Photoshop, Illustrator and FlexiSign for most of my design work. That’s been a good combination for me. I also do a lot of logos for small businesses, and I enjoy that work.
I outsource some of the sign production. It’s just more practical for me because I work alone, and that leaves me free to do my art and the sign design work. I still fabricate the small signs and do the vehicle graphics, but I leave the digital printing and large sign fabrication to others.
I just installed a foam monument sign the other day that Custom Foam Fabricators
made for me. Those go really easy. I set a couple of posts then lifted the sign up by myself and dropped it into position. They did a faux stone base on this one—carved stone and airbrushed it. It looks really nice.
I just had Gemini
cut my logo out for the shop office wall. It was cut from half-inch acrylic. I do a lot of work with them—metal letters and cut-out acrylic work. I also outsource some awnings. Working with these other companies lets me do a lot more work, and lets me offer more types of work as well. They do all the heavy lifting, and I can focus on design.
Pare it down:
Around here—and probably most everywhere—customers are bad about wanting to say too much on their signs and vehicles. They don’t edit their copy down to the most important message. I always try to get customers to eliminate the copy that isn’t necessary.
Any such copy that you add to a sign is done at the expense of your primary message. Pare it down. Don’t be repetitive. Eliminate secondary messages. Make it clean, simple and to the point. Right away their sign gets stronger than the other ones around it.
Effective sign design is about the best advertising going for small businesses. Most businesses don’t take advantage of that. That’s what I like to do for them—help them create a quality brand that will set their business apart from the crowd. Signs can create a powerful first impression for a small business, and you want to make sure it’s a positive one.
I like to work for customers who want to do that. I don’t try to please everyone, because you just can’t do that anyway. I try to do what I do, satisfy my customers and give them real value for what they spend. I’m excited about the opportunities in this community to provide my best work for customers. There is a lot of growth and downtown renewal going on and that opens doors for creative signage.