Profile: Jason Chapin
Posted on Monday, June 7th, 2021
Jason Chapin’s sign industry experience began at age 11, in his father’s sign shop. John Chapin was a sign painter and pinstriper, and young Jason grew up around the business—learning lettering and layout on the way. As technology made its way into the sign industry, Jason was able to use it to enhance his traditional sign design skills. He’s now 50, so it’s been 39 years of sign making. Here’s what he told SignCraft.com about his work and his business, Purifeyed Branding & Design:
Purifeyed Branding & Design
49-in. Gerber Odyssey cutter
Gerber HS 15 cutter
Gerber Edge 2 printer
I was blessed to work with my dad and learn traditional sign layout principles. He was a lefty but I’m right-handed, so he was always making sure I got to watch right-handed sign painters at work. We participated in quite a few Letterhead gatherings where I was able to absorb what I saw being done by many of the industry’s best.
He was an established pinstriper. When my dad started, he didn’t particularly like lettering. He wound up lettering for the first time after being talked into it by a farmer that he just finished doing some pinstriping for. Back then commercial vehicles had to be lettered. Eventually he started doing more lettering and wound up in the sign business.
It was Chapin’s Better Letter. We were blessed to have amazing clients like NASCAR, Ryder Lease Customers, Pepsi, and others. Along the way we worked on custom show vehicles, specialty items, and we even lettered seven of the General Lee cars for the Dukes of Hazard Enterprises when the show was popular. We did a lot of vehicle lettering, typically 500 a year. That was the bulk of our work, along with interior and exterior non-illuminated signs.
In 2008 the economy was going downhill and my dad’s health was failing at the same time. We closed the shop, and I worked with another area shop for a few years. Then I went back out on my own.
Selling design skills
I work out of my home studio. It works well for me currently, because I am able to design and assemble smaller projects here while having a few spaces that I can use when I have to do larger installations. Not having a commercial building is allowing me some great freedoms. Much of my work is in the mid-Michigan area, but I go where customers need me. I’ve been in Florida and created connections in other states.
Most of my work is design, produce and install. Designing is really starting to move across the country and even the globe. Often I create a design for a project, have it printed and shipped to some other state. I also do a lot of the collateral materials—business cards, brochures, packaging, and even some websites. I let my customers know that I can do their design work and get these other materials produced for them to help establish brand continuity.
You have to keep your customers informed about what you do. I remember times working with my dad when someone would come in to get their truck lettered and say, “Oh, I didn’t know you made signs too!” It seems crazy but they don’t know what all you do unless you keep telling them.
I spend a lot of time educating customers. There are people out there who are designing things, but they are typically designing for a captive audience—for someone looking at a website or a menu or brochure. They’re not thinking about what happens if it was used on a sign or a vehicle or a billboard.
Some customers come looking for a logo but they want a lot of intricacy and bling. I try to explain to them that we need to start by designing a logo that looks good in black and white. Then we can enhance it from there wherever it’s appropriate. You only need to look at the logos of the big corporations to see that they understand this.
Those logos look just fine in black and white and are easily recognized that way. For example, the McDonald’s logo may appear in black and white in an ad, then with beveled edges and yellow and red on their sign or digital graphics.
Sometimes it’s hard to calm a customer down and explain that we need to start simple so that we know the design will look good on a truck or a billboard. If you want to add some special effects on a pamphlet or the business card, that’s no problem, but we need to start with a design that works.
Unless your building storefront is at a red light or your vehicle is sitting at a red light, most of the people that will have the opportunity to see your graphics will be moving at least 50 to 70 miles an hour. They’ll have only two or three seconds to get the message. We don’t want to lose that opportunity because we used weak contrast or too many special effects.
Design does matter. It’s really what matters most. You have to keep showing people that. Having fonts on your computer and a vinyl cutter doesn’t mean your signs will be successful and effective. There are principles for layout that need to be understood and put to use.
Making it work
As for production, I outsource my digital printing. It just makes more sense since I work alone, travel to customers, and want to stay focused on design. It’s inconvenient at times not to have a printer right here, but I can work around that. We had color printers when my dad and I were in business.
When I need an extra pair of hands my older son who is now in high school helps out, along with other sign professionals if needed. I’m open to getting some help with the application and installation work so that I could focus even more on design. That’s what I like best. It’s also what brings me new work. Having someone to handle some of the day-to-day work would free me up to pursue more design work. Most of my work comes from referrals and that keeps me pretty busy.
I love to create things that help others do their job easier—to inform their clients, find customers and solve other problems. I like the science of design and how you can take advantage of a sign or a vehicle to help a client get maximum exposure within their brand identity. I would like to get to a point where most of my time is spent designing.
–From an interview with Tom McIltrot