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British Sign Awards Preview

There is still time to put your best work forward for the British Sign Awards 2018. Brenda Hodgson analyses why it is worth entering this prestigious showcase

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Smiles all round in the winning line-up from the British Sign Awards 2017, demonstrating the pride and pleasure of having your project recognised by your industry peers

Smiles all round

Now in its fifth year, the annual British Sign Awards has firmly carved a place for itself on the sign industry calendar. Launched in 2013 by the British Sign & Graphics Association (BSGA), the aim of the awards, which will take place this year on Thursday November 8th, is to showcase British sign-making and to provide tangible rewards and recognition for the best signage produced over the course of a year.

Three Eurobond products were used in creating this stunning casino signage - Penloc VT Plus, EB6100G acrylic tape and ClearFix flexible adhesive

BSGA director, David Catanach, is proud of the event’s success and the interest it has generated from sign-makers: “Year on year, the number of entries to the awards has increased, demonstrating the increasing influence and importance attached to the awards by sign-makers; and so too has attendance at the awards presentation ceremony, making it the biggest (non-exhibition) sign industry event of the year.”

Mike Smith of SignFab (UK), lead sponsor of the awards, says it is a chance to showcase to the industry your exceptional design prowess

Lead sponsor SignFab (UK) echoes Catanach’s comments. “As always we are proud to be sponsoring the key event in the signage industry,” says operations director Mike Smith. 

He continues: “The awards are the pinnacle of the industry’s year, celebrating the achievements of individuals and companies alike. With our supporting partners, Current by GE, sponsoring an event such as this enables us to demonstrate our commitment to the British signage industry, and indeed the BSGA. As the leading trade supplier in the United Kingdom, we are supporting the industry from its core.”

The awards are designed to reflect the diversity of the sign industry, with categories ranging from architectural signs, through wide-format and wayfinding projects, to vehicle liveries and traditional sign crafts. 

“There are also special awards for small sign businesses, reflecting the fact that by far the vast majority of sign-makers in the UK are SME’s; and for the Young Sign-maker of the Year, recognising the important role young people play in the industry. And this year, for the first time, the Young Sign-maker winners will receive cash prizes in addition to their trophies and certificates,” Catanach expands.

Changes have also been made to the vehicle liveries category this year. “It is a single category, but the judges have carte blanche to present multiple awards in recognition of the expansion of this sector. Depending on the entries received, the judges could, for example, award Van Wrap of the Year, Sports Livery of the Year, Best Fleet Branding, etc,” elaborates Catanach.  

“The awards showcase the best in the British signage industry,” Smith affirms, continuing: “Winning and entering the awards provides you with a competitive edge, giving you the platform your business needs in the current economic climate. The awards are a chance to showcase to the industry your dedication and exceptional design prowess.”

Nailing their colours to the mast

Also backing the awards, by ‘nailing their colours to the mast’, are the category sponsors who themselves reflect a broad spectrum of the sign industry. Three of this year’s sponsors outline why they are keen to support the British Sign Awards.

Kent-based Eurobond Adhesives will be sponsoring the Sign Construction category. Managing director Simon Dearing comments: “We have built an enviable reputation for supplying the very best, high performance adhesives and acrylic tapes to literally thousands of sign-makers throughout Europe for over 34 years. Our Penloc structural adhesives and range of high performance acrylic tapes are trusted by sign-makers to do the job first time, every time. Our products have been used to construct signs on some of the most important and iconic buildings including office blocks, airports, hotels, museums, theme parks, casinos, businesses, banks and shops in virtually every town and city throughout the EU.

“Our technical team has worked in partnership with some of the very best UK designers and sign-makers offering expert advice and the best bonding solutions for very specific sign applications. We are very privileged to work with so many skilled craftsmen and craftswomen and we get an extraordinary buzz when we see signs which we have had a hand in making. By sponsoring the Construction category we are recognising these highly skilled craftspeople and helping them to push the boundaries of design and take sign-making to the next level.”

As a member of the BSGA for the past five years, printer manufacturer Epson believes that helping to support the organisation in promoting the UK sign industry is important for everyone involved.

“The BSGA does some great work in encouraging staff training and development as well as providing a professional forum for the industry. Ensuring that signage is given proper focus by the planning authorities is also a key part of their work,” states Phil McMullin, sales manager at Epson UK.

Epson’s Phil McMullin says that sign-makers should enter the British Sign Awards to gain exposure in the industry

This year Epson is sponsoring the Wide-Format Project award in celebration of the company’s SureColor S series signage printer range becoming the UK’s number one choice in its category (Infosource data).

We feel it is important to recognise the incredible creative talent that is working today in the UK sign industry

“We also feel it is important to recognise the incredible creative talent that is working today in the UK sign industry. The Epson SureColor signage printers enable those creative ideas to reach fulfilment in the way the designers intended,” McMullin says in conclusion.

Epson says that its SureColor signage printers enable creative ideas to reach fulfilment in the way that designers intended

Sign-making materials supplier Pyramid Display has been involved in the British Sign Awards for the past two years and this year is sponsoring the Vehicle Graphics category.

“We have seen very good exposure for our company both at the actual awards and through pre-show publicity,” observes head of sales and marketing, Neil McCarthy.

He explains: “Each year we have chosen a category to sponsor based on an area of our business we are looking to develop and grow. In 2016 we sponsored the Small Sign-maker of the Year to coincide with the launch of our online ordering platform, and last year we sponsored the Retail Sign of the Year to focus our customers’ attention on new retail-based substrates giving environmental benefits. This year we are sponsoring the Vehicle Graphics of the Year award to give exposure to our range of vehicle livery and car wrapping offerings from Avery Dennison and Mactac, the world’s leading self-adhesive vinyl manufacturers.

Neil McCarthy (right) at Pyramid Display Materials presenting the 2016 Small Sign-maker of the Year award to N1 Visual Solutions’ Paul Atherton (centre), with host Bill Turnbull (left)

“The awards are a great way to showcase the fantastic work that happens in our industry,” observes McCarthy. “When an award is won it gives instant credibility to the recipient and what better way to market your business than as a British Sign & Graphics Association award winner.”

Reaping the benefits being shortlisted for an award is fantastic and is a great opportunity.

The accolade of winning an award is just the tip of the iceberg in terms of the many additional benefits that are reaped by winning sign-makers, as some of ‘The Class of 2017’ can testify.

Over the past ten years isGroup—2017 winner of Sign of the Year and Illuminated Sign of the Year—has entered and been successful at the British Sign Awards on a number of occasions. Managing director, Jane Whitehouse summarises what this success has meant for the company.

“The main reason for entering has been to celebrate the work of the company and it has given all members of the team a sense of achievement and pride in the projects they have completed over the preceding twelve months,”

comments Whitehouse.  “Additionally, isGroup has enjoyed sharing its achievements with peers in the industry.”

Award-winning schemes have been born out of the close collaborative relationships isGroup enjoys, both with designers who provide initial design concepts, and suppliers, jointly identifying appropriate materials and methods of manufacture. 

Whitehouse elaborates: “IsGroup provides the technical skills and knowledge to what are often projects involving complex manufacturing or installation issues. The company thrives on bringing such projects to fruition. By receiving an award for such work, it gives recognition to the skills of our workforce and others involved, and that’s clearly good for morale.”

Wide-Format Sign of the Year winner DMA Signs was delighted when its work for the University of Birmingham won the category

Wide-Format Sign of the Year winner DMA Signs took the decision to enter the 2017 awards off the back of a successful year for the company, and was delighted when its work for the largest building wrap in Europe at the University of Birmingham made the shortlist. “And to actually win was fantastic,” exclaims design manager, Peter Leamon.

He continues: “The evening itself was an excellent experience, showcasing great work from the signage industry.

It also gave us an invaluable opportunity to network and engage with people from within the industry that we might not normally get to converse with, sharing ideas and thoughts.”

“Winning the award for Wide-Format Project of the Year and being runner up for the Sign of the Year, has really helped to raise the profile of our company within the industry. The increased exposure has helped us to demonstrate to our clients our abilities along with our flair for creative design. It also looks very impressive to any prospective client that they are working with an industry award winner.”

If at first you do not succeed, then trying again is worth every bit of the effort involved, as Gary Bagstaff, director at Print Sauce attests: “Print Sauce entered the Small Sign-maker of the Year Award in 2016 and came Highly Commended. We received a great response, not only from our friends and families but also, most importantly, from existing and potential customers. The 2016 awards was a fantastic event, and we met so many inspiring and beneficial contacts. We knew we needed to return the following year.”

When the Print Sauce team was invited to look at the Tiny Rebel project from the initial architect’s stage, they knew, right from the start that this project was worthy of an entry to the Leisure Industry Award 2017 because of the quirky branding and unusual applications.

“It was amazing to win the award. To see our name on the big screen in front of the biggest and best sign-makers in the country was a proud moment. It’s a great feeling to know that a project we loved and took a huge amount of pride in was celebrated by the industry,” smiles Bagstaff.

Reasons aplenty

If you are still ‘hiding your light under a bushel’, wondering if you should come out of the shadows, or even whether your ‘best’ is good enough, there are reasons aplenty why you should take the proverbial bull by the horns and just go for it.

BSGA’s Catanach advocates: “Entering an award and winning, or even making the shortlist, is very good for business. It’s a major addition to any company’s marketing toolbox, providing great PR and helping to increase awareness of the business and its capabilities. Winning an award also provides a great sales tool as it’s a powerful endorsement of a business, giving it a seal of approval from its peers and sending out positive signals to its customers.”

O Factoid: The first Academy Awards ceremony took place on May 16th 1929 at a private dinner held at the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel in Los Angeles, California. 270 people attended the event and the presentation ceremony lasted 15 minutes (Wikipedia). O

Epson’s McMullin concurs: “Sign-makers should enter to gain exposure in the industry; winning helps to set your quality of work above that of your peers.”

The Athena Centre, in the heart of Leicester’s cultural quarter, where the British Sign Awards 2018 will take place on 8th November, hosted by snooker champion Steve Davis

If you need further encouragement, this perspective is further endorsed by previous award winners. Whitehouse says: “By entering the British Sign Awards, a company showcases the signage work that can be achieved and increases its professional standing in the industry. The benefits are broad but not least, receiving an award endorses a company’s work to others in the industry and to potential clients. The awards provide reassurance of the standing of a signage company in its industry and to the abilities of its team members.”


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