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A rolling stone gathers no moss

It is rare to across a real-life polymath, but Graeme Hoole at The Sign Group is just such an individual, with skills that embrace everything from sign technology invention and e-commerce website design to the saxophone.

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The Sign Room regularly uses The Sign Group’s portfolio of trade sign manufacturing services and clever products such as Neon Plus. Pictured: its work for Centre:MK, a bustling regional shopping district situated in the heart of Milton Keynes

Signlink spoke to Hoole as the company takes its next step towards growth and expansion with the launch of a stunning and innovative new website for its Neon Plus division, expansion of WeLoveLeds.co.uk’s product portfolio, and a planned move of headquarters and factory for The Sign Group itself after out-growing its current premises. 

“I couldn’t imagine working in a job where you clock out and don’t have to think about your work. I live and breathe The Sign Group, and I am so passionate about continuing to develop our products, our services, and the way we support our customers,” says Hoole, who continues: “I just enjoy the work and pushing to make The Sign Group the very best it can be. And all the work over the years is now paying off in terms of how efficient we are, the respect and reputation we have earned, and the impact our products are making.”

The Sign Group are a specialist trade manufacturer of bespoke signage for the signage, design, shopfitting and display industries throughout Europe. Starting out more than 20 years ago as CNC specialists, it expanded its horizons and got more involved in general signage. And today its work is characterised by its simple, elegant, beautiful, and effective design ethos. 

I live and breathe The Sign Group

A key breakthrough for the company came with establishment of WeLoveLeds.co.uk, where Hoole and his team had the brainwave that they could leverage the existing supplier relationships they had with key LED manufacturers and supply technology to the trade they had fully tested and vetted themselves for use in its own products. A good example is its Decorative Filament Bulbs, which are becoming a growing trend in the lighting market—bringing vintage back with a modern twist.

“Statement bulbs like this are no longer limited to hipster bars and trendy hotels, becoming increasingly popular among many retailers, coffee shops and restaurants as their soft glow resembles ambient candlelight,” explains Hoole.

Neon Plus was the next piece of genius invention, and saw Hoole and his team invent and fabricate its very own LED-based solution to neon. This has been a run-away success for The Sign Group and helped firmly put it firmly on the trade supply map across the UK through offering sign-makers something truly unique to help their client’s projects pop. This technology has now evolved again, and now Neon Plus Digital offers the ability for a sign’s face to shift and morph in whatever design your imagination can come up with. 

Hoole continues: “We are lucky to have a wonderful customer base, who ask us for a wide and varied range of products which enables us to get our teeth into all sorts of interesting areas. This gives us a great platform for creativity and helps us offer expert advice to our customers. Not only that, but it also gives us the confidence to develop and manufacture our own products.

“There are hundreds and thousands of options available for signage today. As trade signage suppliers we are happy to offer the industry standard materials, processes and techniques, but we are also capable of offering something a little different.”

A glowing reputation

A great example of its approach is its work with Nottingham-based The Sign Room. With a high-end commission that required an intensely creative approach, it looked to Neon Plus for its client Centre:MK, a bustling regional shopping district situated in the heart of Milton Keynes.

“Creating vibrant yet efficient signage was key in this project, so using Neon Plus lettering was essential to make super-bright, neon-esque signs which made a statement without the downsides associated with traditional neon,” explains Hoole, he continues: “We love creating unique, bespoke signage for a project on such a large scale like this. Seeing the final results makes all the hard work worth it. Overall, we enjoyed our time working with The Sign Room and are so pleased that they are happy with the outcome. The signs came out even better than we expected. Their bright, vibrant, on brand design fits seamlessly as part of the centre and shows how well large scale collaborative projects like this can work.”

A key passion of Hoole’s is also that all The Sign Group’s work bears the Made In Britain kite mark, and he is emphatic on this point that the entire production process of Neon Plus and all its trade sign work is “made in Britain”.  

We love creating unique, bespoke signage for a project on such a large scale like this

“It does annoy me when I see people making this claim when I know these products are made in Europe or even the far east, and then some simple finally assemble, or even just being re-boxed in the UK. The kit mark is about quality and assurance. We make sure that every single aspect of the products we create are perfectly finished and conform to all UK quality standards.”

Looking to the future of The Sign Group, Hoole says he is very confident that from very strong foundations it is now in a position where it can grow its scale by taking on new clients and upscale its production capabilities: “It has been an incredibly intense few years while we have pushed and pushed to breakthrough and the result is today we have a huge number of very reputable and well-respected sign-makers that use our services exclusively. I really cannot emphasis enough that we are ‘trade-only’, this is a firm commitment that I see as sacrosanct, and it does upset me when I see this relationship being cast aside so often.

“Looking at the amazing team we have assembled, I would say that creativity is our ‘X-Factor’. We really understand the challenges our customer’s face, as we have always worked on the ‘shop floor’ so to speak. And part of that is ensuring we never fail them in terms of build quality in particular. There are lots of ‘me-too’ products that have come out in records to neon alternatives, but they just cannot offer the same level of quality and performance.”

If you have an interesting story or a view on this news, then please e-mail news@signlink.co.uk

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