The International Signage Association’s Sign Expo and conference is the signage and visual communication industry’s largest trade show. This year it took place in Atlanta, Georgia and featured over 400 exhibitors and around 20,000 visitors.

I was accepted to be a part of their Experiential Design Program (XDP) this year. Every year, they accept around 30 graphic designers, architects, and brand managers into this program. The XDP program creates a custom schedule tailored to designers who want to learn more about signage. Our schedule was packed with networking events, show floor appointments with vendors, and educational sessions.

Through these educational sessions I learned about permitting, ADA regulations, and the intersection of signage and technology. The idea of “Smart Signage” was widely discussed: the “Internet of things” is coming to signage. Speakers explained how it’s cheaper than you think to incorporate technology into signage, and how the future of technology is already here. For example, Near Field Communication (NFC) is an existing technology that is inexpensive to integrate into signage. Putting NFCs in signage would allow users to access information digitally. Augmented reality was also discussed as an innovative way to show clients mock-ups of signage before it’s actually installed.

Through the show floor appointments, I got a taste of today’s innovations in signage materials. We saw the latest and greatest in lighting, printing, sign fabrication, and more. We saw new approaches to privacy using window films. For example, there is a glass film that is clear when you look at it straight on, but is frosted when viewed from an angle. There is also a film that is transparent, but obscures digital screens to outside view. We also saw several LED alternatives to neon. Many clients shy away from neon, due to the cost and timeliness of maintenance and installation. But these alternatives are a fraction of the price, and still achieve that classic neon look.

To wrap up the busiest day of the conference, there was a block party and networking event. ISA blocked off a street and rented out several restaurants. I met designers, fabricators, and vendors from all over the country. This was ISA’s 75th anniversary of the Signage Expo, and I am thankful that I got to be a part of it. We are looking forward to incorporating these new technologies and ideas into our graphics projects here at MSA.

Conference Photos