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The People at North American Signs

2017 Group Picture

While conducting interviews with employees in various departments within North American Signs, we came across a common theme. When asked, “What is your favorite part of working at North American Signs?” The most popular answer was the people.

Long Time Employees

Thais Ladas worked at the company for more than 30 years, and has since retired. She saw many employees walk in and out of the doors over the years and enjoyed friendships with nearly all of them. “I love the people I work with and, you can imagine over the years, they have changed many times…it is nice to know that the bulk of the people that you’re working with are wonderful.” Though it was hard to leave North American Signs, she felt she was leaving it in the right hands. It was partially due to the employees that made retiring an easy and hard goodbye. Knowing all of her hard work was going to be taken care of was a relief, but not seeing all of her friends at North American Signs made Thais’ retirement bittersweet for everyone.

Fun People

While not everyone’s story is as heartfelt as Thais’, the same general answer came from the question, “What is your favorite part of working at North American Signs.” Some employees, like Bret, hesitated at first, racking his brain for the best answer. Bret concluded, “The people. I mean I enjoy the type of work, but I enjoy the people more.” Some, like Randy, enjoy the employees because of the comic relief they bring. “They got some great people here; we have a lot of fun together.” The people who make up North American Signs encourage each other to get things done through comic relief .

A Family

A couple employees even consider the people they work with as family. Brian described the employees he works with saying, “It’s like a family…I spend more time with the people here than I do with my own family.” After being with coworkers for hours on end, Brian and others start to consider the other employees family because of the relationships they form.

The family environment that exists at North American Signs also makes work much more enjoyable. Derek Tobolski said, “It’s a big family…we’ve went through some rocky times, some hard times, but at the end everybody seems to come together and I think that makes coming to work more enjoyable.” An enjoyable workplace is one of the reasons why many employees have been working at North American Signs for 10 plus years.

In conclusion, the employees at North American Signs are what make the company great. The culture is best described by the sign above the employee entrance to the building. “Through these doors pass the finest sign people in America.”

Interviews conducted by Iris Fry

Economic Value of Commercial Signage

When focusing on marketing and advertising, many companies under invest in their signage. Failure to spend both time and money on proper signage is a lost opportunity for any type of business. Unfortunately, many people do not realize the economic value commercial signage brings to a business. Signs have the ability to positively impact consumers and communities, increase business performance, and increase their own worth. All of these signage capabilities have been researched and published by the Sign Research Foundation.

Positive Impact on Consumers

commercial signage value, historical
North American Signs, once called South Bend Neon, has been helping companies boost sales with our signage for over 80 years.

Commercial signage positively impacts consumers and communities. Research states, “In a case study of 8 San Diego auto dealers, 68% of people surveyed said that the sign had been an important factor in finding the dealer’s location” (The Economic Value of On-Premise Signage, See executive summary). Without conspicuous signs, many consumers have a hard time finding businesses. This can lead to frustrated consumers and even dangerous driving behavior. Therefore, an appropriately designed sign positively influenced a consumer’s opinion of the business.

Business Performance

Commercial signage also has the power to increase a business’ performance. Repairing signs shows a 10% increase in sales for 60% of businesses studied (See executive summary). People perceive not only what type product or service a business offers but also judge a business by the curb appeal, which is largely influenced by the signage. If a sign is outdated or not taken care of properly, people are likely to assume the business is also outdated or not cared for.

On the other hand, if a sign is designed well, it can increase foot traffic. A survey performed by the BrandSpark Better Homes and Gardens American Shopper study found, “29% of American consumers report that they have been drawn into unfamiliar stores based on the quality of the store’s signage.” So a well designed sign grabs the target audience’s attention, and attracts consumers who might not have stopped in before.

Commercial Signage Value

Unlike many investments made by a company, a commercial sign does not necessarily depreciate in value. The value of a sign is reinforced every time it causes someone to engage in the business. In the article, The Importance of Signage of Repositioning Your Brand, the authors emphasize the key role a sign plays in a business’ advertising. “It is an advertising investment that you make once, and yet it continues to work for you…24 hours a day, 7 days a week.” Investing in a sign is a onetime purchase, yet it is constantly drawing customers into a business. It is reported that 29% of North American shoppers base where they shop on the information communicated by the store signs (see executive summary). A commercial sign can be a large investment, but its value grows with every customer it brings to the business.

Commercial signage has a large amount of economic value for a business. A well designed sign can positively influence consumer’s view of the business and increase the business’s performance. Lastly, the value of the commercial sign increases over time if it is well kept. It is an investment that grows in value by drawing consumers in. It is in any marketing team’s best interest to spend time focusing on the signage of the business. In doing this, they are bound to bring in more customers and increase the overall perception of their company.

How to Buy a Commercial Sign Infographic

This infographic provides an overview of commercial sign purchasing issues with connections to related materials.  It is based on information from How to Buy an Electric Sign by Noel Yarger and the associated blog posts at North American Signs.  We hope it is informative and helpful to everyone purchasing commercial signs.

Created using Visme. An easy-to-use Infographic Maker.

Gaining Attention: Visual, Motion, Flashing, & Time and Temperature Signs

The purpose of a commercial sign is to gain the attention of consumers. In order to maximize a sign’s purpose and value, there are various details that enhance the attention a sign attracts.

Visual Competition

In a highly populated area, sign competition increases dramatically compared to a more rural area. Though it is important to always buy a visually appealing sign, it becomes even more important when encountering competition. Referring to a sign specialist at an experienced sign company will ensure the sign will stand out from any competition.


Movement is a way to catch attention. Therefore, a commercial sign with any type of movement is more likely to catch a person’s attention compared to a stationary sign. It is important that a sign buyer is knowledgeable of the sign regulations in their town. Some areas prohibit certain types of sign movement. If this is the case, the sign company should know of a way to work around the regulations.


Flashing signs not only increase visibility, but are also visually pleasing to people passing by. They increase visibility by standing out from other commercial signs and grabbing people’s attention. The lights also make the sign easier to see, especially at night. People also tend to find flashing signs interesting and draws in their attention. It is said by Noel Yarger that incandescent bulbs traveling around a sign creates a sense

Time and Temperature Sign manufactured at North American Signs

of excitement and entertainment. If used in the correct manner, flashing signs can draw a lot of attention to a business.

Time and Temperature Signs

Time and temperature signs serve as an amenity to the public. Consumers may have a more positive view of a business that invests in one of these signs because of the service they are providing to the community.

Along with the generosity of providing a time and temperature sign, it also gains the attention of consumers. When speaking with merchants located across the street from a time and temperature sign, the merchants have found a pattern. Many customers who have trouble finding their business state they were so concentrated on the time and temperature sign across the street that they missed the business they were actually looking for.

Many businesses fail to realize all of the details that go into making a well designed sign. This is just another reason it is important to invest in a sign company that knows how to create the best sign for your business. Incorporating one or more than one of the above factors will increase the commercial sign’s value to the business.

National Manufacturing Day

In 2014, the International Sign Association (ISA) started promoting National Manufacturing Day. The National Association of Manufactures concieved the event, and ISA saw the value in the event for the sign industry. The event has grown into an annual affair for North American Signs (NAS), occurring every October. It has been a great way to show students in the community the benefits of working for a national sign manufacturer.


Mayor Pete Buttigieg gives Manufacturing Day Proclamation in 2016.
Students learn about sign manufacturing.

Manufacturing Day is a nationally recognized day where students of all ages can visit participating manufacturing companies. The goal of the day is to promote both careers in manufacturing, and “us”, as a national sign manufacturer. In mid September of 2014 Dee Mackenzie, our director of human resources, decided to add NAS to the Manufacturing Day website. Employees from the South Bend Regional Chamber of Commerce (SBRC) saw the entry and approached NAS about the event.

In less than a month, NAS worked with the SBRC to organize the event. We gathered 26 manufacturing companies and over 500 students in St. Joseph County to participate in the day-long event. As a result, the event had the largest concentration of participants in the country.

Positive Reactions

On Manufacturing Day in 2015, students were asked to answer a series of questions throughout the day. Before the tours started only 46% of participating students were considering a career in manufacturing. After the tours were complete, 88% of students indicated they would consider a career in manufacturing.

Following the most recent Manufacturing Day in 2016, a number of students who toured NAS followed up with feedback about their experience. Some found it fascinating to learn about the different materials and steps that go into making a sign. Others stated their appreciation for the opportunity to learn about a career field they had yet to consider. Overall, the students were extremely grateful to tour NAS and learn of all the different manufacturing jobs available.

Since 2014, the event has grown throughout the local school system with over 600 participants in 2016. Elkhart County manufacturing companies also participated in the day for the first time in 2016, and had many student participants as well.

Our current team also enjoys the opportunity to see students eyes light up and new possibilities appear.  Inspiring others creates its own rewards.

Manufacturing Day is just one of the many ISA opportunities NAS has participated in as a national sign manufacturer. The opportunity to influence students and show them a meaningful career in national sign manufacturing makes this a rewarding experience.

We look forward to hosting a new generation of students at St. Joseph County’s 4th annual Manufacturing Day held on October 6th, 2017.

Importance of Commercial Signs in Branding

A commercial sign is an easy and smart way to emphasize and advertise a business’ brand. A clear focus on branding the actual site of your bricks and mortar business will help ensure it is distinctive and memorable. Because signs are available to all consumers passing by them, they can be a memory jogger, and add to the curb appeal of the business.

This well designed commercial sign captures what the building offers while adding to the curb appeal.

Available to all Audiences

Unlike other advertising methods such as the radio, magazines, newspapers, television, and many more; consumers cannot choose whether or not they see a commercial sign. All people driving by a sign tend to notice it. Commercial signs are unlike other forms of advertising because you can turn off the TV or choose not to read a specific type of magazine. A sign reaches a larger audience. Since a commercial sign reaches such a large and diverse audience, it allows businesses to market themselves immediately to customers who were unfamiliar with the business and are on or near the site.

Additional Impressions

If a commercial sign is designed properly, it can serve as a reminder as to what the business offers. Since they can be seen repeatedly, commercial signs reinforce memory of the business to past, present, or future customers. These brand impressions raise the likelihood that a consumer will remember the business when the need for that business arises.  This is one of the simplest ways to advertise a business to the general public 24/7.

If a business fails to take advantage of the branding capability of the storefront by creating a non-uniform appearance, it cannot reap the full benefits of the signage investment.

(The Signage Sourcebook)

Store Appearance

A commercial sign can add character to a business. It informs consumers about the types of goods or services offered locally available. “Signage can be used to turn an ordinary empty box-shaped building into any environment desired to satisfy the tastes of customers the business wishes to attract”( On-Premise Signs). The curb appeal of a business is one way a business brands itself to the general public. A commercial sign can add value to the overall brand by increasing the curb appeal of the business.

Failure to use a commercial sign appropriately is a failure to brand a business to the fullest. Signs have the ability to reach people outside of their target audience because anyone can drive by them. They can also remind customers about the business because they are public and easily viewable. Lastly, commercial signs can build a business’s appearance through adequate sign design. Commercial signage is a simple way to increase the value of your business, and your brand.

A Summer of Opportunities

Going into this summer internship, I had very few expectations. But, the expectations I did have were quickly enhanced within my first week at North American Signs (NAS). Both Iris and I were presented with countless opportunities to explore various avenues of the business.

First Week

From the very first day, both Iris and I felt welcomed at NAS. Going around and meeting all of the friendly faces that make up the company was one of the first indicators of what type of environment we would be working in. People were welcoming and open to any questions we may come across throughout the summer. I could tell how invested John, the CEO and owner, was by knowing the employee’s names and the role they played in the company. John also wanted to make clear that our time here was supposed to be both beneficial to NAS and to us. From the very first week, he asked us what opportunities we were hoping to have during the internship.

Learning the Industry

John and the summer interns at the American Sign Museum.

Within the first week or two, John gave both Iris and I a few assignments. He did this knowing we would have an ample amount of time to read through the signage textbooks he gave us. At first, I did not understand the point to reading the textbooks, but I later realized how important they were. Neither Iris nor I had any experience or exposure in the industry. Such a vital part of a business’ advertising and marketing is almost nonexistent in any marketing textbook. The readings provided knowledge on the importance of commercial signage, sign design, the economic value of signs, and much more. After absorbing the information from the readings, we were ready to dive into our assignments.

While I focused on blog posts and researching new business endeavors, Iris was in charge of designing things such as info graphics and other marketing materials. We were able to work together on some projects and learn from each other’s expertise. Though Iris was a little nervous coming in without a business background, she has learned a lot and enjoyed her time here. “I was a bit worried I would be useless seeing as I haven’t taken any business classes in my life. But, I have learned so much about business just being in the environment. I have really enjoyed my internship and I think it has given me a lot.”

Cincinnati Trip

Though we learned a lot in the office, our favorite part of the summer was attending the Midwest Sign Association conference in Cincinnati. We had the opportunity to attend a board of directors meeting and multiple seminars on how to build a company. These were events most people do not experience until graduating college. The best part of the trip was going to the American Sign Museum for dinner. It is truly one of the great treasures of the sign industry. Filled with various signs, the museum creates the exciting and unique atmosphere which signs have continually built for businesses throughout the years.

Needless to say, Iris and I developed skills that can be used in various future endeavors. From writing blog posts to designing marketing materials, we have learned a lot about the industry and ourselves. Through our many opportunities over the summer, we have grown into better students, employees, and people.

Accuracy in Sign Design Creates Trust

One of the first and most important steps in manufacturing a commercial sign is the blueprint or design. It is a way for the design team to connect with customers on a level everyone understands. It is our job, as a signage company; to ensure that the sign design process does not differ from our customer’s vision in order to maintain a high level of trust.

Sign Design
Sign after Installation










A vital aspect of ensuring the blueprints or drawings are accurate is having a talented design team. This includes creating a detailed visual perception of the sign from various distances from where the sign will be installed. In the signage industry, a picture is worth more than a thousand words. The ability to create a mock photograph of what the sign will look like when installed provides customers with confidence and trust in their signage company.

Connection between Design and Price       

Accurate drawings also help the sales team generate prices for customers. According to Von Ahn Design, “An accurate and detailed set of drawings…will allow you to gather accurate pricing information before construction, allowing you to make necessary changes to maintain your anticipated budget.” Quoting an accurate price is helpful to customers and the design team. The team will be able to accurately communicate what the sign should look like to the production department. This reduces the chances of mistakes occurring. A signage company’s ultimate goal is to satisfy its customers. Quoting an accurate price is a major factor in achieving satisfaction.


Inaccuracy Leads to Misunderstandings

Inaccuracy in the sign design stage can damage the relationship between signage companies and its customers. Specifically, “Inaccurate drawings and ambiguous specifications often lead to misunderstandings…often resulting in increases to the project cost and unsatisfactory results.” A proper design shows the customers what the sign will look like in the particular environment. If a company does not produce what they had promised in the blueprints, misunderstandings are likely to occur.

As a signage company who has seen it all when it comes to sign design, we advise all businesses to be selective when focusing on signage. Invest in a trustworthy signage company that is committed to customer satisfaction. In doing this, everything should be taken care of with ease. Most importantly, a great design team will work within the signage company to help ensure the final product matches the original design.


What Makes Up a Signage Company?

Thais, a recent retiree of North American Signs, offered some words of wisdom before her departure in mid-May, “Our Company is so connected. It’s like standing dominos. If you push one, they’re all going to fall.” If anyone knows the answer to what truly makes up a signage company, it would be Thais, who worked at North American Signs for 30 years.


As anyone who has been in the sign industry could tell you, there are many parts that make up a signage company. This includes salespeople, project managers, supervisors, receptionists, the shop, the vendors, the art department, and the installers. But who fills these positions? People. Without all the people who fill these positions, there would be no company. Thais knew this key to success. She attributed much of the company’s growth to the many employees who also realize the “intricate package” a signage company truly is.

For any signage company to be successful, the employees must work together to reach a common goal. This is easier said than done considering all of the pieces that go into a company. Thais described this as a “big ball of yarn that’s intertwined in order to get things done.” Every piece of the company is just as important and vital to reach the optimal outcome. Without the right people in the right positions, that ball of yarn will constantly be tangled.

Building Relationships

Graphic on customer experience
Importance of customer experience.

Therefore, it comes down to the employees and how they can grow the company. More specifically, how they are able to maintain and keep a relationship with customers. Thais’ number one piece of advice on how to do this was spoken by Maya Angelou, “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, that people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” Employees must constantly be striving towards creating trust between them and the customers. As said by Thais, “Trust that says we are okay, that we are going to take care of it.” No matter what goes right or what goes wrong, the employees have to carry the skill of making the customers feel “taken care of.”

As is evident, it is people like Thais who make signage companies successful. Without employees who are dedicated to growing the company and working at creating relationships with customers, there would be no company at all.

Based on an interview conducted by Iris Fry.

Work Cited: 75Customer Service Facts, Quotes & Statistics