Innovation is quickly rising to cult status. While today it seems nearly ubiquitous, the demand for more seems insatiable. All entrepreneurs work with it in one way or another. As Phil Newbold points out in his book Wake Up and Smell the Innovation, innovations can come in several flavors: sustaining, transformational, and revolutionary. Sign design and manufacturing innovation are both easy to demonstrate and often slow to disperse. North American Signs was founded on a revolutionary innovation – neon. Over the years we adapted and adopted various transformational lighting methods. We were working with LEDs in signs as early as 1997. At that time neon and fluorescent were the primary lighting methods with HID in the mix for larger high rise signs. As LED technology improved so too did the opportunities to utilize it in new and innovative ways for a wider variety of signs including channel letters and eventually monument signs and pylon signs. The change in any given year was sustaining, but over 15 years there has been a nearly universal transformation to LEDs.
The real test of innovative ideas are whether they add value – are they both different and better. Achieving a unique look and creating a more energy efficient sign are now both possible with LEDs. Other slow but fundamental shifts in the sign industry include the move from paint to vinyl decoration, the widespread use of EMCs and most recently, Dynamic Digital signage.
How far the industry has come from the early part of the 20th Century is on display at The American Sign Museum. From the days of hand lettering and incandescent bulbs to the more recent developments reminds us of the dramatic shifts in style, materials, and methods.
Leading changes in the industry as well as the changes to everyday work life is a skill that all companies seek to foster. This year we sent several groups for innovation training at the Pfeil Innovation Center. The session serve as a reminder that we must continually find ways to encourage innovation in signage and work processes. Our wake up call comes daily in the form of customers looking for everything from cutting edge sign design to turn around times measured in hours.
With the support of the Pfeil Innovation Center we are finding new ways to foster and encourage innovation. Creating a context, process and support structure for innovation is accelerating the rate at which we both adapt to current challenges and create new value for our clients. This is important for our immediate signage challenges as well as to ensure a prosperous future.
Finding faster ways to provide beautiful and cutting edge signage keeps us motivated at work and dreaming at night.