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Erik Sine

Signs Of The Times - April 2018

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"Puff piece is an idiom for a journalistic form of puffery: an article or story of exaggerating praise that often ignores or downplays opposing viewpoints or evidence to the contrary."


Signs Of The Times - April 2018


It's been about four years since I've written an article about our trade magazines and their "fluff...puff pieces".

I thought I was going to retire from ever having to do this again after Wade, whom I once coined....."The Community Organizer"  turned the SOT boat around for the better, reporting more balanced articles on Neon & LEDs. 

I never really commented on Sign Builder, or Sign & Digital Graphics Brochure rags Errrrr....trade magazines because well....no one reads them for credible information and no Trade Journeyman who is worth their salt would ever open one up to find viable real information, so why bother? 

Only the new, the born yesterdays, the sign industry buy-ins (franchise) or the ISA Elite youth brigade program subscribers & graduates buy into the articles and hold them as value, and as truth.

I have to admit right now, once I learned of Wade Swormstedt,  the captain of the leading Sign Trade Magazine Signs Of The Times "The World Leader in Sign Information Since 1906" was retiring, and handing over the keyboard it made me shutter.  I don't know why, I just did, just call it woman's intuition. 

It's that feeling you get as you board that ship or plane with adult beverage in hand for vacation, you cock that one eye brow and think to yourself....did I leave the kitchen sink on?   Did I forget to shut the stove off?

Not even a couple of months / issues later after Wade put his Hula shirt on, boarded the retirement plane with Pina Colada in hand off for the sunset...


This occurred....



But I still boarded my plane too. 

Wade and I were at the same airport together, at the same terminal, but he was going his way and I was going mine.  We waved to one another, smiled, raised our glasses in a cheer...a toast. 




I left even with the thought that maybe... I did leave the sink running.  Maybe he left hastily thinking..."will my magazine be in good hands?"

With a few good years under Wade before he left, I was relaxed. 

So I did peek at a couple of articles after his leave, and yes...the mag was starting to turn onto a rag again.  But I was still enjoying my vacation.  What's a few bad articles, how bad can it REALLY get?




The "Community Agitator" Robin Donovan is really undoing all of Wade's legacy.

Just opening up this April's issue was like having that relaxed feeling until someone decided to scratch a chalkboard......are there still chalkboards?





Oh Bill, I can't believe you carry a title "Sign-Industry & Chairman of the Board of Directors for the Foundation for the Advancement of the Sign Industry or...(FASI)"

That is a long, lengthy title....and reminds me of...

"Daenerys Stormborn of the House Targaryen, First of Her Name, the Unburnt, Queen of the Andals and the First Men, Khaleesi of the Great Grass Sea, Breaker of Chains, and Mother of Dragons"

Poor Bill knows very little about whats he's preaching or writing about. 

He's a person who has only heard, read, and is himself is a victim of light source manufacturer claims and believes in the mis-characterization of light sources, and then we read his regurgitation and we're supposed to assume and think he is a "wizard of smart"... sadly though, he himself, doesn't know any better.

He's never been a "doer" or someone who has any real hands on experience about what he's supposed to be an expert in. Yes I know, he has experience in other areas, government etc.  But, like most of the  ISA Association guys who collect a paycheck (NOT the volunteer base) who came from one other industries like the plastics or "pool and spa", then landed a gig in the sign industry like Lori Anderson, one day he will leave our industry and became a instant expert in another, just watch.  i.e. Rich Gottwald

Let's talk about what he either doesn't know, omits, or fails to understand and relay to others in the Signs of The Times April Issue.


As Older less-efficient, internal illuminated signs are replaced or retrofitted with solid state lighting, a MASSIVE reduction is occurring in the overall energy footprint of electric signs in the US and worldwide.....LED lighting technology enables today's sign manufacturers to offer their customers similar brightness and lamp coloration properties of conventional Fluorescent lighting......etc...etc.



What Bill fails at miserably is his "hands on" mechanics of comparing two light sources and understanding that two light sources have to have equal brightness, and when one can perform like it does for a lesser cost of operation then...and ONLY then, can you say one is more "efficient" than the other. 

...and I'll say it again.  Otherwise you're comparing a Mag-light to a Pen-light and saying the Pen-light is more efficient because it's operating at lesser power.

End of story.

SOT April 18 1.jpg


This is a good comparison to show from their article. 

This illustrates the same spacing as a fluorescent tube configuration.  Looks good, looks easy. The problem comes at night.  The sign will be illuminated with 25% to 50% of the original brightness that it once was with Conventional light sources.  Use less power sure, but NOT more efficient.

Also, what's omitted is, magnetic ballasts, transformers or even LED Power supplies last significantly longer than any solid state or electronic power source.  Their just coils with no electronics.  With long-life fluorescent lamps such as Voltarcs Starlite Lamps rated for (50,00 hours), these are just as maintenance free than an LED system would be and far less expensive to the consumer. 

As a sign shop, how many LED power Supplies do we change out?  Far more than magnetics!

The LED population illustrated in this picture would have to be doubled to tripled just to have comparable light to that of conventional fluorescents, HO lamps, even more so if we compare LEDs to Tri-Phophor coated lamps....well, then we're looking at comparable Cost of Operation and words like "Efficient" truthfully go away.....

This is what people like Bill, who are experts don't understand.  They don't understand the basic principals, that you don't get something for nothing, and everything you chose has a price to be paid somewhere.  LEDs are not an answer to all phases of the electric sign industry.

He writes about the frustrations sign shops go through with local jurisdictions for permitting or approval, well "duh".  They read it from the Sign Foundation "Experts" like him.  They believe the mis-information because it's written by an individual who has self titled themselves...."Sign-Industry & Chairman of the Board of Directors for the Foundation for the Advancement of the Sign Industry or...(FASI)" or similar.

Bill doesn't understand.....or he understands BUT, doesn't want to admit outright in the public because of the shoes he would be stepping on....I'll try and give him more cred and say it's the first rather than the latter.


Here's a hidden trade secret about Associations, & Trade Magazine.  This is info SOME sign associations can't say they don't know, but continue to pretend they don' t know because they're worried about who they will offend and who's membership money they might not get, oh....and don't forget the advertisers! 

Our Associations are always SO quick to claim their here to benefit, pioneer and Shepard our "trade" with their "studies", yet they can't even come out with REAL facts and figures that tell the truth about our trades biggest and most valued Traditions & Heritages that still make our trade, a trade.


As for the rest of the sad April 2018 articles, you would think this is a return of 2005 because it's just more "Neon Bad.....LED Good"  With no fun facts about pro's and con's of each light source based on environment or application, or that each light source whether it's Neon, Fluorescent, & LED Lamps, all have their strengths and weaknesses...and not one light source is a better fit in all phases of the electric sign industry







The signs in these articles have no soul. 

My feeling is, I bet this these types of articles bring tears to the eyes of more, greater experienced sign shops & journeymen & women who create and restore some real beauties

When you have historical signs for restoration and revamps, you can restore with better Neon i.e. rare earth/tri phosphors & improved wiring configuration, better wiring, improved loading for longer life. You don't redo classics and historics with inferior Flex LED Neon which has a significant shorter life, is no where near the brightness as Neon and degrades unevenly with individual diodes breakdown in the silicone heat trap of death. 

Flex Neon...It's not art, it's laziness.  Save those projects of where the public right of way can come in contact, interior applications, or your kids school science projects.

But these souless projects occur when the consumer puts their trust in companies who have no business doing what they do in these types of projects, they only chose what comes easy (peel and stick) because they lack the "know how" of the electric sign industries greatest traditions and heritage of Neon, or don't employ any staff that has the real experience of either the fabrication/processing or proper installation of Neon.....


They're avid readers of the Community Agitators brochure magazine and quite possibly graduates of the ISA Elite yoot brigade.



On a side note. 

Looking at an issue a decade ago, they had 110 pages of content before the directory, this year only 65 pages of content before the directory which is about half the content.

SOT April 2018.jpg

It appears they have plenty of pages and room left, maybe they can fill with more "balanced" content to do "better".  Does Marcus and Nisa still work there?  If not, the Community Agitator needs find herself some more "experts" to carry the brochure mag

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You have enemies? Good. That means you've stood up for something, sometime in your life. - Winston Churchill

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Great editorial


Installation & Maintenance Services

Brian Phillips | expresssignandneon@sbcglobal.net | P. 812-882-3278

Express Sign & Neon | 119 S. 15th Street - Vincennes - IN 47591


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Well stated.  It seems this question comes up a lot....'cant you just get rid of the old lighting and just use LEDs?'   The answer is .....Yes AND (mostly) NO.

Part of our job as sign professionals seems to be educating our customers, general public and even other sign shops etc.  that 'newer is better' is not always the case.

And unfortunately there is not always a good source to go to  for reliable & trustworthy info on this particular subject...Well,  Except of course Right HERE on the SS.

Thanks for shedding some 'Light' on this subject!

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On 2018/04/30 at 8:41 AM, Brian said:

Great editorial


Thanks Brian!

56 minutes ago, SiorSigns said:

Well stated.  It seems this question comes up a lot....'cant you just get rid of the old lighting and just use LEDs?'   The answer is .....Yes AND (mostly) NO.

Part of our job as sign professionals seems to be educating our customers, general public and even other sign shops etc.  that 'newer is better' is not always the case.

And unfortunately there is not always a good source to go to  for reliable & trustworthy info on this particular subject...Well,  Except of course Right HERE on the SS.

Thanks for shedding some 'Light' on this subject!

Thank you.

And as you already know, some of the sign companies the consumers might get who are supposed to be "professionals" but more times than not their more in it form themselves than really helping the consumer by passing along correct advice. 

These newer shops/companies don't have the "know how" so it's all about "peel and stick" and make money off labor to pull out viable light sources and replace, when more times than not they don't have the knowledge or desire to what maybe just do what is REALLY needed by making a few corrections on loading, wiring correction, etc to make a sign run correctly, and at a much lower cost to the consumer.  Instead some do not truly serve the consumer or this industry

Not only do we have trade magazines printing incorrect information but we also have these so called "Marketing Associates", who are supposed to be independent, a knowledgeable consultant, etc etc. 

More times than not they're manufacturer reps, or tools, "posing" as "consultants".  These businesses are made up of a few individuals and they're supposed to be our industry experts, at least that's how they advertise themselves to retailers and consumers and of course sign shops. 

But they're also "LED Everything"

Some of these "Associates" even brag about project like the Citgo Sign sitting in Boston, which I've seen in person.  Not impressed



Or the famous Genesee Beer Sign, another project where these independent marketing associates are involved as a sales buffer between sign shop and consumer.  But it's more of the same.........failure.


The list can go on.

There's a time and place for all light sources, LED's are not the "everything", it's only the "everything" for those who have limited knowledge of this industry, or for those "specifiers" that have a manufacturer agenda, or have no knowledge themselves.


Large retailers and consumers need to be warned. 


.....And they are in some ways, as some large retailers monitor and have joined this site, even one particular large national Cinemas chain, because they've had some large failures themselves and I'm sure they enjoy the articles here which actually display "numbers".

You have enemies? Good. That means you've stood up for something, sometime in your life. - Winston Churchill

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So after doing some research on The Sign Syndicate I found a lost post I made and apparently it has NOT been 4 years since I've had to do some Fact Checking / Debunking FOR the Signs of the Times magazine.  How come I don't get paid to correct their magazine?   Is this what Pro bono is all about???

I knew it didn't feel right, and 4 year is just too long.

I somehow had this tucked away in Joe Wartman's Forum :P


It's only been a year

You have enemies? Good. That means you've stood up for something, sometime in your life. - Winston Churchill

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