Signs of the Times - September 2012 - (Page 80)

Channel Letter Update New technologies and concepts bring their own headaches. By Darek Johnson The following pages comprisebut a once-again look at those staid, profitable, channel-letter forms that have graced world building fronts since the introduction of commercial electricity. ST’s first story on channel letters was published in its fifth year, circa 1910, because metalformed, illuminated letters aren’t new. In the pre-plastic era, it was cool to install bare, incandescent lightbulbs within the letter shapes. One early story tells of catwalk workers using large, multi-pole knife-switches to hand-sequence high-mounted, Times Square spectaculars on and off. Later versions comprised camshaftequipped electric motors to lever such switches on and off. Gear drives slowed the cycles. Today, of course, computers control such systems; besides, most cities don’t allow flashing signs anymore, much less spectaculars. Otherwise, channel letters haven’t changed a lot, because letter forms – mainstays of world communications – are here to stay. Channel-letter materials, fabrication methods and lighting systems (arguably) have been modernized, but such upgrades bring their own sack of troubles. The LED/neon debate, for example, or digital-print lifespans and color matching. A minor problem also occurs with the ever-lessening thicknesses of return (sidewall) materials. Thinner metals are certainly cost efficient and environmentally positive once the letters are installed, but thinner materials expose the letters to handling and transit damage. It’s the same with newer, fuel-efficient cars – you can dent them with your thumb. Older letters, like older Ford trucks, will take a hammer blow. Is technology making our channelletter lives easier? Well, yes, if we consider the computer-controlled, 80 SIGNS OF THE TIMES / SEPTEMBER 2012 /

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Signs of the Times - September 2012

Signs of the Times - September 2012
ST Update
Possible Future for Digital Printing
Technology Update
Vinyl Apps
Strictly Commercial
Lighting Techniques
The Moving Message
Technology Review
Technology Review
Design Matters
New Products
Show Yourself
Enter STs 2013 Intl. Sign Contest!
Looking Ahead
Pop Art
Neon: Green Again
Channel-letter Update
Industry News
Advertising Index
Editorially Speaking

Signs of the Times - September 2012