Signature Sign & Image recently designed, fabricated and installed a new dimensional sign that welcomes visitors to its hometown of Niagara Falls, Ont., as they arrive from the U.S. over the Rainbow Bridge border crossing. Inspired by vintage postcards, it adds a touch of bright colour to the side of Highway 420 near Powell Avenue, less than 500 m (1,640 ft) from the border.
A time to celebrate
The project began in spring 2017, when the municipal government asked for design bids. City council would fund the sign as part of its Canada 150 events, which also had federal support.
“It was strange how there was nothing in the area to welcome the many American tourists who use the bridge to arrive in Canada,” explains Emily Butko, graphic designer and marketing director for Signature Sign. “We had made other ‘welcome’ signs for people coming to the Falls from Toronto and St. Catharines, Ont., so once the city had the Canada 150 funding, they asked us to bid on this project.”
Signature Sign的平面设计师兼营销总监Emily Butko解释道：“奇怪的是，这个地区没有任何标识可以用来欢迎大量通过虹桥抵达加拿大的美国游客。另一方面，我们已经为来自多伦多和安大略省圣凯瑟琳市的游客制作了‘欢迎’标识，因此，一旦该城市获得了加拿大150周年庆典的项目启动资金，他们就会要求我们竞标这个项目。”
Given the nature of the location, facing east toward the U.S. border, the city’s criteria for the sign included a requirement to integrate the slogan, ‘Gateway to Canada.’ Signature Sign submitted two concepts with its bid in June 2017. One of these, designed by Butko, was selected in September.
“The inspiration came from my mom’s collection of vintage Niagara Falls postcards and other memorabilia, which featured iconic local images within each of the letters spelling out the place name,” she explains. “That style, with big, chunky letters, was very popular in the 1950s and ’60s. I visited antique malls in Niagara Falls, N.Y., and bought a tonne of those postcards for reference.”
With a combination of stock, client-supplied and newly purpose-shot photos, Butko used graphic design software to add a ‘painterly’ effect to the images.
“It also took a lot of tweaking in Adobe Photoshop to make the images fit well in the letters,” she says. “Then we had to go back and forth with the city over the content in each letter. That was the most challenging and time-consuming part of the project.”
A volunteer committee led by Chris Dabrowski, co-owner of the Niagara Falls Comic Con, was in charge of organizing local Canada 150 events and legacy projects throughout 2017. The sign was this committee’s final project and all members had input for the design, especially the photos in each letter. In one case, for example, an outdated photo of the Maid of the Mist boat tour was replaced to showcase the newer Hornblower Niagara Cruises vessel.
The final selection of images also included the Horseshoe Falls, fireworks, the Skylon Tower, the Niagara Skywheel and dice to represent both Casino Niagara and the Fallsview Casino, among other iconic images.
“I designed the sign through February 2018,” says Butko. “During that time, while the actual contents of the letters were revised, the original technical drawings did not really change. It was fabricated and installed over a one-month period, from February into March.”
From banner to sign
The city’s design criteria included a maximum size for the sign, requiring it to be no taller than 3.4 m (11 ft) and no wider than 9.1 m (30 ft). In the end, it would measure 3.4 x 7.3 m (11 x 24 ft). The angle at which it would be installed was determined using a 100 per cent scale banner, which Signature Signs temporarily hung on-site from two bucket trucks, so as to gain Mayor Jim Diodati’s approval of the exact location and angle.
城市的设计标准对标识的尺寸进行了相应的规定，要求标识高不超过3.4米（11英尺），宽不超过9.1米（30英尺）。最后，标识的尺寸定为3.4 x 7.3米（11 x 24英尺）并使用精确的标尺对标识的安装角度进行了确定，Signature Signs暂时将两辆大卡车开进了现场，让卡车举起了标识的设计图，以方便让Jim Diodati市长确认标识的安装方位和角度。
The aforementioned technical drawings for the sign and its footing were prepared by Signature Sign vice-president (VP) Mark Wallis and stamped by a certified engineer. Most of the sign was built from aluminum, due to its versatility, low weight and ease of manipulation, while a stonemason built the base to match a nearby Victoria Avenue bridge, using decorative stone.
之前提到的标识和基台的工程图纸都是由Signature Sign副总裁Mark Wallis准备并交给经过认证的工程师盖章确认过的。出于铝制材料的多功能性、重量轻和易于操作等特点，大多数标识都是由铝制材料制作而成的，而石匠则使用装饰石建造标识的基台，与附近的维多利亚大道大桥相得益彰。
Most of the components were coated with AkzoNobel’s paints and Grip-Gard EFx-LV high-solid polyurethane (PU) topcoat specifically formulated for signage.
“We use an intermix toner system that can match thousands of solid and metallic colours in any gloss level,” Wallis explains. “We upgraded our paint system in January and, while no metallic colours were used on this sign, it was one of the first we painted using the new system.”
An updateable landmark
The 1.2 to 1.8-m (4 to 6-ft) tall letter faces, meanwhile, were designed to be changeable, rather than permanent.
“Part of the vision for this sign is the city can come to us in the future with updates,” Butko explains. “When Niagara Falls hosts the Canada Games in 2020, for example, we can swap out the faces with newly printed graphics featuring those sports. We could also do a special series of images for the Winter Festival of Lights.”
As such, the letters feature two-part printed graphics. Using an Epson SureColor S60600 ‘eco-solvent’ inkjet press, the graphics were reverse-printed on 3M Canada’s Scotchcal IJ3650-114 transparent film with pressure-sensitive adhesive, backed up by IJ3630-20 translucent white matte film, and applied to the second surface of Covestro Plastics’ Makrolon clear polycarbonate sheeting.
因此，标识字母将由两层印刷图形组成。第一层图形使用爱普生 SureColor S60600‘环保溶剂’喷墨打印机，在3M Canada的Scotchcal IJ3650-114透明薄膜上使用压敏粘合剂反向印刷图形，并使用IJ3630-20半透明白色哑光薄膜进行覆膜，第二层图形则是由Covestro的透明聚碳酸酯板材制作而成。
The more permanent ‘Welcome to’ and ‘Gateway to Canada’ graphics were produced using cut vinyl—specifically, 3M’s new Scotchcal 3630-56 ‘glacial green’ translucent graphic film, backed up with a white translucent film. The vinyl and paint mask were cut on a Mimaki CG-160 FXII plotter and the graphics were applied to their substrates on CWT Worktools’ 1640-base lamination table.
而永久使用的“欢迎”和“加拿大入口”图形将使用切割乙烯基材料——正面采用3M新推出的Scotchcal 3630-56‘冰绿色’半透明图形薄膜，背面则采用白色半透明薄膜。使用Mimaki CG-160 FXII绘图仪切割乙烯基材料和进行喷涂工序来完成图形的制作，并将图形应用于CWT Worktools'1640基础层压设备输出的基板上。
The main deadline facing the project was the mayor’s annual state of the city address, scheduled for Mar. 22, 2018.
The footing was dug and the stone base was completed in January, before the sign was even built. Once it was finished, including the many graphic revisions, its installation could finally proceed in March.
“Given the time of year, there were weather delays for the sign’s installation, but we had to get it out to the site,” says Butko, “not just to meet the deadline, but also because it is a very large sign that took up most of our shop!”
Despite further snowstorms, the installation went smoothly.
“The sign was more or less assembled when it was transported to the site,” says Wallis. “Two of the largest letters had to be removed beforehand, so it could be safely strapped upright to our 9.1-m (30-ft) long trailer. Once the sign was secured on-site to the mounting bar, those letters were reinstalled.”
Aside from some perimeter light-emitting diodes (LEDs), the sign is not illuminated.
“We could add uplighting in the future,” says Butko. “This is a suggestion we made to the city afterwards. So far, no decision has been finalized.”
Greeted with pride
The volunteer committee was happy with the results and Diodati announced the sign’s completion and installation during his state of the city address.
While the sign’s big, bright letters are primarily intended to be viewed by drivers as they pass by the site, they can also serve as a backdrop for pedestrian photo opportunities.
“It’s near a neighbourhood where you could park your car and walk down a path to get to the sign,” Butko explains. “That path is not really well-known, but people could visit the site to take selfies, a bit like they do with the three-dimensional (3-D) sign at Toronto’s Nathan Philips Square.”