A year to remember
In the year that it marks its 30th anniversary, Sign of the Times, the Kettering-based sign specialist,has much else to celebrate too. Val Hirst reports
Darren Roughton, founder, owner and Managing Director of Sign of the Times, plans to round off 2015 with a great big birthday party when he turns 50 this December – that is, of course, if he can spare the time.
During the last 12 months, Sign of the Times has worked at locations as far apart as New York and Jerusalemand hasbeen instrumental in the production of some of the industry’s most artistically challenging projects, while also servicing the slightly more pedestrian, but no less exacting requirements of its large posse of regular clients.And if all of this wasn’t enough, just a few weeks ago, for the second consecutive year, the company scooped the coveted ‘Sign of the Year’ award at the BSGA British Sign Awards in respect of ‘Timeless’, the astonishing project that graces this month’s front cover.
However, while some people might be content to bask in the warming glow of another year successfully completed, Darrenis already feverishly planning how the company’s 2015 triumphs can best be used to further propel the growth of the business he first started 30 years ago, while at the same time, planning how best to bring two high profile projects to fruition this side of Christmas.
Originally trained as a signwriter, Darren reveals that he had always dreamt of pursuing a career path that would enable him to hone his artistic talents and the sign industry provided him with the opportunity to do just that, whilst also enabling him to use his more practically-based skill-set too. He explains: “I’ve always been fascinated by the way things work and enjoy nothing more than taking them to pieces and putting them back together again,” a fascination that has doubtless helped him immeasurably when collaborating on projects such as ‘Timeless’ and the equally arresting feature wall for Heinz that helped Sign of the Times to secure the 2015 ‘Sign of the Year’ accolade.
The result of its latest collaboration with Acrylicize, the London-based design studio extraordinaire,which specialises in the creation of art and interior installations for commercial and residential spaces, ‘Timeless’ is a stunning timepiece, which in place of a traditional clock face, usesa series of colour changing letters to spell out the time in several different areas around the world. Suspended in the six-storey atrium of London’s St. Georges House, it represents the perfect fusion of a brilliant idea, with excellent manufacturing and engineering processes, modern lighting techniques and impressive installation skills and, according to Darren, also provided Sign of the Times with one of its most challenging assignments to date.
He remembers: “When we had finished the installation, it didn’t look quite right – the letters just weren’t hanging a 100 percent properly, although they were perfectly safe. It had already been one hell of a job, but to my mind there was no alternative but to take everything down, sort out what was wrong and start again!”
As it turned out, the ceiling soffits from which the giant letters were suspended were slightly out of true, but once the appropriate remedial action had been taken, everything was carefully reinstalled.
“And then,” Darren continues: “suddenly the lights went out!” For several heart stopping minutes it seemed that there might now be a problem with the project’s vast spaghetti of wiring, but fortunately, the temporary blackout was due to a computer programming glitch that was quickly rectified and the installation was thus successfully completed.
Something of a perfectionist himself, Darren enjoys working with agencies, such as Acrylicize, with which Signs of the Times has a built a long term and entirely fruitful relationship, as they not onlyofferthe most original and exciting projects, but also encourage the delivery of the highest possible standards of creativity, construction and presentation.
However, Darren is quick to point out that whilst he relishes the challenges that such projects always provide, Sign of the Times is every bit as committed to clients that require more traditionally sign-based work. He observes: “One of the joys of working with designers is that in order to satisfy the demands of their original concepts, we have to carefully consider our choice of materials. To this end, we have discovered the efficacy of a much wider range of substrates, which are often more cost effective and easier to work with, while also offering both the high level of finish and durability required. What’s more, it has also taught us to experiment more and to trial different print and production methods, all of which helps us to further enhance the work we do for all of our clients.”
He goes on to reflect: “It’s good to have a mixture of jobs, such as that which we undertake for Nationwide and other long-standing clients of similar ilk, and include everything from the production of straightforward corporate signing and wayfinding schemes, topoint of sale and displays, to office décor and vehicle liveries.”
Certainly a quick glance through some of the company’s recently completed assignments shows a rich variety of work, including the amazing decorative effects it has created for the corporate headquarters of two companies that are household names, (which alas, we can’t show!),together with the slick internal and external signing and decorative schemes it has crafted for retailers DOMUS and Nine West and the intriguing ‘book worm’ that has provided such a talking point for visitors to Paternoster House in London. Another notable project is the commission that took Sign of the Times to New York, which has involved it in the provision of a suitably hip and industrial looking signing and decorative scheme for ‘Rise’, Barclay’s newly conceived ‘co-working space’ global initiative.
Most of Sign of the Times’ work comes either by way of repeat business or via word of mouth and Darren reports that following last year’s sign award success, it received a flurry of enquiries from new customers.
He says: “I think the award brought us to the attention of a lot of businesses that wouldn’t necessarily have considered us before as it provided us with a fantastic showcase for our work and also further underlined our credibility.”
Darren is hoping that the same thing will happen again this time around and when it does, Sign of the Times is more than ready to capitalise on it. Following the recent acquisition of a Zund G3 cutting table, which was purchased to complement an equipment portfolio that already includedEFI VUTEk, Arizona and HP Latex printers, plus Tekcel and Sabre CNC equipment, Darren is now ready to ramp things up a gear or two. His next endeavour is to recruit more staff in addition to the 32 people that he currently employs.
He observes that with the volume of work generally increasing throughout the industry, inline with a more robust economy, it’s time for Sign of the Times to make itself known to a wider number of key decision makers. He says: “More work means that we will have to become even more efficient. We’ve recently taken on two apprentices who will learn the job from the bottom up and already appoint project managers to look after specific commissions, but they now need some extra assistance and, just as importantly, we also need to take a more structured approach to our sales effort too.”
During the past few months the company has revamped both its showroom and its website to provide a more realistic representation of the scope and breadth of its operations and has also provided its fleet of eight vehicles with a smart new livery that will help to spread news of its prowess further afield.
From what I’ve seen so far, Sign of the Times already has a whole selection of likely contenders for next year’s sign awards, but Darren is at pains to point out that all of the company’s output represents a culmination of his team’s collective effort. He says: “We have a super group of people working here and my main aim now is to ensure that I keep the work coming in so that they’ll be able to continue to produce signs and graphics that are worthy of their abilities.”
Judging on past performance, I don’t think that Darren has anything to worry about!
For further information visit: www.signofthetimes.co.uk