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An exciting evening was held at the Birmingham Motorcycle Museum on 13th April this year, which saw the first ever Sign & Digital Awards handed out to the most creative and imaginative sign projects in the country.

Though the winners are now in proud possession of their awards, we wanted to highlight the winning projects and why they won the top industry accolade in their category.

Attracting over 20 entries, the Best Individual Sign Project was keenly fought. The judges were asked to look for creativity, innovation and impact when choosing each of the evenings winners. The winner of this category was Vision Visual Solutions; Using high density LED strips to emit light along etched lines in polycarbonate panels, Vision Visual solutions were able to create flight in the 50 butterflies, that float 5 metres above dinner’s heads in the ITSU restaurant at Heathrow Terminal 5. Winning the support of all the judges, Vision visual solution’s ITSU Terminal 5 project was unanimously praised for its scale, creativity and effectiveness. Standing as a glowing example of the capability and ambition running through the UK’s sign industry today, the judges were happy to award the first ever Sign & Digital UK award for Best Individual Sign Project to Vision Visual Solutions.

The second award was for the Best Multiple Sign Project. Designed to showcase a campaign or business project involving more than 6 signs, this category enjoyed a large number of entries. The winner was Photocast Products – Using their deep chemical etching system, Photocast products answered Blackburn council’s request for quality signage to help visitors find their way around 16 historical local sites. Producing elegant cast bronze plaques the company were able to contextualise each site with signs that will stand the test of time.  Impressed both by the quality and diversity of Photocast’s project, the judges were pleased to see a lesser known technique used to such stunning effect.    

With more and more companies specialising in vehicle livery these days, the award for Best Vehicle Wrapping Project was always going to be a closely fought contest but no one predicted quite how diverse the entries would be. The winner was Raccoon – Using the optical illusion of an x-ray to promote the transparency key to Foxton’s core values, Raccoon wrapped 264 cars in 15 days to create a truly mesmerising fleet. “Intensely creative,” “Inspired” and “Fantastically Interesting,” were just a few of the comments used to describe Racoon’s redesign of Foxtons Estate Agent’s car fleet. Pushing not only the art of vehicle wrapping but the technology used to the absolute limits, Raccoon’s submission stood out as the overall winner. The judges also celebrated Pyramid Visuals as highly commended for their brilliant entry.    

A mainstay of the sign making and graphic output industries, the wide format digital printer is the turbine that drives productivity and facilitates creativity. Showcasing the power of these machines, the winner for Best Wide Format Print Project was Service Graphics. Utilising the art of trompe l’oeil to dazzling effect, Service Graphics produced large scale wall graphics for the National Museum Liverpool to draw attention to Liverpool’s cultural riches. Commended for the strong concept and expert execution, Service graphics were praised highly by the judges for the level of thought that went into creating their entry. 

Winner of the Best Textile Printing Project award was The Wild Group who overcame harsh time constraints and unusual print substrates, the Wild group produced an authentic printed sail and 70 waterproof garments for 20th Century Fox’s Chronicles of Narnia film launch.    Reading about what went into producing the finished project, the judges were particularly impressed with the number of different materials used despite the extreme time constraints. Congratulations also go to the Jericho Foundation who were highly commended for their entry.  

Best New Use of Wide Format Print was the next award designed to reward ingenuity and innovation within the wide format arena. Boasting both to great effect was winner Icon – Putting enormous emphasis on their ability to remove the graphics without damaging the fabric of the historical buildings, Icon used wall wrap and one way vision vinyl to create two spectacular building wraps. Blown away by the sheer scale of Icon’s project, the judges described the company’s enormous building wrap as being both “striking“ and “impressive.”     

With increasing pressure on companies to lower their carbon footprint, The Green Award exists to recognise those who, in spite of the challenging trading conditions, have gone that extra mile to reduce their impact on the environment. Tasked with reducing the carbon footprint and life cycle costs of Beefeater and Premier Inn signs without compromising standards and aesthetic appearance, winners Sign 2000 set about sourcing materials, components and preparing prototype drawings that led to sharper and more sustainable signage with significantly reduced running costs.   The judges found Sign 2000’s work on developing low carbon alternatives to existing sign solutions admirable. With a greater emphasis on green issues, their example is one for us all to follow.

Created to reward new talent within the Signage and Graphic Output industries, the Rising Star Award focuses on an individual under the age of 30 whose contribution to their company throughout 2010 was constantly admired. The winner of this award was Gordon Dick of Aggregate Industries. With the welfare of his staff and a low impact approach to the environment of paramount importance, Gordon has transformed a loss leading business into a glowing success through investment in equipment and a progressive approach. Credited with great enthusiasm and creative flair, Gordon saw off strong competition from the other entries to claim this coveted new award. 

The penultimate award was the award for Best Wide Format Printing Company sponsored by AGFA. Entrants were asked to demonstrate through testimonials and end of year results, how, in 2010 they had grown their business whilst maintaining high levels of customer service and displaying both innovation and creativity.  The award was presented by Steve Collins of AGFA’s wide format division and the winner was Hollywood Monster – With a dedication to “surpassing the expectations of their clients” Hollywood Monster has worked with them all. Operating 24 hours a day 7 days a week using the latest print technology, their output ranges from bespoke to large roll out programmes. The judges commented, “ Along with their commitment to ongoing investment in the latest cutting edge technology, the judges were extremely impressed by the portfolio of work produced and level of professionalism displayed throughout the course of 2010. Observations that were compounded by the countless testimonials included to support their submission. “

And finally to the coveted Best Sign Company of 2010 award which was again sponsored by AGFA. Using the same criteria as the previous category, all entries were required to exhibit how they had driven business through 2010 whilst bringing attention to examples of creativity, innovation and professionalism. The well deserved winner of this category was Signbox – Weathering the storm to record a 28% increase on the previous year’s turnover, Sign Box’s success has been achieved through hard work and a dedication to exceeding customer expectation in every aspect. Combining intelligent sign design with a considered approach to the use of sustainable materials they sit on the cutting edge of today’s sign industry. The judges also commented on this winner, “Boasting a huge array of work throughout 2010, Signbox’s dedication to pushing the boundaries of contemporary sign making epitomises all a modern sign company should be.

Rudi Blackett, event director of Sign & Digital UK and the Awards had this to say, “ it was a great evening at our first ever awards and networking event. The judging panel had a very hard task choosing the first ever 10 winners of the Sign & Digital UK Awards and these winners will set the standard for next years’ entrants. We encourage every signmaker and graphic display professional to consider entering for 2012 as we believe these awards will become the benchmark for highlighting creativity, innovation and business success in our industry.”