2015 NSREC Highlights: Better Sign Codes in Urban Areas

The 2015 National Signage Research & Education Conference (NSREC) focused on how signage impacts the urban experience, with a number of presentations providing information to help better understand the importance—and potential—of urban signs.

The conference was held this fall at the University of Oklahoma and is one of the Signage Foundation, Inc.’s signature events.

Now in its fifth year, NSREC brings together academics, planners, consultants and designers to discuss issues related to on-premise signage.

Among the highlights of 2015:

Renowned architect and urban designer, Martin Treu explored design precedent’s role in creating effective models that balance smart growth and urban development. “It is time to reconsider on-premise signs not as boorish intruders in the commercial landscape, but as essential contributors,” Treu wrote in his presentation.

Ron Frantz, Associate Professor of Architecture, looked at how old signs can offer a three-dimensional history of a town’s commercial activities, recreational offerings, professional services and merchant’s names. “Collectively, signs project the personality of a neighborhood, community, or entire town. Quality signage illuminates quality businesses and services. Older signs boast business longevity while contemporary signs show that the next generation is now open for business,” he wrote in the project’s summary.

Tod Swormstedt, founder of the American Sign Museum, and second-generation sign maker Jim Gleason, provided an overview of how communities around the U.S. have used historic signs to revitalize urban areas.

University of Oklahoma professors Stephanie Zeier Pilat and Shawn Michael Schaefer discussed their String of Pearls project which encompassed a three-mile stretch of historic Route 66, using signage to attract locals and tourists alike.

Craig Berger, Chair of the Visual Presentation and Exhibition Design Program at the Fashion Institute of Technology, previewed his forthcoming research, “Retail Signage: Practices to Increase Return on Investment” and “Retail Wayfinding Best Practices,” both of which will be released by SFI in early 2016.

Ellen Babcock, associate professor at the University of New Mexico, detailed archival and historic material about the development of the southwestern Route 66, hoping to inspire creative reuse of underused or empty road signs.

Attendees also heard presentations from digital signage expert Bob Klausmeier, sign historian Jim Conkle and professors Vikas Mehta, Henry Hildebrandt and Christopher Auffrey during the two-day event. Mehta, Hidebrandt and Auffrey presented research that showed “that a community’s contextual environments influences the communication effectiveness of on-premise signage and that in turn, how the on-premise signage melds with the contextual environments influences the community’s sense of place and quality of life.”

The next National Signage Research & Education Conference will be held in Fall 2017 at Michigan State University. For more information on The Signage Foundation or NSREC, please contact SFI Executive Director Sapna Budev at [email protected].

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