The Collaboration: Signage Foundation and the Colleges of Business (CoB) and Design, Architecture, Art and Planning (DAAP) of the University of Cincinnati
The vision of the Signage Foundation carries forth the positive momentum brought by research, education and a fundamentally consistent mission message about signage. The Foundation seeks to become a sustainable organization that achieves full integration with the academic arena. As such, the Foundation works with various constituencies to encourage maximally beneficial use of signage including the recognition that the sign becomes a transferable real estate asset that must be protected.
This vision includes alignments that will help develop academic curriculum to train planners. In December, 2007, the Signage Foundation, Inc. celebrated the establishment of the James S. Womack/Gemini Chair of Signage and Visual Communications in the College of Business at the University of Cincinnati. In January 2009, the Terence M. Fruth/Gemini Chair of Signage Design and Community Planning in the College of Design, Architecture, Art, and Planning was also established. Both of these chairs were established through the philanthropy of James (Jim) and Sharon Weinel of Gemini, Inc.
The Signage Foundation’s Board of Directors embraces the Weinels’ vision of aligning with a world class university to establish a national training and research center for signage. The presence of the American Sign Museum and the ST Communications Group in Cincinnati also offered additional opportunities for collaboration. Another exciting aspect of the collaboration with the University of Cincinnati is the integration of students into the research.
Throughout 2008, collaborations between the Signage Foundation and the University of Cincinnati, specifically the Colleges of Business and Design, Architecture, Art and Planning (DAAP), have affirmed the significance of a multi-disciplinary approach to address the importance of signage. These collaborations have resulted in a number of research and educational projects:
• A commitment from the University of Cincinnati to become the world’s first comprehensive center dedicated to signage;
• The establishment of the James S. Womack/Gemini Chair of Signage and Visual Communications in the College of Business and the appointment of Dr. James Kellaris;
• The establishment of the Terence M. Fruth/Gemini Chair of Signage Design and Community Planning in the College of Design, Architecture, Art, and Planning by Jim and Sharon Weinel (1/2009);
• An innovation Summit held at 3M with the SFI Board and UC team (9/2008);
• A Special Briefing held on Capitol Hill on Effective Signage Builds Vibrant Businesses (9/2008) with the joint announcement of the 2009 National Signage Education andResearch Conference by SFI and the UC team;
• A planning graduate student with a first degree in graphic design is graphically visualizing using computer simulation how the world’s first comprehensive model signage code might be applied to a short urban street segment;
• A fourth year planning studio is exploring the new signage code in relation to a business
• A reception honoring the vision and philanthropy of James and Sharon Weinel of Gemini, Inc. was held during the 2008 Sign Expo in Orlando (4/2008);
• UC’s academic and administrative leadership participated in the 2008 and 2009 Sign Expo;
• Participation by student consultants from UC’s Marketing Department and School of Planning in the 2009 Sign Expo
• A joint announcement by SFI leadership and School of Planning leadership at the 2009 National APA Convention in Minneapolis on the collaboration and scope of work the Fruth/Gemini chair will undertake to assist planners;
• A 2009 summer studio of advanced planning students will engage in a real world laboratory for a client community (Anderson Township) and the Signage Foundation to further test, report on and ultimately help develop a revolutionary new signage code;
• By the fall of 2010, the Terence Fruth/Gemini Chair of Signage Design and Community Planning will be fully established, and the occupant will conduct applied research related to signage;
• In October, 2009, the Colleges of Business and DAAP will assist the Signage Foundation in hosting the National Signage Research and Education Conference, which will be held in Cincinnati. This event will bring together representatives from the signage industry, planners, designers, architects, marketers, students and politicians, as well as business, planning, architecture and urban design researchers from the University of Cincinnati;
• A Masters level student in the School of Planning is working with the Signage Foundation in planning the October conference and preparing the first comprehensive review of signage literature. From that research, a white paper will be prepared for both the National Signage Research and Education Conference and the ACSP Conference in fall 2009 and
• In the fall of 2010, the new Signage Chair will begin detailed planning for a new sequence of courses that will be offered by the School of Planning. This sequence of four courses will constitute the world’s first certificate in signage.