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Two Siblings With Bright Futures

(May 2014) posted on Mon May 05, 2014

Where are our next breakthrough technologies?


By Andy MacDougall

Signs and screen printing are like two kids from the same colorful, wacky family. Although they have the same parents (communication and commerce), one is way bigger, older, and more mature, if you can call getting draped around the exterior of a high-rise building 100 feet in the air “mature.” The sibling, “silk screening,” is younger and more adventurous, with interests in consumer electronics, T-shirts, and decorative arts, to name but a few growing segments. Both are practiced by few, yet found everywhere, on everything, in everything.

The men and women who work in sign and screen-printing companies know they are a big part of the visual fabric of our modern civilization, even though most people take all the graphics, signage, and functional printing for granted. Every two-bit college has art and design courses, but very few are training workers specifically for our industry. It doesn’t seem to be high on anyone’s list as a career path. That’s sad, because we offer one the most creative, challenging, and interesting work environments. What we do is important too, and not just for communicating a discount sale at the corner store. We insiders know the truth: Remove signs and screen printing from the modern world and it comes to a screeching, crashing halt.

Imagine a world without signs and screen printing:

Roadways, cities and buildings with no wayfinding signage? What a mess that would be. “But you could still use your cell phone,” you might be thinking. No, you can’t—it’s made using screen printing too! “OK, no worries, I’ll just get in the car. Wait—where are the instruments and controls?!” You freak out and crash.

A white van shows up at the crash scene. It’s an EMS ambulance, but nobody can tell without the markings on the outside of the vehicle. Then a massive traffic jam forms because there are no road signs and the traffic lights don’t work because the printed circuits controlling everything are gone. The paramedics jump out of the van, dressed all in white too, with no logos or identifiers. They see that your heart has stopped and spring into rescue mode. But damn, the defibrillator doesn’t work—the contact pads were screen printed and the control panels, too.


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