08 - 01 - 16

Identity's Top 5 Signage Predictions for 2016

2015 saw the return of the signage industry! The economic downturn in 2008/09 saw marketing companies pulling the plug on their investment in branding, but there’s good news – the signage industry has now made a full recovery and continues to plough more money and effort into emerging technologies.

This post will explore five of Identity’s predictions for 2016, identifying the areas we think are most likely to have an impact on the signage industry.

1. 3D Printing Continues To Make Headlines

3D printing continues to shock and awe the creative industries and the general public, with the introduction of various techniques to create pretty much anything you can model.

In the summer of 2015 China unveiled “printed houses”. 3D printed houses have been developed by a company called Zhuoda Group, although as you would expect the materials and technology behind it remain a secret. The buildings are strong enough to withstand 9.0 magnitude earthquakes, and are fireproof, waterproof and virtually corrosion proof.

So what does this mean for the signage industry? We predict that 2016 will continue to be the year for development – the technology is still maturing and techniques have yet to be developed for some applications. The technology is not yet mainstream but there are a number of developments planned for the industry which will come to fruition in 2017. For example, HP are developing a machine which is expected at the end of 2016 and the introduction of their machine will instantly drive competition, sparking yet more innovation.

3D printing continues to be relatively rare in the signage industry and the cost of a 3D printer to produce larger signage products is still currently cost prohibitive, although this is likely to change in 2017.

Recently unveiled at the CES Exhibition in Las Vegas is a 3D printer which uses paper, ink, glue and razors to produce highly detailed objectives. The Mcor Arke creates colour models at a resolution of 4,800 by 2,400 dots per inch, providing higher detail than many 2D printers. It does this by using razors to cut plain paper into shape, inkjet to colour it and then glue to join all the layers together and to laminate the final object.

This development is significant as it uses a standard material available throughout offices and factories to create a highly bespoke and very detailed product.

Watch this space for more developments and how the signage industry is likely to adopt this technology in 2017.

2. Digital Signage Takes The Industry By Storm

2015 saw the take-up of digital signage services by a significant number of sign companies in the UK and is reported to be growing 40% year on year. By 2020 worldwide sales are expected to reach $20 billion (£14 billion).

Recent research from AV Online identified 6 sectors where digital signage continues to grow at record rates. Retail and branding tops the list (as you would expect), closely followed by advertising and internal comms, and further down the list we encounter education, leisure and entertainment and museums.

We predict that in 2016 that internal comms (our workplaces) will continue to grow at record rates potentially catching up with the retail and branding sectors. Businesses are now, more than ever, recognising the importance of employee engagement and brand consistency, and need their messages to be communicated loud and clear. Messages change, need refreshing and must be flexible, and therefore the solution is digital signage. You only need to walk into a successful UK business to understand how digital signage underpins and support the company values as well as day-to-day business in a company.

3. #Phygital – When Digital And Physical Marketing Intertwine

The continued growth of social media continues to dominate the creative industries and in 2016 Identity are continuing to educate the business community on the importance of building integrated marketing campaigns that exist effortlessly between both the physical and digital world.

Event research shows that 50 percent of consumers “were more likely to engage with digital experiences that offer seamless integration with their physical world”. This concept encourages businesses to draw the best from both in order to expand beyond a one-dimensional brand communication.

Those born post 1995 do not distinguish between an offline and an online world – for them there is no divide, and it is important that the signage industry recognises the non-existence of a barrier and integrates where possible.

It’s vital that brands have a relevant presence at all touch points visited by customers. Ensuring a customer’s brand is available in the right place at the right time by connecting the dots between physical and digital becomes crucial.

In 2015 we saw some great examples of some really powerful campaigns - our favourite is #WearTheRose from O2. The telecoms giant was a supporter of the 2015 Rugby World Cup plastering their #WearTheRose hashtag across a variety of channels in the run-up and during the competition. You will have noticed that every O2 shop front had removable vinyl graphics applied to the windows and foamed covers applied to their logo on the shops fascia with an amended O2 Rugby World Cup logo. The hashtag was unmissable.

The promotion was a success and enabled O2 to be at the forefront of the consumer’s mind. Their success would have been nowhere near as powerful if they had chosen just one channel to push their campaign.

In 2016 identity predicts that campaigns of this nature will continue to grow in scope and scale and will filter through to SMEs and local businesses and will not just be limited to multi-national blue chips. Now, with these types of campaigns becoming increasingly affordable and with digital channels allowing for much larger audience reach, the sky’s the limit.

4. I Need That Yesterday – Superfast Printing

A large format printer is now essential for any signage company. Gone are the days where businesses could rely on 40 colours of standard vinyl.

Digital has become more prevalent for two reasons:

a) The sky’s the limit – it doesn’t matter what your design, or what effect you have used to create your final graphic, a standard large format printer will be able to produce a print at a high quality

b) Reducing preparation time – with the introduction of different print technologies digitally printed graphics are able to go from printer to application, removing the time it takes to prepare

So what do signage companies need to do now in this space to separate themselves from competitors? Super fast Printing.

The increase in activity in internal comms (workplace branding) and the retail sectors mean that the rate of change for large format graphics is ever increasing. Global brands are changing their sales campaigns and organisations are changing their internal messages at such a velocity that the signage industry has struggled to keep up at times – the artwork is finalised on the Tuesday night and by Thursday there is an expectation that the graphics must be installed in the shop or office space ready for the public or staff arriving Friday morning.

Fortunately, major players in the market such as HP and Mimaki have recognised the need for Superfast Printing and have the answer. The large format and super-wide super fast printers introduced in 2015 now start to make their way into the mainstream, appearing in signage and print companies throughout the UK. In 2016 these printers will enable suppliers to meet the demands of the retail giants and blue-chip companies to have their messages displayed at high quality and as rapid as humanly possible.

5. Introduction Of New Lighting Technologies

Fabricated signage still plays a major part in the signage industry, with nearly every shop fascia and logo on a building made from either acrylic, aluminium, steel or a combination. A problem that has been facing the industry since time began is how best to light these signs. Some ten years ago the introduction of LEDs revolutionised the industry reducing the need to change fluorescent tubes and providing a more powerful light.

In 2016 we will see the next big change in the industry – 2015 saw the introduction of large high-density plastic sheets combined with LEDs. The light sheet was born.

Light panels and other specialised systems are the second generation of LED technology. The combination of high-density plastics and LEDs increased the brightness of LEDs by 20% with zero impact to energy consumption. In some cases, less LEDs are now required.

The application in signage industries means that we are able to provide a better quality light at a similar price for all those shop signs and building signs which are in desperate need of a brighter and more consistent illumination method.

Light sheets come in many different forms – trough lights, backlighting for signs, within 3D letters and of course estate agent window panels (where the product has been used for the last three years) on a smaller scale.


The signage industry continues to be an exciting place to be with no signs of innovation letting up. Identity continue to keep ahead of market trends, emerging ourselves in technology and innovative print processes. If you would like any further information about any of the above topics, please get in touch or browse some of our other blogs posts for more details.

We would like to take this opportunity to wish everyone the very best for 2016.