Martino Signs

Martino Signs Brings Children’s Museum to Life

When it comes to major signage projects at large-scale facilities, Martino Signs, a full-service sign shop in Newtown Square, Pa., is prepared to handle any request, says owner David Martino. Much of Martino Signs’ work includes signage projects for stadiums, arenas and convention centers, which can all have their unique sets of challenges and requirements, but Martino is always willing to support those needs.

Martino finds working on large-scale signage projects especially gratifying because of the life they bring to buildings, he says. Many of these facilities start as simple, bland buildings, but once they are given a unique look with signage, their atmospheres completely change.

For the Big Bird statue, David Martino spray painted the body and then hand painted the details. (Photos courtesy of Martino Signs)

“We put the personality on the building and make it come to life,” Martino says. “Our work is about giving a place a new image. For an office building where people are working, we make it feel like home, or if it’s a hospital, we make it comfortable.”

In fact, earlier this year, the National Children’s Museum was in need of a new signage system, and Martino Signs created a look that played up the cheerful environment the client hoped to convey, Martino says. The building previously served as an office with plain décor, so it took a major creative effort to reinvent the space with a wide array of signage, including aluminum awnings, channel letters, round monuments, flat cutouts, and painted and digital graphics.

In the front of the museum, Martino Signs also built and installed a large fiberglass, foam-filled statue of Big Bird, the popular “Sesame Street” character, which gave the area an especially playful feel, Martino says. Amaze Design, an exhibit design firm in Boston, drew a sketch of the statue, and Martino Signs then computerized the art into CAD drawings, which were converted to cutting files for fabrication. Fiberglass made up the shell of the statue, and to complete the look, Martino spray painted the body yellow, hand painted the details, and finished the paint with a clear coat. Once the project was released to the public, the Big Bird statue was one of the most popular attractions.

“Big Bird was a huge hit, and a lot of people used it as a photo op,” Martino says. “Seeing people, especially children, run up to take a picture with Big Bird was a great feeling for us.”

With only three months to go, Martino did not have much time, especially considering how many signage elements were involved, but he completed the project on deadline and within budget, making for a happy client, he says. While working on that tight of a deadline wasn’t easy, Martino took specific steps to speed up the process.

The wall graphics added a festive touch. (Photo courtesy of Martino Signs)

“They asked us if we could do this project economically, effectively and fast, so they came in at a really low number,” Martino says. “We used talent instead of materials for some things, but we made it happen.”

For instance, in addition to hand painting some of the circular wall graphics, Martino fabricated the flat cutouts by hand, which was actually faster than using a CNC router, he says. Martino only had JPGs of the art, so he would have had to blow them up and then add vector art and cut lines. With those extra steps, fabrication would have taken Martino a couple extra days rather than the one day that it took him to manually route the flat cutouts. Once Martino completed the routing of the flat cutouts, which were made from quarter-inch Sintra, he applied digital graphics that were printed using his VUTEk 3360 SC printer and laminated the vinyl.

Martino Signs also partnered with other local sign shops to help with the process. Joey Graham of Acrobat Signs in Philadelphia helped with the vinyl applications while John Sessa of Sign Advantage in Drexel Hill, Pa., worked on the large-scale installations. Some sign shops are skeptical of collaborating with competitors, but Martino believes enlisting the help of others in the industry has its rewards.

“We try to be friends with everyone, and it can be hard because there are a lot of egos and ill feelings toward other people in the sign industry,” Martino says. “But we recruited some crafty guys who are top people in the industry, so there was a lot of talent on the job. They helped make the job convenient and fast.”

After giving the building a new personality and completing the project on time and within budget, the client was thrilled with the result, Martino says. What used to be a drab building now exudes an energy that fits the cheery theme of the National Children’s Museum.