Electric Sign Renovation


Signage Renovation at Hotel John Marshall, Richmond, VA


Many times a building becwww.holidaysigns.com-richmond-va-high-rise-signsomes a landmark because of the sign that’s on top of it.  In Richmond, Virginia, that’s the case with the Hotel John Marshall. Several years ago, the once grand sixteen story icon had all but faded into the background of Richmond’s historic downtown in dire need of a sign restoration. In 2011, Holiday Signs got the chance to help revive it by restoring its vintage roof marquee.

When the hotel first opened in 1929, it was the largest hotel in Virginia offering all the amenities of luxury hotels of that era. Named after Virginia’s longest serving Supreme Court Chief Justice, its marble and gold lobby, cathedral doorways and spacious stairways lured in many famous guests throughout the years. After the recent $70 million renovation, the refurbished historic hotel now houses multiple floors of residential apartments with retail and office space on the lower levels.

The sign was a historic landmark. It needed work to restore it back to its original vitality. Built years ago and abandoned in 1988, it became a ghostly reminder of its neglected past. It was rusting away. The lighting in the 34 large, 7 foot tall letters was the old incandescent bulb type. There were some 1,400 light bulbs per side which were major energy hogs always in need of maintenance. They regularly burned out and there was a big safety concern involved with changing them.

hotelJM day nightWhen the new owners took on redevelopment in 2009, they needed to make substantial energy improvements to obtain HUD funding. Holiday Signs was chosen as the best firm qualified for the sign restoration. We worked for Choate Interiors, a part of Choate Construction, the General Contractor. Even with the developer’s 3-year relationship with another sign company, we got the www.holidaysigns.com-hotel-john-marshalljob because of our technical expertise. From an owner’s point of view, we wanted to make the investment in the sign renovation economic over the lifetime of the sign: both initial cost, and operating costs of energy and maintenance. We also had to make sure the new cost-efficient signage was historically accurate.

Our creative solution replaced old incandescent bulbs with low-voltage LED lighting that looked historically correct by usingwww.holidaysigns.com-virginia-hotel-led-signs modern digital printing technology. We recommended closed face letters with printed covers that would make them look like the old open-faced bulb letters while offering the LED lighting components protection from the elements of the harsh rooftop environment. We demonstrated prototypes and then met with the Chief Architect for the National Park Service (since the hotel overlooks Richmond’s Slave Trail it is under NPS jurisdiction), and representatives from the City of Richmond and the General Contractor to tweak the digitally printed bulb designs and LED lighting placement to where all parties were satisfied with the effect.

By utilizing LED, power consumption for illumination was reduced by 70%. As an added value service, we worked with Dominion Power to get the General Contractor a substantial rebate for the huge energy reduction. Now, after complete electric sign renovation, the renovated sign casts an accurate image of Richmond’s bygone era while utilizing many of the benefits of modern-day sign and lighting technology in its day to day operation.

www.holidaysigns-richmond-downtown-Hotel John Marshall


     Residences at the John Marshall Website

     Photography Provided by Jim Smith/ Flying Dog Photography,



     printer friendly icon





For New Sign and Signage Restoration Inquiries, Contact: Mark Hackley, Account Executive, mhackley@holidaysigns.com


If you liked this article, you may also like:


Restoration of an Historic Richmond Theater Marquee

How Digital Messaging Can Help Shopping Centers Lure and Retain Tenants

An Important Wayfinding Term to Learn and Remember

See How One Virginia Mixed-Use Development Makes a Huge First Impression

What is Risk-Free Digital Messaging?

The Value of Sign Prototypes and Getting Things Right on the Ground



November 2013-Technically Challenging-Hotel John Marshall 2 size fixed

WAYFINDING SYSTEMS: One of the Functional Mechanical Systems of Facilities

WAYFINDING SYSTEMS: One of the Functional Mechanical Systems of Facilities

NNMC Tower Photo


In the mid-1980’s, I worked as an engineering technician within the Facilities Management Department of the National Naval Medical Center in Bethesda, Maryland.  That’s the hospital that has the 20-story tower that Franklin Roosevelt drew a conceptual sketch for on a napkin as he drove by the site in his convertible in 1937 and I hear has now merged with the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center.  FDR’s hand-drawn sketch used to be on display in the halls of the hospital, the same place where JFK’s body was brought for autopsy after his assassination in 1963.

In about 1986, working with the site’s in-house civil engineers, I helped spearhead the need for an upgraded signage system at the 44-acre campus that housed a world-class hospital, a medical school, and many naval medical research facilities.  I noticed there was little congruity in the existing signs: all different colors, typefaces, shapes, and sizes. The main site identity signage, as well as the various building ID signs, were not well-designed or well-constructed.


Even more, I thought… wouldn’t it be a good idea if all the signs were numbered and labeled and entered into a campus database of signage?  Working in facilities management, I knew the new HVAC system being installed with the new construction at the expanded hospital was all becoming computer-controlled.  Shouldn’t signs be considered a system just like HVAC, plumbing, and electrical systems at a plant?  Shouldn’t that system be identified and maintained just as meticuously as all the rest?  So I drew a site map and located all the existing signs on the map.  Then, I surveyed each sign location.  If it made sense, it would become the location for the new sign, if not, a new location would be selected (if even needed). Next, I systematically developed sign types for the main ID and main directionals, then secondary ID’s and directionals, etc. After the design was complete, all the signs in the system were logged into a database that would help the facilities management department with information like the date the signs were placed in service, the size of each sign, the standard sign type and wording of the signs, the location on a map of each component of the system, as well as any maintenance logs.  The new comprehensive signage design and management system was compiled and presented to and approved by the base commander!


With today’s computer technology, it’s so much easier to design and manage a facility’s signage system. Take a quick look at your site, and ask yourself the following questions:  Is it clearly identified at each entrance by signage that expresses the brand identity of the organization?  Then—once customers, visitors, staff, and vendors arrive—can they find their way around easily?  Are the signs unified into a comprehensive system that creates the effect you want people to feel as they use your campus?  Are the signs on a maintenance schedule just like all the other campus mechanical systems?


Holiday Signs helps facilities managers at hospitals, colleges and universities, airports, and other commercial, medical and professional complexes tackle modern-day wayfinding challenges.  We have design experts on staff to develop solutions that work for the custom environments of our clients.  We utilize new, high-tech methods to help design, manage and maintain effective signage systems—systems that effect brand, safety, and security, and ultimately the impressions made upon the thousands of people who interact with your campus each and every day! www.holidaysigns.com


Written by Mark Hackley, Account Executive, Holiday Signs

Keywords: Wayfinding  Facilities Management  Plant Safety  Campus Safety  Signage  Holiday Signs  NNMC  Directional Signage  Architectural Signs Corporate Identity  Branding  Building Signage  Site Signs  Directories Hospital Signage  College Signage  Healthcare Marketing  School Signs



  • Other Article about Branding & Wayfinding Signage:

What is the Cocooning Effect?

Shopping Center Repositioning

Roanoke Airport’s new Wayfinding System

Re-Branding a Retirement Community

Turning Eyeballs into Smiles

Time to replace your old Message Center?

Time to replace your old Message Center?

VCU Seigel Center

Digital billboard and electronic message centers are still relatively new technology, with LED signs starting to become more prevalent about a decade ago and digital billboards about seven or so years ago, according to LED sign manufacturer Watchfire Signs.

But the technology has come a long way since then, and the new capabilities of LED signs from companies like Watchfire, Daktronics and Formetco are quickly making older model signs outmoded — and making earlier electronic signs even more out of date.

“Our tastes are increasing for better and better resolution, as we watch what happens to our own home television sets,” said John Kunze, Watchfire’s director of sign division sales. Kunze noted that he just recently bought a new flatscreen TV for his home that is bigger, has a better picture and is more energy efficient than one he bought just four years ago, and it was cheaper too. “And in some cases that can even be true with the LED digital displays, the outdoor displays, that they can get improved resolution and image content and actually reduce their purchase cost from where they were even just a few years ago.”

Especially if someone is using an old light bulb- or incandescent bulb-driven sign, upgrading to a new LED sign offers “radically decreased” operational costs from reduced maintenance and power consumption needs, Kunze said.

Even compared to LED signs just a few years old, he said, newer LED signs have greatly increased resolution as LEDs have gotten more and more tightly packed; have gotten brighter and more noticeable as the LEDs themselves have gotten brighter; and have gotten cheaper as they’ve become even more energy efficient. And compared to older light bulb-based displays, the differences are even more starkly pronounced.

For instance, Kunze said, in 2004 Watchfire put in a 14-by-40-foot light bulb display for a client, and the energy requirements were so steep the power company had to run new service and a new transformer for the sign. “And today that same thing on a billboard would use a tenth of that, if they did it with an LED billboard.”

And the ways the signs can be updated has radically changed, he said. Kunze’s been with Watchfire for 23 years, and he says they used to have two communications options: Run a hardline between a computer and the sign, or use a standard analog line for phone modem service with dial-up phone service. “Today in our catalog our communications options take up I think six pages of choices.”

One of the newer ones, cellular broadband, allows billboard or sign operators to run their signs much the same way someone would run a network of signs inside a single retail store. “The operator can lay in bed and update his signs from home, calling up each cellular location and connecting to the IP address and downloading standardized content very easily,” he said. “So anywhere really in the world that they can get Internet service, they can get to and update their signs”.

That kind of connectivity also allows for remote diagnostics, even down to the single pixel or single LED level, he said.

But the change that’s most striking — especially to the important people, those who are seeing the signs as they drive by them — is the difference in image quality and resolution.

“Again to draw the comparison, improvements in [signs] have been phenomenal; I think in part driven by what we see when we go home at night on our TV and what we’ve come to expect out of displays,” Kunze said.

For instance, Kunze said he’d recently seen a mall replace its outdoor LED sign from a 35 mm display to the latest 12 mm display, with increased the number of LEDs per foot by about three-and-a-half times. The mall had a promotion recently that brought in local NFL players for an autograph session and used the sign to show images and video of the players. “Now it looks like they have an extension of their television campaign running on the sign in front of the very busy streets that run by the mall.”

And when it comes time to upgrade or replace an old sign, many sign operators are finding creative uses for their old signs instead of just discarding them, Kunze said. Some will place a new unit at the original, busier location and move the older sign to a lower-traffic location that could still benefit from some added attention brought by the old sign. “So there are a couple of things to do with that older technology besides just send it off to the scrapyard.”

Making the Difference Between Customers Visiting or Just Passing By

SIGNAGE-The Most Visible Element of Branding



In a way it’s like clothing.

Signage is like clothing. If clothing brands the individual, then signage brands the organization.

Buildings: naked arrangements of architectural elements. But what’s in the building? Enter branding.

What makes up the heart of the organization; or on a larger scale, the chain, or the campus? The branding of the building answers all the questions. Good signage reflects the overall branding.

Certainly there are many facets of a brand, but it is important for owners, directors and marketing managers to realize the
role of signage as the first introduction.  In real-life, brick-and-mortar business platforms, packaging, customer service,
management style, community involvement, and similar aspects of a brand all work together to refine the introductory impression left by the company’s signage.

Whether the branded building functions as a retail business, healthcare complex, institution of higher learning, or
corporate headquarters, effective signage is critical to the public’s perception of its characteristics and it helps motivate
decisions to visit or pass.

I have heard many times that brand is the most valuable fixed asset of a corporation.  In the retail environment, branding
is super important.  The more emphasis a company devotes to the development and maintenance of its brand, the more it stands out from the competitors in the marketplace; all on the same busy street.  It all starts at the main entrance sign and
building-mounted branding.  Then, as customers progress through the site and the building, even the effectiveness or
ineffectiveness of the organization’s wayfinding signs leaves a warm fuzzy, or cold ugly feeling about the brand.  It all
starts with the signs.

Well-designed signs that attract attention can readily turn traffic into new customers, and lead existing customers to make
on-going decisions to stop in.  Calculate the huge numbers of potential customers passing by the store each day, each month,
each year, and then compare that level of brand awareness to the awareness gained from other media.  In Charlottesville,
Virginia, vehicles representing 95% of the city’s population travel portions of Route 250 daily.  Other sections of the highway
generate less attention.  Main thoroughfares through Harrisonburg, Winchester, and Waynesboro to the west have 48-65% vehicle to population ratios. The larger the city, the less the ratio due to segmentation. The larger cities of Northern Virginia to
Richmond to Hampton Roads have 12-31% ratios in certain areas.  Roanoke has an average ratio of 18% on Route 11.

Therefore, if you operate a business on an average major highway in Roanoke, with a population of 96,714, chances are you
will have a daily traffic count of 17,000 vehicles, or 25,550 individuals passing your signage every day, using an average of
1.5 passengers per car. Compare the value of a good signage system at your site with any other marketing medium.

The simple conclusion: Signage is the most visible element of branding.

Like your clothing, choose it well and treat it with honor and respect!


See Our Website


For more information about signage to promote your brand, contact Mark Hackley, Account Executive at Holiday Signs


Making the Difference Between Customers Visiting or Just Passing By





  • Articles About Branding & Wayfinding Signage

What is the Cocooning Effect?

Shopping Center Repositioning

Roanoke Airport’s new Wayfinding System

Re-Branding a Retirement Community

Turning Eyeballs into Smiles

Importance of GOOD Digital Sign Content

It’s not the Buns, it’s the Burger!

How to utilize one of the best tools in your marketing toolbox:
The Electronic Message Center


www.holidaysigns.com-where-can-i-buy-electric-signs-in-virginiaThis article was written for those employing digital advertising within the retail financial services industry, but uses an example of how to sell a hamburger to illustrate effective advertising with digital signage. (It applies to any industry using electronic messaging.  Don’t know a lot about electronic messaging yet? Contact Holiday Signs for guidance anytime.)


When you first bite into a burger, it’s not the buns that make you want to take another bite, it’s the meat of the sandwich!  If a digital sign was a sandwich, the meat of the sandwich (good digital sign content) is what drives people to take action.  It’s the well-designed advertising message with meat that sparks curiosity, drives the senses and ultimately leads viewers to come into the store.

Using the hamburger example, it makes sense that good advertising relies on well thought-out content if it is to be effective in attracting customers.  Yes, purchasing a digital sign and operating it with at least some form of advertising is a step above a static-type marquee or no marquee at all.  But in order to maximize return on the investment, taking the time to design effective content is much more important.

How does the financial marketing staff produce great content for its on-premise digital ads?  They just need to consider what makes a good burger.  It all revolves around what people like and involves some research to see what attracts customers. Do they like rare, medium or well-done?  Do they prefer thick or thin patties?  Do they go for onions or tomatoes?  If seventy-five percent like their burgers prepared medium-well, then show these types of burgers in tantalizing ways through creative copy and images on most of the ad sequence. If the rest are split between rare and well-done, every now and then throw a screen up for them too.  One of the many beauties of digital signage is having the ability to advertise to specific and multiple market segments.

Consider the time of day the ads are running.  What type of general mood will the customers be in at 8:00AM versus 5:00PM? 
Consider the collective spending power of the customers as ads are developed so that during a recession period affordability and multi-functional products are promoted, while all the bells and whistles are promoted heavily during the good times.

I recently asked one of our digital sign customers how his sign has been working out for him.  He shared with me that every time he runs a “Help Wanted” ad on the sign, he gets dozens of people flooding the place hourly, but has had mediocre response otherwise to his retail ad campaigns.  While I was talking with him I noticed the time and temperature announcement, a “Like us on Facebook” message and a Smiley Face popping up in rotation, so we had a discussion about CONTENT.  I told him all those things are good filler material, but in order for an electronic message center to pull in the 10-20% extra revenue they are easily capable of doing on roadways with good traffic counts, there has to be some juicy meat for the customer to want to take a pleasurable bite.  He is going to work on his marketing message.

What’s in your hamburger? 


Mark Hackley is an account executive for Holiday Signs of Chester, Virginia





Have You Ever Considered Electronic Messaging for Your Business?

Benefits of Digital Signs

Benefits of Digital Signs- Great Bait for Big Fish


Choosing the Right Lure

In the retail industry, electronic signage designed to capture the eyes of drive-by audiences gives business owners and marketers the ability to build loyalty and brand awareness, enhance customer experiences, and drive financial outcomes. A recent study by Point of Purchase Advertising International (POPAI), says 76% of retail buying decisions were made at the point of purchase in 2012. Even nowadays with all the internet research and online information, the majority of final purchasing decisions still come down to on-site decisions.  So how do you attract the big fish into the parking lot?  Try using digital messaging as the bait.

Bright, animated, adaptable and captivating digital signage allows for customized content to reach drive-by prospects, thereby reaching them when they’re most responsive…right at the front door. Most likely those attracted by the sign were not even considering an immediate purchase, but the sign lured them in to take a look where they are often hooked by a professional salesperson once inside the store.

Who Benefits from Digital Signage?

There are all kinds of bait being used to attract customers: Print ads, TV ads, Radio ads.  They all work, but you really have to consider the cost per 1,000 impressions (CPI). So what are the biggest benefits of digital signs? Digital Signage has the lowest of all CPI and enables retailers and brand marketers to use vibrant, media-rich messages directed to the right audience- right at the time they are passing your car lot. This method controls the message and allows for the delivery of real-time content driven by time, location, demographics, and promotions.

   Digital Signage can be a powerful tool to increase revenues and decrease costs by: 

  • Emphasizing specific highest margin items, specials and limited offers in real-time;
  • Promoting and up-selling featured products at point of purchase;
  • Ability to change targeted messages faster, more easily and less expensively compared with printed signage;
  • Improving brand awareness. *American Marketing Association, 2012

Digital Signs provide a chance for customers and potential customers to connect with a product or brand in new ways. Retailers have control of the systems behind the signage, making it easier to shape how a brand is identified and keeping the message consistent. Digital signage available through Holiday Signs can help pull them in, put dinner on your table, and give you real success stories to tell all your friends about tomorrow…and not stories about the ones that got away!!


Have You Ever Considered Electronic Messaging for Your Business?




Ever wonder How Much a Digital Sign Would Cost? Then Read This…Pricing for Digital Signs



Further Study…

Risk-Free Digital Advertising Part 1

Risk-Free Digital Advertising Part 2

Risk-Free Digital Advertising Part 3

Hospital Branding- Does Wayfinding Improve Patient Satisfaction?

Does Wayfinding Improve Patient Satisfaction?


These days, hospitals are concerned with the overall patient experience, especially patient satisfaction, as it relates to positive branding and marketing. Since patient feedback also affects levels of government reimbursement, patient satisfaction is a timely and important issue for healthcare marketing professionals to seriously consider.

www.holidaysigns.com-richmond-virginia-hospital-wayfinding-branding-healthcare-advertising-marketing-digital-signsBelow are seven ways hospitals can improve patient satisfaction by taking a closer look at their hospital signage:

1)Give your main entrance areas a quick check-up.  Are they visually inviting?  Do they include the word “Welcome”?  Do they effectively present your brand?  If traffic count is substantial at an entrance, is electronic messaging utilized as a valuable marketing tool? How’s the landscaping?  Does the entrance help make the hospital be a community icon?  Can people get a good sense of direction upon entering to easily find their way to important areas like parking, the ER, the main hospital and outpatient areas?

2)Take a good look at your exterior wayfinding system.  Is it doing its job in directing patients, visitors, staff and vendors?  Every day many people visit a hospital campus for the very first time.  If they have a pleasant experience, they tend to leave with a warm, fuzzy feeling.  A big part of the overall experience and patient satisfaction is being able to comfortably find the way around. Does the current directional sign system have a common theme?  Are there campus maps that help folks get to their destinations with ease? Are there standard sign types, or is the campus a hodge-podge of different sign designs?  Are the directions current?  Are the standard traffic and parking signs tied in with the rest of the system for a unified look?  Are the graphics visible to people of all ages, with adequate letter heights and color combinations?  Do the signs reflect and promote the brand?  Are the signs effective in directing traffic both by day and night?

3)Consider the interior wayfinding system as well.  Does it tie into the overall campus wayfinding system?  Does it
effectively brand the hospital?  Is it ADA compliant?  Are there maps and directories at the entrances and at each floor
landing area to help guide people around the facility?

4)Are Parking Garage and Parking Lot Signage doing their job to get people where they need to be?  One of the biggest patient satisfaction complaints in visits to airports, hospitals, shopping malls, etc. is people not being able to find their vehicles when they
leave.  This is especially important for healthcare facilities serving an aging demographic.  Check to see if lot signs make
sense and are clear, concise, and visible.  Is there adequate direction to the main areas as people leave the lots for their

5)What type of branding is displayed on the main tower?
  Make sure the main building is well-branded as you use your resources to develop an overall campus branding
statement.  What better place to hang a logo sign with a meaningful tagline than on an elevated place for the entire
surrounding area to see and become comfortable with?  Make sure this main branding is highlighted 24 hours a day.

6)When promoting a new physician, a new service, or new community partnership, do you use the entrance signage as a backdrop for photos?  Using the entrance branding helps the public identify the hospital as a positive destination.  Another reason why strong efforts should be made to keep the entrance an inviting community icon.

7)Do you regularly audit your facility’s parking lot lighting and signage to make sure patients, visitors and staff are
safe, able to find their way around, and always have a great feeling about your brand?  
Good advice for a brand-conscious marketer wanting to maximize the overall patient experience!

-Mark Hackley is an account executive with Holiday Signs of Richmond, Virginia.  

Would You Do Business With YOU?

Time for a Company Sign Inspection?

   I attended a marketing seminar yesterday where they were discussing effective direct mail campaigns. They mentioned you have one second to affect the decision of a potential customer as they look at your mail piece with their hand over the trash can. That means you really have to pay attention to detail as you design your marketing piece: Is it the right color? Should it be a postcard, an envelope, or a flyer? Is it saying the right thing? How about the fonts being used? Should you use photos or illustrations? 

richmond-virginia-sign-companies   Now, consider what potential customers think about your business as they drive by on the roadway. They have basically the same amount of time as the guy looking at his mail.  That guy had a handful of letters all crying, “Read me! Read me!”  The people passing your store have rows of stores all competing for their attention.  So shouldn’t your signs receive the same or even greater attention in planning and design as a direct mail piece? Are the letters big enough to read from the road?  Are the signs really branding the business?  Are the colors right?  Do the signs grab attention both day and night?  Would message boards help attract interest?

   Take a look at your signs and how others view your store from the road.  Take a good, hard look to make sure you are pulling in every car you can from the highway as new customers, and retaining the ones you have.  And good signs will not only increase quantity of business, but improve quality of business.  The branding statement you make through your signs will attract the type of clients you want to focus on.  Signs are one of the most important elements of branding, so make sure yours answer the most important question: “Would I do business with myself if I was passing by?”


   Mark Hackley is an Account Executive with Holiday Signs of Chester, VA


Have You Ever Considered Electronic Messaging for Your Business?

Risk-Free Digital Advertising Part 1

Risk-Free Digital Advertising Part 2

Risk-Free Digital Advertising Part 3