written by: Joe Taylor Jr.•edited by: Daniel P. McGoldrick•updated: 11/12/2010
Careers in desktop publishing have popped up in unusual places over the last few decades. We take signs for granted, but developments in DTP technology have made it possible for all kinds of businesses to create sophisticated corporate signs and promotional banners.
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How Desktop Publishing Changed Sign Making
For professional sign-making companies, desktop publishing tools put affordable professional identities into the hands of business owners from all kinds of economic backgrounds. Where highly specialized craftspeople once dominated the field, today’s sign-making industry includes thousands of desktop publishing professionals who command advanced printing and manufacturing tools.
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Fifty years ago, sign makers handcrafted company logos and letterforms into elegant roadside signs and wall hangings. While some vintage signs still exist, especially in smaller towns, the need for businesses to stay current put pressure on sign makers to adopt desktop publishing technology. Today, DTP jobs in sign making companies allow professionals to control sophisticated plotters and metal cutters. Working from vector graphics in popular desktop publishing applications, operators can craft raw parts that can be assembled easily by installers.
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With affordable design tools and printing technology, many business owners make professional signage a part of their promotional campaigns. Desktop publishing professionals working at sign makers and at quick printing centers can quickly generate high quality banners at retail costs of a few hundred dollars or less. Though new printing techniques have made banners affordable, desktop publishing experts use their design skills to make banners effective.
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Thanks to a new generation of printers, plotters, and fabrication tools, today’s sign makers are no longer confined to the canvas of company walls, easels, and banners. Custom signage professionals use desktop publishing tools to create marketing devices out of everything from buildings to motor vehicles. A growing number of careers in desktop publishing include highly creative tasks like “wrapping" city buses or draping entire convention halls in flexible corporate signage. DTP professionals must use their design training to compensate for curves, bends, and other unusual shapes that might distort or disturb a client’s message.
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Where to Find Sign Making Jobs
With quality signs now a hallmark of a healthy business, the sign-making industry has undergone a transformation of sorts. In many larger cities, established sign-making companies still hire apprentices at rates of $10-$12 per hour. Desktop publishing professionals with skills in design software and mechanical engineering can double their hourly rates by working as design and installation specialists. Other businesses, like print shops and copy centers, now offer sign making as part of their professional desktop publishing services. Finally, a growing number of national sign-making companies franchise their operational models, making it easy for careers in desktop publishing to include ownership of a franchised business.
Though desktop publishing professionals tend to use similar tools, their jobs can involve a wide range of activities in a variety of fields. This six part series explores five of the most common industries employing DTP experts, along with tips for students who want to find desktop publishing jobs.