Michelle Henry… we talk to a judge ahead of the Sign and Wrap Awards

We caught up with one of the three members of the judging panel to find out a bit more about the process. This is the second year that Michelle Henry of Wise Studios in New Zealand has been in the hot seat, and, as she told me, the competition is as tough as ever.

Michelle Henry is a signwriter for Wise Studios in New Zealand, and a judge for the Sign and Wrap Awards

Have you enjoyed being a judge again? What do you like about doing this? 

It’s been a bit of a mixed bag, to be honest. On one hand, I absolutely love diving into all the entries and witnessing the incredible effort everyone puts in. It’s a real boost to see the creativity flowing, especially from the UK —they’re killing it!

But, on the flip side, it’s very time-consuming. You really feel the weight of responsibility to do the job justice and be fair to everyone. It ends up eating into way more hours than you anticipate. Juggling it with dog walks and my day job adds an extra layer of challenge. But hey, despite the craziness, I’d still sign up for it again in a heartbeat.

Michelle is a 4th generation signwriter in her family. She is pictured here with an image of her grandad.

What are the challenges?

Well, the challenges are multifaceted. Firstly, with the limited information provided, it’s tough to gauge the true difficulty of a project. We also strive for fairness, so we do our best to see beyond the glossy marketing added by those who can afford professional agencies.

Aligning schedules with the other judges can also be quite a task. However, compared to what Dan faces, our challenges seem minuscule. He not only organises the event but also designs the programme that streamlines our judging process (he’s a real tech whiz), all while navigating constant travel to and from conflict zones in Ukraine. It’s truly inspiring to witness his dedication.

What can you say about the volume and standard of entries for the awards this year? Any surprises?

Wow, the volume and standard of entries for this year’s awards have blown me away! While I thought last year’s submissions were impressive, this year takes it to a whole new level. I’ve found myself really struggling to choose between the entries because the quality is exceptionally high.

I’ve easily doubled the amount of time I’ve spent reviewing all the entries this year, solely because they’re so outstanding. I believe attendees at the awards are in for some surprises. Some of the entries showcase incredible creativity and diversity, demonstrating what our industry is truly capable of. I hope it inspires other sign companies to push boundaries moving forward. There’s virtually nothing this trade can’t do—except maybe spell, but hey, we’re working on it!

Without giving anything away – are there any outstanding elements that come out from the entries?

Definitely! This year’s entries showcase some incredible craftsmanship. What’s particularly striking is how many entries have incorporated contemporary twists into traditional principles. With competition fierce, clients having tight budgets, and a growing emphasis on sustainability, I anticipate seeing even more innovation in the future, and that’s something I’m really excited about. 


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