The Sign Awards – thoughts from a judge

Following on from our interview with one of the judges of The Sign Awards, Michelle Henry from Signwise Group in New Zealand, we have had another chat with her to find out more about the role and some of the thinking behind their selections.

Michelle Henry, part of The Sign Awards judging panel
Greens the Signmakers pick up the Signage Company of the Year (30+ employees) award sponsored by The Smith Group

EoD: So – the winners are announced! How hard was it to choose, and how did the process work with your other judges?

MH: To say it was hard is an understatement. We had to judge the first two rounds in isolation. This was hard. You do not get a lot of written content to judge it by, so you have to draw from your own personal experiences.

It felt great to be able to discuss and debate with the other judges, and it was really interesting to hear the other judges’ points of view. We changed our minds on a few categories over and over again. Those were on the projects where there really wasn’t much in it. 

EoD: Were there any that you were particularly passionate about that you were determined to fight the corner of? Which ones and why?

MH: Luckily for me, the ones that I was most passionate about, the other judges were also. For example, the roll-out project. On paper, Astley would have won this. It was a huge project with lots of in-house fabrication and was completed to a very high standard.  But it was obvious that this had been completed by a huge company, with big teams and fantastic procedures. Had they been up against anyone else, they would have won hands down.

But to my mind, this project was easier to complete than The Slims Chicken one (Custom Signwriting.) Here, it was made clear that this was a one-man band calling on the help of other one-(wo)man bands to help.  The sheer skill to complete so many sites on such a tight deadline whilst having to create artwork on the go and hand paint everything was amazing. What an achievement. And not the usual entry for a roll-out category.

EoD: Choosing the industry champion must have been really hard as they were all great nominees – what was the clincher for this one?

MH: How can anyone compete with Sam Armstrong? Yes, the entries were fantastic. I doubt any other country can boast about having so many great industry leaders, but Sam has achieved so much, and her work helps the industry on every level.

She trains our sales reps so that they have a thorough understanding of what they are selling. She upskills our youngsters and has really made the industry look cool to outsiders. And she is now pushing sustainability. There is no stopping her.

The amount of time and effort that Sam has dedicated to the sign trade on a global level is phenomenal. She deserves the title.

EoD: Without going through each award – can you offer some insights into the specific elements that helped some of the winners win? 

MH: If I could give advice to any entrants going forward, it would be to include a presentation as part of your evidence. The limited amount of wording that you can submit does not give us the full picture. We really appreciated the entries that included a presentation which outlined the brief, the solution and the ‘how.’

As judges, we could appreciate the time and effort of every project, they really were all amazing. But we needed to know that it fulfilled the requirements of the brief, that it provided the best solution possible and that it was manufactured and installed with true craftmanship. 

EoD: Best in show was Spencer Signs Harrier Park project – what made this installation stand out?

MH: If ever there was a WOW project, this was it. Everything was executed to perfection. It more than fulfilled the brief. It was a challenging project, and Spencer signs made it look easy. Spencer Signs were one of the entrants to include a presentation as part of their evidence, and they covered all aspects of the work, from the design to the engineering to the aesthetics. I just love how they didn’t cut any corners. Every rivet was perfectly spaced and aligned.

EoD: How does doing the whole judging process make you feel about the sign industry?

MH: I am so proud of our industry. I have always suspected that we are a cool bunch but being in the privileged position to see so many fantastic, creative and well-engineered projects confirmed this for me. So keep it up UK! Keep pushing those ideas and taking calculated risks. That is what makes the UK sign industry so vibrant.

Final thoughts

MH: I really hope that these awards continue. They promote so much creativity and industry growth.  I think that it is easy to underestimate just how important they are. Dan Tyler has done an amazing job, and I hope that the industry gives him and all the sponsors the thanks and acknowledgement that they deserve. Without all of them, there would be no awards.

Dan Tyler concluded, “It was a pleasure to work with all our judges. I don’t envy the job they had, but I think they did it brilliantly. They used all their experience and knowledge to scrutinise every application in detail and provide a comprehensive shortlist of finalists and, ultimately, the very worthy winners and runners-up. We couldn’t ask for any more, and we are delighted to invite them to be the judges again for the expanded Sign & Wrap Awards next year.”

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The Sign and Wrap Awards

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