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Friday, February 27, 2009

Vector -VS- Bitmap: A basic breakdown

When creating signs with images or logos, designers prefer what is known as a vectored graphic. There are two major types of 2D graphics. These are Vector and Bitmap images.

Bitmap-based images are comprised of pixels in a grid. Each pixel or “bit” in the image contains information about the color to be displayed. Bitmap images have a fixed resolution and cannot be resized without losing image quality. Common bitmap-based formats are JPEG, GIF, TIFF, PNG, PICT, and BMP. Resolution refers to the number of pixels in an image and is usually stated as dpi (dots per inch) or ppi (pixels per inch). Bitmap images are displayed on your computer screen at screen resolution: approximately 100 ppi.


Key Points About Bitmap Images:
• pixels in a grid
• resolution dependent
• resizing reduces quality
• easily converted
• restricted to rectangle
• minimal support for transparency

Common bitmap formats include:
• PICT (Macintosh)
• PSD (Adobe Photoshop)

Vector graphics are made up of many individual, scalable objects. Each of these objects can be defined by mathematical statements rather than pixels and has individual properties assigned to it such as color, fill, and outline. Vector graphics are resolution independent because they can be output to the highest quality at any scale. Changing the attributes of a vector object does not effect the object itself. You can freely change any number of object attributes without destroying the basic object. Because they’re scalable, vector-based images are resolution independent. You can increase and decrease the size of vector images to any degree and your lines will remain crisp and sharp, both on screen and in print. Fonts are a type of vector object.


Key Points About Vector Images
• scalable
• resolution independent
• no background
• cartoon-like
• inappropriate for photo-realistic images
• metafiles contain both raster and vector data

Common vector formats include:
• AI (Adobe Illustrator)
• CDR (CorelDRAW)
• CMX (Corel Exchange)
• CGM Computer Graphics Metafile
• WMF Windows Metafile

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Moratorium extended on digital signs in L.A.

On December 17, 2008 Los Angeles enacted a ban on digital billboards and supergraphics. Today I found out that they extended the ban on Tuesday for 45 more days, pledging to adopt tougher penalties for illegal signs. It appears that the ban will continue to be in effect until at least late March in order to give the city more time to update the city’s sign ordinance. The original moratorium, which was set to expire on March 26, was approved in December following a citizen uproar over a flurry of new digital billboards and supergraphics, especially on the Westside, Hollywood and parts of the San Fernando Valley as well as years of court challenges and political maneuvering that have undermined existing billboard regulations. Council members said city staff needed more time to craft regulations that could withstand court challenges from the sign industry, which has been successful in the past in blocking stricter regulation.

Since the moratorium was passed, several new billboards and supergraphics have appeared, some of which have been taken down after protests from residents and city officials. Last week, the city Planning Commission delayed a vote on a new ordinance for a month to give neighborhood groups, merchants and the sign industry more time to comment. That prompted the council to extend the moratorium until May 10.

"The ICO [Interim Control Ordinance] will expire on March 26, 2009, but the legislative process to approve changes to the City’s sign ordinances may not be completed by March 26. If the ICO is allowed to lapse for even one day, "a flurry of illegal signs could be installed and be nearly impossible to remove later," stressed a statement from Councilman Jack Weiss' office. According to the Los Angeles daily news, there should be twenty inspectors working full time on the inventory. Councilman Bill Rosendahl said that once the inventory is complete, a new sign ordinance should be passed that imposes heavy fines on companies that erect illegal or non-permitted billboards.

Councilman Jack Weiss said the report is overdue.

"Make no mistake: This city is suffering under an onslaught - not just from billboards, but the supergraphics that are wrapping themselves around tall buildings," Weiss said. "The architecture of this city is devolving into advertising."

Councilman Dennis Zine suggested considering use of the Community Redevelopment Agency to pressure landlords in redevelopment areas - particularly in downtown and Hollywood - to refuse to allow their buildings to be used for the massive signs. Council President Eric Garcetti, whose district includes Hollywood, said he has worked to close loopholes in development agreements that allowed the signs to proliferate.

A number of developers and business representatives urged the council not to adopt the moratorium, especially on the vinyl super-graphics that stretch across sides of buildings, arguing that the income from those ads was critical to their bottom line. In 2002, officials approved a ban on outdoor advertising and sought to inspect and create an inventory of all the billboards in the city. At the time, the department of building and safety estimated there were 10,000 billboards in Los Angeles – with an undetermined number of them lacking permits and illegal.

Clear Channel Outdoor and CBS Outdoor, two of the largest billboard companies in the city, filed suit, arguing that the restrictions were in part an infringement on their 1st Amendment rights. In 2006, they reached a settlement with Delgadillo – later approved by the council and Villaraigosa – that allowed 840 of their billboards to be “modernized” and upgraded to digital displays. The city thus far has issued permits allowing 95 billboards to be converted to digital displays. Those settlements have since been criticized as a giveaway to the billboard companies and for undercutting the city’s attempt to restrict digital billboards proposed by other outdoor advertising companies.

It appears that the council will have another fight on it's hands soon. Clear Channel Outdoor warned the council before the vote that it might take legal action to block the ban. Given the litigious history of the billboard companies in Los Angeles – the city faces more than 25 lawsuits filed by outdoor advertising companies challenging restrictions on the signs – city officials said they expected a court challenge.

You can find more information on this story by clicking these links:
LA Times
The Digital Outsider
Add Tech

Thanks for reading!

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Mullet Place Street: Signs the mullet lives on

The hairstyle is short on the top and long in the back, and in Green Bay the mullet has it's very own street signs — at least when the signs haven't been stolen.

Mullet Place may not be named for the kind of hair design that became popular a few decades ago, but fans apparently like to grab the signs anyway because they disappear several times a year.

"We've gone through a lot of Mullet Place signs," said Chris Pirlot of the city Public Works Department. "My only guess is that people are still in love with the '70s and '80s when the mullet haircut was prominent. I don't know."

At times, every sign on the two-block street has been gone, frustrating some residents.

"When you tell somebody directions how to get to your place, you've got to tell them it's the third road on the left, because there's no sign to tell them how to get to Mullet Place," said Richard Fleischfresser.

The city has attempted to stop the thievery by mounting the signs beyond anyone's reach, about 20 feet from the ground.

Pirlot said it costs $100 each to replace the signs.

Stealing one can cost a lot more. Police say anyone caught taking a street sign can be fined $361 for theft plus $676 for criminal damage to property.

That’s a lot for a mullet! I dug and dug with the hope of finding a picture of this most coveted sign, but alas… it was a loss.


Information from: WLUK-TV,

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Madison plans to update their 27-year-old sign code

According to the Wisconsin State Journal, the town of Madison will be reviewing, revising and updating their sign code. It has taken them 12 years to arrive at this decision. The city has been working on the revision since 1997, when former Mayor Sue Bauman created a special staff team to address a problem with the number of ground signs allowed on zoning lots. The update has taken years due to changes in staff, UDC membership and other priorities such as the new Downtown plan and overhaul of the zoning code, officials said. Though this process has taken 12 years to get underway, it appears that they are really adamant about making the changes happen.

The update seeks to strike a balance between First Amendment rights, fast-changing technology, creativity and visual pollution. The attempt to allow more creativity will help, Woods said. "If it's a good looking sign, we'll approve it." However, there will still be strong restrictions on electronic message boards and the code for billboard signs will remain the same. It appears that, when it comes to electronic message boards, there seems to be mixed opinions. While some seem to think the signs are a tremendous tool for businesses, there have been many who disagree.

"Signs should be about identification, not advertising," Barnett said, noting that some members of the UDC would like to prohibit message boards. "The boards are also visually distracting," he said.

"I personally don't see the need for them," said UDC chairman Bruce Woods, a landscape architect. “Some flash advertisements for things like six rolls of toilet paper for 99 cents. Do we really need to know that?"

Despite the controversy over electronic signage, I am glad to see that some cities are willing to re-address the sign codes. For many cities and states the sign codes are down right difficult to comprehend, not to mention highly restrictive. And yet others have banned the use of certain types of signage all together. Where the sign codes in this little town may mean nothing to many others, in the sign industry we can see it as a small step into the light. Hopefully, where one might lead, others will be willing to follow.


For more information on this story, click here. Original story by Dean Mosiman of the Wisconsin State Journal.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

More Hacked Signs

On January 29th of this year, I posted concerning a hacker who changed the message on a digital road sign. Well, it appears someone else decided that (post: Inside Programmable Road Signs on Tuesday, 20 January 2009) had a great idea. In Lubbock , TX. a copy cat changed a digital sign at the loop and spur of 327 to read "OMG the British are coming." Then flashed to, "They are watching you." Originally the sign told motorists that the Frankford exit was the next right. While some motorists found the sign to be humorous, TxDOT says this could be a third degree felony, for which the punishment is 2-10 years of imprisonment or up to a $10,000.00 fine.

On Tuesday during the morning rush hour near Collinsville, Ill., a hacker changed a sign to read, “Daily lane closures due to zombies.”

A day earlier in Hamilton County, Ind., an electronic board in a construction zone warned drivers of “Raptors ahead — Caution.”

And signs in Austin, Texas, recently flashed: “Zombies in area! Run.” "NAZI ZOMBIES! RUN!!!" And "Zombies Ahead."

For several hours Monday, a message board along a road-widening project in Chico, a college town about 90 miles north of Sacramento, read "CHUCK NORRIS FOR PRESIDENT."

A member of the Jalopnik team (who also posted a step-by-step instructions about how to hack these signs) posted this: "We told you yesterday not to play with the electronic road signs. Still, we're proud of you guys — mostly because it's the first time we've seen the zombie meme making it to the mainstream media. And the Today Show no less. Yay."

You can follow this link to see an assortment of signs these steps have created -

I still stand by my earlier ascertains that this type of thing is merely humorous and not life threatening to the drivers who read it. However, considering I don't carry $10,000.00 worth of change around with me, I won't be out staking my claim on a digital sign any time soon. For more information on these stories:

Click here to visit News Channel 11, KCBD.

Click here to visit news channel WIBC.

Click here to read about the Chuck Norris sign.


Friday, February 6, 2009

Huntington Beach sign spinners

According to the LA Times, Huntington Beach has stuck to it's guns when it comes to sign spinners.

Mark Boster / Los Angeles Times
Carlos Soto, left, and Ricardo Marin spin signs in Costa Mesa. Huntington Beach officials say the practice is too distracting to drivers, and one city councilman calls the ads “a form of visual blight.”

The recent economic decline caused the Huntington Beach Planning Commission to revisit the ban they had previously placed on sign spinners. while the planning commission supported allowing the sign spinners, City Council members weren't convinced. It appears that the drop in sales and the decline of employment wasn't enough to convince Surf City officials that sign spinning might be a boon right now. According to Surf City officials, "the twirlers, many equipped with flashy moves or costumes, are just too distracting to drivers". And Councilman Don Hansen, whom described sign twirlers as "a form of visual blight," claimed that "The signs are just getting larger and almost more obnoxious. I hope we're not leveraging our hope of economic growth on the backs of the sign-twirling industry," Hansen said. "I don't think that's our way out; I don't think that's the job that most folks are pinning their hopes on."

Whether hopes are pinned on such jobs are not, it would seem that it simply isn't in the cards for Huntington Beach residents and neither is this cheap form of advertising. Personally, I would think that anything with the remote possibility of helping the community survive - the city thrive and flourish- should become a tolerated possibility. In these trying and lean times every dollar counts. If that means staring at gorillas on street corners or watching Lady Liberty wave, I'd say it's a small price to pay.


For the whole story visit the LA Times.
Original story by Susannah Rosenblatt
February 6, 2009

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Funny Signs in England

What if you had to live in a town called Crapstone? or Pratts Bottom? OR, worse yet, Penistone? What if you lived on Butt Hole Road? How would you answer the question of, "What's your address"? Would you blush as the words left your lips? Mumble it out and hope the listener understood? Wish with all your might that you lived somewhere else but proudly proclaim the name? Well, in England they seem to have a wealth of such town names and luridly funny street names, as well as a healthy mix of opinions. But, being that I am centered around the sign industry, it is the actual signs themselves that leave me breathless with mirth.

Though the residents have varied and tactful responses to Sarah Lyall, a reporter with The New York Times, I can only imagine (and cringe at) their embarrassment. Had it been I that was questioned, I would have quickly slunk off to a hidden corner and remained there till I was sure all had gone home. However, it appears that, despite any embarrassment, residents of such towns enjoy the humorous aspect and the double entendres of the names. I suppose it makes more sense if you picture a pub in England where the old timers sit around drinking a beer or two while reminiscing about good old days in Spanker Lane or Wetwang. How pleasantly quaint! Just the thought causes my lips to quirk in a smile.

The fact is, no matter how you envision such obtuse and politically incorrect verbiage, you have to admit that it certainly gives people something to talk about! What better way to spend the day than taking a hike down Butt Hole Road, Fanny Avenue, Willey Lane, Titty Ho or Asshouse Lane with a few of your closest friends? Or spending the day taking in the sites of Crapstone? Come on now... you know you want to laugh... go ahead... we won't tell!

For more information on lurid and politically incorrect street names and towns, Ed Hurst, a co-author with Rob Bailey, of “Rude Britain: The 100 Rudest Place Names in Britain” and “Rude UK: 100 Newly Exposed British Back Passages, Streets, and Towns,” gives you more than you could possibly imagine. In "Rude Britain", Rob Bailey and Ed Hurst take readers on a delightful stroll up Lickers Lane to Honey Knob Hill, peek into Beaver Close and enjoy a well-deserved sit down in the delightful Dorset hamlet of Shitterton. Then, after a year touring around the bestselling "Rude World", Rob and Ed have decided to return to dear old Blighty. The result is a triumphant homecoming tour that has uncovered 100 more delightfully rude British place names to treasure, from the hidden charms of Slack Bottom and Fanny Street to an unforgettable glimpse of Cocking. Filled with photographs of actual road signs and the fascinating etymological origins of every featured place name, this delightfully rude book is laugh-out-loud funny though the authors are keen to stress that it is all perfectly innocent (, 2008).


Further information on this story can be found in The New York Times By SARAH LYALL. Published: January 22, 2009 .

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