Signmaking

If you want a career where you can get creative and use a variety of practical skills to produce a wide range of signage, signmaking could suit you.

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What does it involve:

The Signmaking apprenticeship provides work based training for young people and adults to undertake key technical and operational roles in the Signmaking Industries. 

The signmaking process involves many diverse skills, from computer graphic design through to digital signage and incorporates materials such as Perspex, vinyl, plastic, metal, glass and wood. Various methods are used to produce lettering for signs, depending on the project – for example, computer-controlled routers for 3D lettering and shapes from various materials, cutting and applying lettering or digital imagery to panels, banners and vehicles. 

Screen-printing may also be used to produce posters and show cards, while traditional sign writing could involve designing by hand and painting with sign writing brushes using enamel and water based paints. Apprentices need to learn a range of skills including how to design signs; prepare different types of surfaces; cut out and build letters and logos; use digital LED technologies and install signs. The use of self adhesive pressure sensitive vinyl makes up a huge part of the modern sign shop including wide format digital printing, laminating and application of vinyl to various substrates.

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Typical day

Typically, an 8-hour day (possibly shift work). The nature of the work will vary with the employer, but it could involve machining, colour vinyl wrapping vehicles, printing, hand decorating, spray-painting and screen-printing.

 

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How could I get into the industry?

A minimum of NCEA Level 1 is preferred to enter further training. Useful subjects include English, mathematics, visual arts, technology, computing and graphics. Students can also earn signmaking unit standards through the Gateway programme at their school. The standards include both theory and practical components, so students can gain NCEA. Level 2 and Level 3 credits as well as practical work experience.

Source: New Zealand Sign and Display Association.

What kind of jobs could I do?

Signmakers may do some or all of the following:

  • discuss design ideas with clients 
  • create designs, lettering and layouts using a computer or sometimes by hand 
  • make neon or illuminated (LED) signs 
  • put signs onto a variety of surfaces, including billboards, cars and buildings 
  • seal finished surfaces with a chemical spray and clear vinyl 
  • clean and maintain equipment 
  • prepare quotes. 

Signmakers need to have:

  • skills and knowledge in art, design and layout techniques
  • skills in using computers and industrial printers, and knowledge of computer ---graphic design programs
  • knowledge of hand-lettering techniques for traditional signmaking
  • knowledge of paints and solvents, and how they react on different surfaces
  • practical abilities – for putting up scaffolding and signs.

Signmakers who run their own companies also need business and marketing skills.

Does this sound like you?

Study areas Attributes  Helpful experience   Preferred work environments 
  • English or Media Studies or History 
  • Sciences or Workshop Technology 
  • Creative Arts (Visual / Textiles / Graphics/ 
  • Performance / Music) 
  • Computing / ICT / Information Management 
  • Confident communicator 
  • Good at precision work 
  • Confidence with IT, computers, 
  • technology 
  • Good at problem solving/creative 
  • Customer service or helping people 
  • Making or fixing things 
  • Selling or persuading people 
  • Working with machinery 

 

  • Inside (workshop or plant) 
  • Outside (outdoors) 
  • Different places from time to time 
  • Lots of different places every day 

How much could I earn?

  • Newly Qualified

    $30k- $50k

  • 5 years experience

    $60k- $90k

Career pathway

School Entry level jobs  Advancing jobs  Senior jobs 
NCEA - English, Maths, Visual Arts, Technology, Computing or Graphics may be useful  Signwriter
  • Specialist Signwriter 
  • Senior Signwriter 
  • Team Leader 
  • Manager 
  • Business Manager 
  • Business Owner 
Unit/Achievement standards in schools  Apprenticeship  Higher learning  Higher learning

For more information