The International Sign Association UK (ISA-UK) plays a crucial role in fostering collaboration within the UK sign industry. By managing relationships with companies across the sign, graphics, and visual communications industry, ISA-UK strives to create a supportive community beyond a mere badge on a website footer.
To help support these objectives, Sign Trade Supplies has recently become a member of ISA-UK and is looking forward to actively participating in its ongoing development and initiatives. CEO of ISA-UK, Craig Brown, emphasises the need for meaningful connections and warns of the dangers of treating it like a gym membership where initial enthusiasm can wane without consistent engagement.
He says, “I often use the gym analogy as it illustrates the key issue we and other trade associations often suffer from. People get excited about joining a gym, with great ambitions of regular attendance and a healthy new lifestyle. But after the first few weeks, work and other priorities take over, and after a while, the excuses for not going become the norm and the investment is wasted. The people who succeed in maintaining value from the gym (and also their membership of a trade association) are those who commit to regular engagement and build it into their daily routines.”
After 35 years in the industry, Sign Trade Supplies has the opportunity to share its knowledge and experience, as well as tap into the collective wisdom of the ISA-UK members and directors. Garrick Dartnell, Head of Marketing at Sigh Trade Supplies, says, “We are delighted to be part of the ISA-UK community and are very keen to be as involved as possible. We see this as an excellent opportunity to be part of the conversations and initiatives that shape our industry and help it deal with the issues and challenges it faces.”
He adds, “As a trade supplier, we are often in the background and tend not to be noticed. However, through our huge range of products and many years of experience, we are very well-positioned to offer advice and guidance to the industry. We are also keen to learn from our peers and, as much as possible, be part of the important work the association does for the industry.”
Craig acknowledges this, “Beyond being badge holders, trade suppliers are encouraged to contribute to the industry’s future actively. When trade suppliers like Sign Trade Supplies join, they come with a huge amount of knowledge. And, for me, that’s the one thing our industry isn’t very good at – sharing knowledge.”
Elevating Standards for Industry Resilience
Standards form the bedrock of ISA-UK’s mission, ensuring the safety and longevity of signage structures. Craig highlights the ongoing efforts to establish guidelines for British standard 559 part 1 and part 2, addressing product standards, fabrication, and maintenance issues. “This initiative involves working closely with The BSI to develop policies and processes that safeguard the industry and ensure compliance to prevent potential catastrophes. In signage, standards are our cornerstone. Whether a customer is overseeing 1 project or 150 branches, they need assurance on the safety of their signage in all conditions.”
As well as focusing on industry standards, ISA-UK actively promotes education for members and their teams through webinars, research papers, and industry trends. Craig suggests leveraging social media for effective information dissemination, recognising the importance of staying current on technical and regulatory issues. He envisions a dynamic approach, “Social media, including short videos, could be instrumental in disseminating knowledge. We look to our members in particular to support this and companies like Sign Trade Supplies, who invest in marketing themselves, can be a huge help in terms of their industry-specific knowledge and experience.”
Transparency to help build the community
In a commitment to transparency, ISA-UK extends information beyond its membership, demonstrating the benefits of being part of the association to the broader community. Craig asserts, “One of my main objectives is to communicate the great work we and our members do to the wider sign community to demonstrate the benefit of being part of this active and vibrant association. I don’t want to be a secret squirrel, only giving information to the members. What we do is relevant to everyone in the industry and I am committed to building on this.”
For instance, ISA-UK regularly receives information with local councils, “I’d like to take this a step further and see the engagement working both ways. By engaging in informative exchanges with local councils, we could facilitate a mutual learning process. We’d aim to empower these councils with valuable insights, filtering pertinent information back to our members. This approach would ensure our members benefit from a well-informed standpoint, minimising the need for constant challenges and fostering a collaborative relationship with local authorities,” explains Craig.
He continues, “Broader communications is also why we are now a regular attendee at Sign & Digital, with our Explains Lounge. Here you will find a full programme of seminars from members and others in the industry. It is also a chance to come and talk to me and other directors and members about the association, what we do and the wider industry in general.”
Proactive industry resilience
The ISA-UK’s proactive approach is highlighted through another key issue affecting the UK and international sign market and showcasing the interconnectedness of the sign-making industry – the Suez Canal blockage. By anticipating challenges and fostering information exchange, ISA-UK aims to ensure industry resilience and adaptability.
Craig recalls an email received at the start of this year, “I had a joint trade association inquire about the impact of containers being unable to pass through the Suez Canal. We were able to offer feedback as well as reach out to members who may already have felt market shifts, You might think, as a smaller entity, what difference does it make? But if you can’t access your materials due to a three to four week detour of your supply as it goes around the Bay of Biscay, it could easily become a significant challenge.”
“Situations like this are not unique, and they can have a significant impact on most members, and we want to help them in these circumstances. Members like Sign Trade Supplies are particularly affected by these global supply events and are very well placed to offer accurate information and effective solutions.”
The incident with the Suez Canal serves as a reminder that the sign-making industry is part of a larger global ecosystem. “By sharing information on potential challenges, ISA-UK not only stays ahead of industry trends but also fosters a community where members can collectively navigate unforeseen disruptions. This story reinforces the notion that exchanging information, no matter how seemingly unrelated, is crucial for the industry’s resilience and adaptability,” says Craig.
In summary, ISA-UK’s collaborative approach with industry partners exemplifies the importance of fostering a community-driven ecosystem. ISA-UK, with the help of members like Sign Trade Supplies, aims to create a thriving environment that benefits sign-makers and the broader community by actively sharing knowledge, setting industry standards, and navigating challenges together.