How To Rock Architectural Signage for 30 Years

March 2015


Latitude Signage Latimer Group Celebrates 30 Years of Service in Architectural Signage

Headquartered in Grinnell, Iowa we have serviced the architectural sign industry for over 30 years. Over that time we’ve worked with many great people and created some of the best architectural signage across Iowa, Illinois, Nebraska, Colorado and Wyoming.

The last 30 years have been a journey and today we have 100 employees who work out of our 50,000 sq ft, state-of-the-art facility in Grinnell, IA with six satellite offices.

This is quite an achievement, knowing that my wife Dianne and I started in the basement of a rented house in 1985. At the time, we had no sales but plenty of vision for the company. Braille wasn’t required, there was no digital and most of our signs were silkscreened.

Evolution of Architectural Sign Industry

The sign industry has undergone enormous change over the last 30 years. When we first started, you had to lay down Letraset sign letters optically on nina paper and run it with acrylic thru a "Rube Goldberg" laminator in order to provide subsurface graphics without screen-printing.

Back in the mid to late '80s, Gerber introduced technology that was originally being used in the garment industry but applied it to the signage industry in the form of Signmaker 2 and Signmaker 4. These machines would cut vinyl letters in various fonts and individual fonts cost $300.00 each.

So when Apple introduced the “Macintosh”, they brought the sign industry into the 21st century thanks to the computer’s desktop publishing and design capability. There was even a dot matrix printer, which we used to produce sign designs that we presented to clients. They and we thought the designs were innovative!

Other suppliers soon introduced other cutting devices that could run on either Mac or PC based software to drive plotters, CNC routers, lasers and very sophisticated digital printing machines.

The introduction and passing of the ADA legislation dramatically changed the landscape of the sign industry especially when it came to producing interior tactile and Braille signage. It changed the way we manufacture interior signage and also how we educate our clients from a regulatory and wayfinding perspective. Wayfinding was not even in the Sign World’s vocabulary 30 years ago. Now you can earn a Masters Degree in Wayfinding!

Our Journey

When we first started, our business plan was to be a small Mom and Pop sign shop with 5 or 6 employees. Now, 30 years later we are a company of 100 employees that work out our 50,000 sq. ft. manufacturing facility, 6 sales offices that serve clients in Iowa, Nebraska, Illinois, Colorado and Wyoming.

Cell phones, Fax machines, the Internet, websites and social media didn't exist 30 years ago either. We set up sales calls on rotary phones in our basement, at pay phones in hotel lobbies and even at roadside parks.

Our business has now evolved from being a supplier of primarily interior signage to a full service architectural signage company that provides the planning and design services of exterior signage, digital and electronic signage, along with donor recognition systems. We are now international in scope with business relationships in Europe, the Middle East, and Israel.

What hasn't changed is our continued interaction and relationship building with the architectural, design and construction communities.

Latitude has a longstanding and recognizable brand that is respected throughout the US. We have worked hard to maintain the brand in a positive way in our market place by providing quality products and reliable service. In addition, we have stayed current with technology that is applicable to our industry. This has allowed us to provide a complete service that includes, design, manufacturing, installation and education for our clients. Moreover, we have implemented numerous training and management programs that include SOP (Sales and Operations Planning) and Deming's theory of constraints to help us improve our quality and delivery time.

What 30 Means

Being in business for 30 years means that for the most part, through good times and bad, we have persevered, taken care of our customers, championed our employees, changed with the times, respected our vendors and stayed entrepreneurial. We are clearly proud of this accomplishment but realize that it "Takes a Village".

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