Dan Simon is looking for a banner year

Fabric of the community: It's a whole lot more than marketing for Islandia entrepreneur Dan Simon.

By GREGORY ZELLER // At the intersection of art, science and community, there is Signwave.

Founder and President Dan Simon’s nine-month-old Islandia company designs and manufactures all shapes and sizes of custom commercial signs and vehicle wraps. But more than that, Signwave – fully cognizant of the influential role signage plays in society – promotes a sense of place.

“Signs have always been the markers we use to identify neighborhoods and commerce,” Simon told Innovate LI. “We can distinguish between the different flavors of where we are by the quality, innovation and beauty of the signage in a community.”

To maximize that quality and beauty, Signwave employs an impressive array of high-tech wizardry, starting with its state-of-the-art HP 360L latex printer. One of only three on Long Island, according to Simon, the Hewlett-Packard machine can print in many sizes – it handles up to a 64-inch roll stock – on a variety of materials, including multiple fabrics, canvas, foam board, heavy-duty banner vinyl and more, and produces “an infinite range of colors.”

“It’s the best printer available in terms of color-matching capabilities and print resolution,” Simon said. “Most sign companies take their best guess at a pantone match, but we have color-match technology, so if a customer brings in a sample of what they want, we can match the color exactly.”

The company also embraces the notion that signage doesn’t have to be a static, one-way experience, but can – and when possible, should – be interactive. Signwave sponsors numerous altruistic organizations, including the Long Island Greenbelt Trail Conference, Long Island Visual Professionals and several school-based robotics teams, and Simon, who embraces the philosophy “you do well by doing good,” uses these connections to emphasize interactivity whenever possible.

“While I’m not an artist myself, I see the potential for artists to take our technology and do really beautiful things with it,” the entrepreneur said. “Our niche is trying to make innovative use of our printing technology to create unusual works of art.”

While the art is created most often for marketing purposes, that’s not exclusively so. One example is a project Signwave is executing with an artist from mid-state Yorktown Heights, dubbed “The Art of Magic.” The multi-piece display, scheduled to debut at the Monmouth Museum in New Jersey and then hit the road, involves what Simon calls “optical illusion” signage: sliding doors, images that give the impression of motion and plenty of interactivity, including spinning knobs and other hands-on features.

“It goes well beyond what you think a sign company typically does,” Simon said. “When we talk about innovation, we’re talking about going beyond signs that you hang on a wall.”

Such innovation was also on display when a fabrics company came to Signwave for help with a trade-show booth. Simon shared some of the displays and banners his company typically produces for trade shows, but “they wanted to stand out,” he noted.

So Signwave had the company bring in rolls of their proprietary fabrics, including draperies and table throws, and “we printed on those,” Simon said. “We did a complete custom job for them, including watermarks of their logo and their marketing message on their own materials.”

Rapidly approaching Signwave’s first anniversary, the owner is pleased with how his business has grown and credits much of the success to his networking efforts.

Signwave is a member of Signworld, a national royalties-free networking organization that provides protected territories, educational webinars, training, equipment and other business-building benefits. Although the 260-firm network has a muddled reputation – it takes a beating on “UnhappyFranchisee.com” and other virtual-gripe sites – Simon is pleased with its national networking capabilities.

“I can send art and specs to businesses in other regions and they can handle the installation,” he noted. “And they can send business to me.”

Simon also has built a Long Island network of suppliers, contractors and other sign-makers, allowing him to offer expanded services including laser-cutting and the design and installation of “channel letters,” those big electric signs adorning many storefronts.

Simon is convinced that interacting with other Island businesses, even competitors, is the best way to safeguard his $200,000 investment – pretty much his entire retirement fund – and to promote his community-building mindset.

“I’m very comfortable working with these partners,” he said. “I’m invested in helping Long Island be a better place to live, work and grow.”

Signwave

What’s It? Custom-made commercial signage and display solutions

Brought To You By: Founder, president and community activist Dan Simon

All In: $200,000, much of it join the national business-building network Signworld

Status: Signs, signs, everywhere signs