CES & ISA - 2017 / by Ryan Newman

As we propel into our year of insights and innovation, one thing has become abundantly clear to our team; progress means constant change and new challenges.  Whether it be in communication, research or design, we are continually looking ahead at what’s next to provide our clients the best connection to people and place. Gaining knowledge in technology focused on the user experience strengthens our ability to create environments that communicate.

Last RALOK post, we brought you to the Digital Signage Expo through the lens of SEGD (Society for Experiential Graphic Design). Today, Kolar Design’s design team reflects on their experience at two additional conferences - the 2017 Consumer Electronics Show and the ISA International Signage Expo - both in Las Vegas.

Consumer Electronics Show

Las Vegas, Nevada

The Consumer Electronics Show (CES) is one of the largest consumer electronics shows in the world, with thousands of attendees, exhibitor personnel, and media members making the trek from around the globe.  In addition to a large number of participants, there are over 50 acres of exhibit space spread throughout numerous buildings, showcasing a rich abundance of revolutionary ideas.

Key Takeaways

  • Overwhelming the Entirety of Technological Advances

  • EGD needs to not only catch up - but LEAD in this realm or others will. ( Look for a future post on EGD's effect in both the digital and physical landscape.)

  • Wearables that Communicate

Salesforce in San Francisco. Creating an environmental experience without adding materials to the wall. Immersive and engaging. A great example of Digital design creeping into EGD.

ISA International Sign Expo

Las Vegas, Nevada - A Sign Conference in the City of Neon

ISA International Sign Expo is a comprehensive “review” of everything related to the sign and graphics industry — including wide format printing, digital signage, new ideas for printing, LEDs, vehicle wrapping and more. It also sponsors lectures, roundtables, and workshops in order to get up to speed on important industry issues. Learning opportunities abound at the show, with expert-led sign industry-specific educational programs focusing on topics such as graphic design, sign code legislation, business management, sales and marketing, technology and more.

A quick review of all parties ( and accompanying acronyms ) involved in our experience at the conference.

International Sign Association

They support, promote, and improve the sign industry via government advocacy, education, stakeholder outreach, and events. Membership is primarily sign fabricators and suppliers.

Sign Research Foundation.

Supplies academic research on sign strategies, systems, and codes. Facilitates interdisciplinary dialogue to "create more navigable cities, thriving businesses, and strong urban identities." Regularly issue grants and scholarships.


The Cross-Disciplinary Program, sponsored by the ISA. Professional designers and design students with varied focus areas are invited to attend.


A one-day event that combines ISA + SRF + interdisciplinary attendees.
Speakers, case studies, and breakout work sessions.

In addition to the speaker’s topics ( which ranged from 3M Visual Attention Software to the court case of Reed vs. Gilbert ) - an energized group participated in a breakout session. Each group of 9 was encouraged to brainstorm the future of sign design in 20+ years, taking into account the exponential growth of technology and changing societal norms.

Standout Ideas

  • A volume knob for visuals: When following a familiar route, you can turn down the amount of signage you see; in a new place, turn it up, or change the blend of wayfinding/advertising/informational signage
  • A reduced dependency on written words for universal icons
  • Signs react to changes in temperature, lighting, scent, weather, etc.
  • Wearables that give you subtle wayfinding cues (two vibrations = turn left, etc.)

Key Takeaways

  • We need to keep improving the communication between designers and fabricators. The more designers know about specifications, the less back-and-forth in shop drawings and prototypes. The more manufacturers know about designers' intentions, the better they can help a design come to life.
  • The role of signage could change dramatically as personal, and public transportation undergoes a major transformation. When cars begin driving for us, a shift from navigational to informational could occur, or signage may start disappearing in areas where it causes visual blight.
  • Our cities provide the first impression of who we are and the values that we hold. They are born with a personality and an identity; the designer's task is to express it, not invent it.
  • Participatory design, especially with communities, can make a project truly successful. Example: Hunt Design worked with Idaho Falls to utilize local artisans and used input from citizens at council meetings. Locals are more receptive to design when they can feel like part of the process. "Invite people to the table."
  • Digital signage continues to be a complex and wide-ranging category. Clients don't always know where to use it, what products to choose, how to generate/maintain content, and how to plan for 5+ years of sign life. Designers must bridge the gap between suppliers (who wish to sell) and clients (who want the best experience).