A Look Back and a Look Ahead – a Decade in Signs 5 Trends to Come in the 2020’s

The technological advances of the past decade have had an impact on every aspect of our lives – from communication to commerce.  Tech in the 2000’s affected the way we commute, bank, shop, connect with friends and even choose a partner. Instant, and constant, communication has become the norm in our lives. The power of social media can make or break a brand with a 30-second video shared among millions in real time. Product introductions can be measured in hours not months. The last ten years saw the introduction of 4G phones and the rise of the ‘app’; Twitter, Uber, Instagram, Waze and dozens of other apps vie for our attention.

Within the past ten years, sales from online companies like Amazon have rivaled brick and mortar establishments. At the same time, advertising has become democratized; smaller businesses are able to harness apps and social media to spread the word about their offerings, with marketing budgets in the hundreds rather than thousands of dollars.

The sign industry saw its own revolution. Concerns about climate change and industry’s impact on the environment led to an increase in energy-saving LED lighting components, the use of lower VOC paints and more ecologically sound disposal and recycling programs. Other changes: increases in manufacturing speed and accuracy, new printing technology that allows for dynamic large-scale color graphics and the rise in popularity of digital signs.

So, what can we expect to see in the next decade in marketing and in the sign industry?

  1. Physical Space is the place to be

Customer engagement happens in the real world! While our appetite for convenience and online interaction has dominated the marketplace, everything is cyclical. Even Amazon, the largest online retailer, is opening retail, brick and mortar storefronts. Examples of digital natives migrating to the physical space include: Warby-Parker, ThirdLove, Allbirds, Casper Mattress, Bonobos and more – online retailers are capitalizing on the clicks to bricks trend by opening up storefront locations. Retailers have learned, to succeed they must be able to connect with customers in all of the spaces they inhabit – both in the virtual and in the physical marketplace. As branding returns to the physical space, there will be a need for signage to identify locations and draw in customers.

  1. Everyone has a story

Brand building and marketing will become more ‘story-based’, and signage will remain part of the larger telling of the brand storyline. Your physical location allows customers to engage, identify with and become a part of your brand story in a way that is not possible through virtual marketing alone.  And, as online advertising expenses increase, savvy retailers will go beyond traditional branding by weaving a story into the retail space – one that is relatable and share-worthy.

Did you know the average millennial spends 38 hours per year taking selfies? Finding the perfect backdrop for a share-worthy shot is often the most important part of their story – and yours too if your location and signage are inspiring enough for the visual social platforms your customers love.

Rather than dictating to a passive audience, inspire your customers to help you tell your story through their shared networks.  Think about the Hollywood signage, how many people travel to that location to take a picture with the sign. Can your brand create that inspiration? Be on the look out this decade for some new developments of brands that look to create that experience. 

Hollywood Sign

Take a cue from the widely popular pop-up immersive exhibits; these themed ‘experiences’ are designed to encourage participation in the story.  Signage affords retailers – on any scale – a way to build a storyline into a physical environment where they can connect with customers and tap into the power of client-drive story-telling. High impact signage such as digital, large format graphics and architectural signage are the most economical and versatile ways to build a narrative into your brand story. Through signage, you can create ‘destinations’ where your customers will want to visit, spend and help share your story.  

McDonald's Digital Signage

McDonald’s Digital Sign Menu Replacement Program was a great success for Philadelphia Sign showcasing our digital capabilities and efficiency to implement this signage nationwide.


  1. Digital Footprints are growing

The forecast for the next decade suggests the digital signage market to experience the biggest growth, predominantly in restaurants, retail, office buildings, public transport and other service sectors. Digital signs will become more interactive and context-aware including the use of cameras to collect data on shoppers and passersby, using the demographic information for updating signage in real time. Philadelphia Sign, a leader in the digital trend, has been involved in major branding programs for two iconic restaurant chains: McDonalds and Starbucks. Both employed PSCO to upgrade existing drive-thru signage with dynamic digital displays. Digital signage will continue to offer the greatest versatility for on-the-spot brand-building, both proactive and responsive information exchange and increased customer engagement through interactivity. 

  1. Go Big or Go Home!

Large-format graphics will continue to trend in every sector – retail, healthcare, hospitality, entertainment and even residential. Advances in large scale printing capabilities have resulted in bolder colors and crisper resolution. Large format graphics are ideal for creating atmosphere and setting the backdrop for your brand story. Whether used in window displays or floor-to-ceiling murals, large format graphics offer a true wow factor. 

HMH Large Format Printing

Hackensack Meridian Health has large format printing at the hospital to further showcase the brand.

Interior designers appreciate the flexibility and creative possibilities of incorporating the product as an element in their design spaces. Beyond commercial and institutional applications, large format graphics can cross-over from business to high end decor as unique, custom wall coverings and murals: think luxe lobbies in high end hotels or multi-unit residential areas; soothing environments for common areas in office complexes; uplifting, bright graphics in children’s spaces in healthcare. Applications for large-format graphics can be used on walls, ceilings or floors, such as big, bold arrows underfoot for wayfinding in healthcare or educational campuses. Designers will continue to find and incorporate more creative applications for large-format graphics to create mood, to relay information as in directionals, for merchandising in retail spaces, or for setting the stage to tell a story.

  1. Climate concerns affects the Sign Industry too

Environmental concerns will continue to point the direction to greener products and ecologically-sensitive manufacturing processes.  In 2010, Philadelphia Sign took a bold leap forward, converting our largest production facility to solar power, and becoming the first sign manufacturer in the country, at that time, to use renewable, solar energy for both sign fabrication and powering facilities. As the industry focus is on engineering better, cleaner, and more environmentally responsible sign products – LED components, low VOC paints – disposal and recycling efforts have the biggest environmental impact. At PSCO, we have implemented a thorough recycling program including: waste storage capabilities, repurposing shipping materials to minimize reliance of harvesting trees and recycling raw material scraps to ensure ‘green disposal’. 

PSCO Pennsauken Solar Panels

PSCO Pennsauken Location Aerial Shot of Solar Panels on the roof of this location.

As an industry leader, Philadelphia Sign will continue to find ways to reduce our ecological impact and to make a positive environmental difference in our community and the world – all while providing our customers with the finest signage products on the market.  The future looks bright for the sign industry in the next decade. As the past is an indicator of the future, Philadelphia Sign will be at the forefront of the industry in the 2020’s with products and programs to serve our customers into this new decade and beyond.

Where will your company be in the next decade? If you are considering expanding, rebranding, or refreshing your brand, consider a company that has seen it all since the early 1900s.

Contact Philadelphia Sign to bring your brand to life today and speak with a sign expert.