Community Health Center / April 15, 2014

CHC old signOur relationship with the Community Health Centers of Burlington began over 21 years ago, when they were in a tiny storefront at 279 North Winooski Avenue. We built a directory to list all of their health care providers, all 8 of them!

The Community Health Centers of Burlington is one of Vermont’s few Federally Qualified Health Care centers, providing exceptional health care to people of all ages, backgrounds, and life circumstances. They have allowed community residents to access primary and preventive health care, dental services and mental health and substance abuse treatment regardless of their ability to pay.

It was not long before the Community Health Center moved up the street to 617 Riverside Avenue, taking half of the second floor above a community grocery store. They soon occupied the rest of second floor, then the whole building! Following their largest capital campaign ever, they erected a completely new state-of-the-art building in 2011.

And with each of these moves we provided signs to identify the building as a whole, to help patients find their way from the street to their provider, and to recognize the many generous community members whose financial support makes their mission possible. Our challenge has always been to serve the needs of CHC’s patients and staff on a tight budget.

1 front sign   CHC old bldg


When patients enters the Health Center, we provide “wayfinding” signs, guiding them at each step toward their destination. This includes overhead directional signs, floor directories at each elevator, and individual room identification (all meeting the Americans with Disabilities Act).

1 overhead

1 directoryCHC ADA





The Community Health Centers of Burlington rely on generous members of the community to provide funds for both capital needs and ongoing expenses. And of course they want to publicly acknowledge these gifts, in a manner appropriate for the size of the gift. That’s where we come in again, providing recognition signage. In the photo of their old building, you’ll see recognition of the Hoehl, Wick and McClure families, using letters which decrease in size.

Here are a few of the recognition signs in the new building. Below the large “Hoehl Reception Area” letters are small pieces of stone from the foundation of the building torn down in 2011 . Each one displays the name of a generous individual (printed courtesy of Catalyst Design) that we attached to the wall. .

1 garden 1 Hoehl wall 1 Hoehl plaque


Keeler BayBut the Community Health Centers are more than just the flagship Riverside Health Center. There is the Keeler Bay Health Center, providing service to patients in the Champlain Islands.

1 Pearl StreetAlso the Pearl Street Youth Health Center, providing health services for youth and young adults through age 25 and special services for at-risk youth, homeless teens, and young adults.

1 Safe HarborAnd the Safe Harbor Health Center,  serving adults and families experiencing homelessness.

We are grateful for the long-term relationship we have had with Community Health Centers of Burlington, and proud of the work we have done to help them communicate with their patients and the community.

New NEFCU branch office / February 24, 2014

We recently completed a package of signs and graphics for one of our dream clients, New England Federal Credit Union.  Why a dream client? Because part of their mission is to be a leader in their market, both in the way they present themselves to the community and how they encourage members to use technology. For us that means they want high quality work in multiple media and they want to push the envelope to make themselves stand out.

NEFCU St Albans VTWe have been working with NEFCU for several years, since we were brought on board by their marketing agency, Direct Design, to refurbish the lobby at their main office in Williston. Our latest work together was at the brand new office in St. Albans, VT (left).

This project allowed us to create internally illuminated wall signs, lots of cut-out aluminum letters and logos, vinyl graphics on glass, printed super-graphics applied to walls, custom graphics on a three-sided kiosk, and what Chris Reck at Direct Design calls the “giant logo ball”. It’s the round NEFCU logo icon made as a three-dimensional wall sign featuring LED illumination within, spreading light over the wall.

Here are some highlights: 

NEFCU Logo SignOn the left, the “giant logo ball” on the St. Albans lobby wall. This is actually a baby sister of the first giant logo ball, which debuted at the Shelburne Road branch in South Burlington, VT, shown here:NEFCU South Burlington VT







Some of the 3D cut-out letters and logos, both with satin aluminum brushed finish and painted finish:


NEFCU Video Conference Lounge

The “Community” wall, with a photo collage assembled by NEFCU staff highlighting some of the good works in which they participate within their communities:

NEFCU Community Wall

Printed mural graphics:

NEFCU Printed Mural Graphics

The “Welcome” entry:

NEFCU Welcome Entry Sign

and a small (but fun to make!) projecting sign so that members can easily find the Video Conference Lounge:

NEFCU Video Conference Lounge Sign

and the three-sided kiosk, below. I can brag a bit on this one, not because I personally did anything, but because Jim and Phil on the team here at Design Signs took such care with this piece that the representative from the kiosk manufacturer called it “the best graphic application” he had ever seen on their products.


When in St. Albans, stop in for a visit. New England Federal Credit Union is right off Route 7 North, on the Walmart access road.

Contact us if you have questions about the signs we created for NEFCU in St. Albans Vermont.

A brief history of Design Signs / January 21, 2014

It’s time to start blogging! So why not begin with a very condensed story of how Design Signs came to be?

You could say it started when I was 9 or 10 years old. My dad helped me build small wood projects including a very, um, “rustic” bedside table for my mom. The legs were all different lengths, and never did sit level!

Flash forward 12 years and I’m out of college, putting my BA in English to good use as a retail store manager. I did not particularly enjoy the job, except for when I made window displays and point-of-purchase merchandising signs. After I told a friend I could make a wooden sign for his bar, it was not long before I was asked by other businesses to make signs for them as well. I left retail in the rear-view and have been making signs ever since, almost 40 years now!

Burlington, Vermont carved sign

My first sign in Burlington, circa 1976

One of my early signs was for R. W. Hunt’s Mill and Mining Company in Burlington, known by most folks simply as Hunt’s; a great venue for live music.

The first couple of years I built nothing but carved wood signs; it was all I knew!  Since I was totally self-taught in sign design and techniques, I struggled. So when I had a chance to move to Colorado and work for a real sign company, I jumped at it!

I started at Adcon Signs  in Fort Collins in May, 1978, their fifth employee. I learned everything I could about signs, especially from Jimmy Saffer, a master sign maker. This was in the “B.C.” era, before computers. Every design was created with a pencil on paper; every letter and graphic painted by hand. It was an invaluable education in sign design, letter spacing, and proper use of graphics. After four years there, the staff had grown to over 20.

With this experience under my belt, I moved again, this time to Burlington, VT. I worked a few years in a local sign shop, but itched to have the independence I so enjoyed when I first started out. I became self-employed again, this time actually knowing how signs should be made!

Design Signs started down by the tracks off Home Avenue in Burlington. I did everything by myself the first few years, then eventfully started hiring help. First summers only, then part time and eventually my first full-time employee. Some of you know Jim Narsh, still working with me today. A few years later, after moving to a larger shop in Williston, I hired Phil Seeley (also still with me). Then another move brought us to our current shop in Essex VT, a wonderful space in which to make signs. Stop in for a tour; we love to show folks around!