It's Showtime
Sign & Digital UK
Sign & Digital UK, the hugely popular annual exhibition for the UK's sign, graphics and visual communication industry, returns to the NEC Birmingham on the 22nd - 24th April 2008.
Rudi Blackett, show director for Sign & Digital UK, has worked in retail management, import/export, and spent many years working in the music industry as a director of the industry's trade magazines and events. He has been with Faversham House Group, organisers of Sign & Digital UK since 2002 and has worked with the show team to both develop and grow the show.
We speak to Rudi below, in a bid to find out what is going on at the show this year, what are the issues affecting the industry at the moment, and what is the likely direction of the industry in 2008 and beyond.
What is your take on the sign and digital industry today and is it a buoyant market?
The sign and digital market today is a vibrant and innovative place to be. Signage is used in every aspect of business from retail to lifestyle and corporate branding, with a huge range of applications to choose from. Every business needs signage and this is what drives the market. Whether it is the very latest in retail branding and POS, or a local company needing signage for a van, showroom or office, the industry can cover it all. New products also drive the market and there is always a race to bring the latest innovation at the best quality and price to the customer first. Currently the market is buoyant and this should continue, as long as there are no sudden fluctuations in the economy.
How does it compare to 21 years ago when the show first took off?
The show has changed enormously since it launched 21 years ago. From its start as essentially a meeting point for sign suppliers and their customers, the show has now become one of the largest trade shows in the UK. The show is currently ranked at number 37 in the Association of Exhibition Organisers latest Top Trade Shows in the UK league table. When we bought the show and ran our first Sign UK show in 2001, we were aware of the need to constantly read the market, keeping the show current and at the cutting edge. Our exhibitor base has also grown to encompass all aspects of the industry. We have also seen the significant growth of digital print in the last 6 years, and the more recent adoption of digital screen signage. Some of the suppliers in the market have grown with us as the market has developed and we have also welcomed many new exhibitors each year. The show now fills two halls at the NEC and has a wealth of products and services on display as well as educational seminars, workshops, demonstrations and even a sign makers bar. It is the annual event for the whole industry and a great opportunity for all those working in the business to meet and do business.
What are the main challenges the industry faces today compared to 21 years ago?
The main challenges facing our industry today are the need to keep pace with the demands of the customer, and be first to market with the latest products, applications and services. The market is much more competitive than it has ever been and for suppliers it is more about service and an ongoing relationship with their customers. Price can dictate a sale but an increasing number of end-users need to show the highest quality signage and print output. Environmental issues are increasingly on the agenda, and as more customers insist on traceability and recyclable materials and print, this will dictate even more over time to the supply chain. Technology moves so fast in our industry that sign makers and output specialists need to keep up with what is on offer, and we model the show to help to provide this service.
How has Sign & Digital UK evolved over the years in line with the changing industry?
Sign & Digital UK has grown over 250% in the last 6 years. This has largely been due to the number of suppliers active in the market, the growing opportunities for signage applications in the market and the introduction of new technologies. We now fill two halls at the NEC with an amazing variety of products and services on display.
How important is an event like Sign and Digital UK and what can visitors gain from attending?
There are a number of strong reasons to visit the show. These include sourcing new suppliers, meeting existing suppliers, making purchasing decisions for your business, keeping up with the latest technologies, and networking with peers. The visitor experience is key, we want all visitors to get as much from the show as possible, and take away a wealth of information to help them run their businesses.
What areas of the show are you growing/expanding upon for 2008?
Our programme of seminars, advice clinics, demos and social functions will make the 2008 show a must attend for anyone working in the industry. We plan to make it a real hands-on experience, where the visitor can actually experience using a range of products and services. We will be encouraging visitors to bring their questions to the show, where one of the many industry experts present will be on hand to provide answers.
The show will also reflect the growing technology sectors such as digital screen signage, the increasing use of LED's and lighting for signage, the advance of more cost effective flatbeds, the further development of textile printing, and the growth of UV technology. We also will have a focus on green issues, so visitors can better understand the need for environmentally friendly products and services.
What do you predict will be the next big thing in 2008/2009?
2008 and 2009 will see the further development of sign and print technologies. The increasing use of LEDs and advances in lighting for signage will continue to come through strongly. Also UV print will grow but it is important not to underestimate the size of the solvent-based market. More affordable flatbed printers are already making an impact on the market and we see this continuing, while the use of digital Screen signage will continue to grow. Textile printing and soft signage will also see growth in 2008 and 2009.
Why should people visit Sign & Digital UK 2008?
Sign & Digital UK is the industry's event, celebrating all that is new and progressive in our market. It is an opportunity to meet suppliers, see and interact with the whole range of products available, learn from a range of seminars and workshops, and join other sign makers and end-users in discussing our market.


Printwear & Promotion
is the only dedicated trade show to the UK's garment decoration industry where the visitor will see many of the worlds leading brands available through UK-based distributors, together with manufacturers and distributors of embroidery machines and accessories, screen printing and digital printing technology and many other techniques for garment decoration.
Printwear & Promotion 2008 will offer the visitor free exhibition entrance where they will be able to see the very latest in garments and promotional products, in addition to regular features such as fashion shows and industry-related seminars, all housed under one roof at the NEC.
This year also sees the launch of the all-new Printwear & Promotion Awards, a comprehensive new awards programme for the decorated garment and promotional products industry. Bringing together the entire industry in a celebration of the companies, innovations and people that are achieving the highest professional standards and helping to drive this dynamic and rapidly expanding business sector forward, the Awards will be held on Monday 3rd March, the middle night of the event.

Focus on Imaging 2008 takes place as usual in Halls 9 and 10 at the NEC. It opens on Sunday, February 24th, and runs until Wednesday, February 27th.
Check out www.focus-on-imaging.co.uk to find everything there you need to know and a whole lot more as well about Europe's biggest annual imaging event.
Trade, business and professional visitors can pre-register for free admission for the 2008 event via the website. Admission for non-trade or non-professional visitors, including amateurs, who are also very welcome, remains at £6.00 but they can save time on the day by registering in advance via the Focus website.

2008 Show Dates19-20 February
Promota Show
www.show.promota.co.uk 24-27 February
Focus On Imaging
www.focus-on-imaging.co.uk 2-4 March
Printwear and Promotion
www.printwearandpromotion.co.uk 1-3 April
Fespa Digital
www.fespadigital.com 22-24 April
Sign & Digital
www.signanddigital.uk.com 17-18 May
www.printexpo.co.uk 29 May-11 June
www.drupa.com14-16 October
Total Print Expo