A little while ago I contacted Lawrin Rosen, author of the article A Halo Primer which I highlighted in the early days of this blog.
Mr. Rosen is CEO of the company ARTfx signs, and has over thirty years of experience in the signage business.
He was gracious enough to grant me an interview.
Splotchy: Please describe your first experience working with halo-lit signs. When was it? What was it for? Were there obstacles you encountered due to an unfamiliarity with the new format?
Lawrin Rosen: Originally, we used halo letters for interior mall signs for women's specialty and jewelry stores. The original halo sign I can remember was for Michael's Jewelers in Danbury CT. They were mounted on marble and the reflectivity of the surface exposed the interior of the letters and the neon. It was a semi-disaster. Compounding this, we hadn't used polycarbonate backers so there was no diffusing of the light at all.
Splotchy: What is the earliest usage of halo-lit signage you are aware of, or remember seeing?
Lawrin Rosen: I think I saw halo lighting in channel letters when I first got into the sign business. Some of the higher end retailers like Lord & Taylor were using it. Upscale stores had been using the technique for some time. The method spread with the 'malling' of America in the seventies and eighties.
Splotchy: How is the decision generally made to go with halo-lit signs for a client? Is it client-initiated, or initiated by your firm, a little of both? What is taken into consideration when determining whether halo-lighting is appropriate (existing ambient light, etc.)?
Lawrin Rosen: Clients ask for it frequently. We suggest it on occasion. It has to be used in circumstances where all the forces come together - no competition from ambient lighting or open lit windows, existence of porous background surfaces as opposed to reflective surfaces, light colored background surfaces, viewing distances appropriate to the size of the copy. We suggest it if all these elements come together. However, the client requesting the technique typically has no feel for the necessary prerequisites.
Splotchy: Do you believe a halo-lit sign imparts something to an establishment that a non halo-lit sign (a neon sign, for example) does not?
Lawrin Rosen: It speaks of understated elegance or sophistication. It is a more laid back light source and therefore less 'retail-like.'
Splotchy: In your experience, has there been a recent upswing in requests for halo-lit signs? Has there been a dramatic, increased demand for halo-lit signs at any particular period during your career?
Lawrin Rosen: The requests are directly correlated to the economy. The method runs 10 to 20% higher than normal channels which can sometimes scare clients off. There are more consistent flurries of orders in boom times. The requests for halo lighting rose in the eighties and have plateaued for the most part. There was a major exodus away from straight channel letters in the late eighties when mall managements, interior designers and architects began to stray from stock traditional illuminated signs. Casinos have been more and more likely to use halo letters more than most establishments because of the subtlety in an interior environment.
Splotchy: In the Chicago area, I have seen several instances of halo-lit signage for sushi bars and jewelers. Are there certain types of businesses that are more likely to employ halo-lit signs?
Lawrin Rosen: You hit it with the jewelry stores. I haven't noticed the higher use with Sushi bars, but that would make sense because the Pan-Asian restaurants are trying for a more chic look to show they're coming of age, and to distinguish themselves from the schlocky over-the-counter Chinese restaurants. As I mentioned, casinos use quite a bit. Also, corporate America likes the look - especially on main thoroughfares in and around big cities.
Splotchy: What is the largest halo-lit sign your company has created?
Lawrin Rosen: A set of 7' channels for Travelers Insurance in Hartford, CT. A set of 5' letters for Aetna in Hartford, CT. A set of 4' channels above a home design interior outlet mall in Windsor, CT. Aetna was the only successful use. The other two were challenged by ambient lighting. Also, larger halo letters sometimes don't work because the width of the halo lighting is diminutive in ratio to the broad stroke of the letter.
Splotchy: Your company has done business across the North American continent. What are some markets you have found to have a high quantity of halo-lit signs?
Lawrin Rosen: Boston, New York, Chicago, Miami, Texas, LA, San Francisco...in general, bigger, more cosmopolitan cities.
Splotchy: Has your firm done any halo-lit signs in the Chicago area? If so, what are some examples of your work?
Lawrin Rosen: In malls for stores that have come and gone....nothing of current note.
Splotchy: Please share some of your favorite halo-lit signs (and provide images of them, if possible), and explain why they appeal to you.
Lawrin Rosen: I like them all because the elements I mentioned previously all came together. There is a Sushi Bar!...but it was suggested by me.
Click a pic for larger image
Thanks very much to Mr. Rosen, for giving me some of his time, and pictures of his lovely negative space (okay, okay -- halo-lit) signage!