This is how the Company started! – a simple task it seemed at the time, but after searching high and low for a supplier of simple letters and tracks in the UK, the wheels were firmly set in motion and readerboards.co.uk was born!
The Only Replacement Letter and Track Provider in the UK
Based on the American Reader Boards systems, used extensively to promote burger deals, hotel rooms and a host of other retail promotions right across the states, readerboards.co.uk have taken to their heart the idea of changeable letter systems, a concept that has entirely been overlooked in the UK until now.
Frank Golden the founder of the company says: ‘ I was astonished that such a simple idea had not been adopted in the UK . On closer examination, I think during the explosion of reader boards in the States during the 70s and 80s, the UK was experiencing a negative tide of ‘all things American’ and culturally reluctant to adopt Americanisms. However, today, with the emerging global village, we see all these ‘Object D’Americas’ in common place.
Huge American style fridges, American Style police cars, bottled ice chilled beers and Trick and Treating are now all common place. Even our treasured English dictionary has welcomed US based words, spellings and phrases our forefathers would find alien: Baby Showers, Elevator, Soccer, Zip codes. The list is endless. I want to add to this growing list the phrase Readerboards.’
However, Frank Golden continues: ‘ Add to this cultural reluctance, The UK sped along with the entire Rest of the World with the digital convergence, meaning the reader board has been totally overlooked!’
Our Own Product Development Has Taken Time To Master
Trial after trial returned production and user issues for the Company during the early days. The font ‘lighthouse’ was eventually designed and decided upon, inspiration taken from the American High school fonts. Two sizes of font were sent to print using a 700 micron screen printed tile.
The Letter Shape
LPM 15 and LPM 22, as they became known, a direct reference to how many letters per metre each size achieved, returned a rebost and highly readable letter style. Frank Golden, who studied Typography at the London College Of Printing explains in more detail the font’s creation.
‘When I set out to design the font, I needed to overcome one major hurdle. Each letter shape is off course different in widths. Naturally a ‘W’ will have more spacial occupancy than an ‘I’ would have, but I needed a font that gave each letter exactly the same area to sit in, so we could arrive at one tile size, this was going to be a commercial prerequisite.
The fonts that I originally looked, from the GOTHIC families, could achieve this but lacked elegance and readership qualities I sought. Next we looked into the possibility of taking a font, and individually squeezing and expanding them through illustrator to achieve our goal of one tile size.
This proved disastrous, with the down strokes varying in thickness and the natural shapes and curves of the letters being distorted away from the font’s original proportions. Then came that light bulb moment! Earlier on in the font creation I looked at the US style High School fonts, some opting to use straight lines to create the curves instead of using actual curves. I had disregarded this as ugly and unappealing. However, my mistake here was I was looking at the font from too close a viewing point. Start to stand away from one of these ‘square fonts’ and the eye and brain do their bit and the straight lines vanish and beautiful curves magically appear. I called upon a mate of mine who was a whiz at this type of graphic manipulation, who set to work on the project straight away
Now we had it! A square font with no natural curves could easily be altered without losing the original qualities.’ We loved it and amazed at how easy it was to see from a considerable distance. Much further and clearer than a curved font. To that end, we named it lighthouse of course!
White and clear tiles were eventually produced with the final 39 characters, cut out from the same size tile, something that the American version was unable to achieve.
Meanwhile the tracks and boards continued to raise issues, but eventually a final version of the board, track and letter proved successful and a 5mm perspex fascia was successfully intergrated to the design without interfering with the letters. Again this was a vast improvement on the US model, which relied upon a secure poster cabinet to hold the entire sign.
This meant we could offer a tamper-proof and weather proof system. The owner of the board having the only keys to the message by operating a security style nut and bolt.
With a highly performing outdoor product Readerboards.co.uk developed the product further, fine tuning the 7 component parts that make up a readerboard. The Target audience to launch our site has to date has been worshipboards, or what the US manufacturers call roadway Pulpits, fixtureboards for amateur sports clubs and finally academyboards for primary schools updating parents on key school events and term times. Our latest product in development is a sport bar sign, shouting about the live sports being shown at a venue with the ability to show food and drink offers during the sport.
Apart from offering a full signage solution readerboards.co.uk offer self adhesive tracks for internal use, without the need for a back sign. This will be our most cost effective readerboard retailing at under £100.
2016 and Beyond
Constantly improving the user experience is our number 1 priority for 2016. New tiles are now being trialed and an ‘app’ is on the cards allowing the messenger to imput the unique serial number of the board, before typing in their message. If the message is too long or contains too many letters a warning will appear on the app, thus preventing actually placing the message into the tracks first! This will be free to customers who have purchased a board from us.