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(October 2012) posted on Tue Nov 06, 2012

In Yellowknife, Signed delivers digital printing to Canada’s far north.

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By Mike Antoniak

Wherever you travel in the world, digital graphics are part of the landscape – even in outposts as isolated and remote as Yellowknife, the northernmost city in Canada’s Northwest Territories (NWT).

The countryside is so rocky and barren – scraped clean in the last ice age – that when the Mars rover Curiosity touched down earlier this year, it landed in a quadrant of the red planet named for Yellowknife because of the similarity of the terrain. Still, the city is a thriving community – home to 20,000 who appreciate its unique arctic scenery, seven-month winters, daylight ranging from five hours in winter to 20 hours in June, and the brilliant displays of the Aurora Borealis that grace its night skies.

Many of the signs, banners, and graphics seen around the city, on its buildings, government facilities, and nearby diamond mines are produced locally by Signed ( Owner Janet Pacey and a silent partner purchased and re-launched the six-year-old company earlier this year after she was approached by owners eager to exit the business.

“I knew them, and had been using their company several years for printing my work as a graphic designer,” says Pacey. “This was an opportunity to completely rebuild the business and its client base. For a long time it had been the only sign shop in town, but they had experienced some problems.” Longtime customers who remained loyal to the business were no longer completely happy with the quality of service and products, she explains.

The last stop, literally
These types of issues can be part of the package when any operation changes hands. In Yellowknife, however, everyday business challenges are compounded by market size, the weather, and location.
“We’re really in the middle of nowhere, the last stop at the end of Highway 3,” points out Pacey. “Our nearest big city is Edmonton.” Everything is relative, however, and in this case, “nearest” equates to more than 800 miles away in Alberta province.

So, print media, ink, other consumables, and equipment must all be shipped north to Yellowknife. “Shipping from Edmonton takes about two days, but when it’s a small enough order we’ll fly it up,” she says. “But no matter how we ship, it takes at least two days. There’s no such thing as overnight up here.”