Registering Alternative Graphics & Design as a company in 2017 was the realisation of a lifelong dream for Aaron Joines. In this two-part story, we follow Aaron’s journey from a kid who liked to draw to being a co-owner, with his wife Amber, of a successful sign business.

Aaron recalls, “At the age of 10 years, I was initially inspired by a school friend’s dad who was a signwriter. He owned Art Effects Signs in Thames and one day after school, I saw him hand painting a sign. I thought that is what I want to do.

“My parents bought me a Scholastics Lettering book from Noelene Morris, and this helped me learn the aesthetics of making fonts and drawing scripts. From there, I set out to become a signwriter. While I was in high school, I did night school classes learning calligraphy.”

He also completed Open Polytechnic courses. He says, “I had to do distance learning, creating the projects they set for me and returning them via courier for assessment. My father even let me hand signwrite all his company signage on his building – all without the use of a computer, of course.

“After high school, I studied signwriting at Wellington Polytech with Sally Davis. Once I had completed that year-long course, I began my sign apprenticeship with Sign City in Auckland. This was when KZ7 won the America’s cup, and Sign City was a key company in carrying out all the work for the competitors. I got to work on signage for Emirates Team New Zealand, Nippon, Oracle as well as Stars & Stripes.

“Seeing how much money the America’s Cup brought to New Zealand was a real eye opener. For example, Larry Ellison, who still owns Oracle, was the eighth richest man in the world at the time.

“We also worked on all the Whitbread around the world yacht race boats. When it changed to the Volvo Ocean Race, we worked on the Team News Corp signage, which involved hand painting Simpsons characters on sails and the boat for The Simpsons creator Matt Groening. 

He sent us a signed fax, giving us written consent to paint his characters. I still have measurements of the sails and where Bart Simpson would be positioned.”

When Aaron completed his apprenticeship, he received the honour of being named top apprentice. He continues, “After Sign City closed, I worked for many other signage companies including Lexicon in Auckland, working on all the signage for Te Papa and Speedy Signs Albany, as a signage installer around all the Speedy Signs branches.

“I moved to Hamilton and worked with the Green Frog Sign Co for 10 years. That’s where I met Amber, and we had our two boys. But I received a job offer, and we moved to Tauranga where we have lived for the past 10 years. For five of those years, we have owned our own sign company.

“After working for so many other signage companies, I wanted to create something that I could put my own signature on. Some companies were great and some not so good, so I took what I learned from each and that has really helped my journey as a business owner.

“We make any type of signage and complete all kinds of jobs: illuminated, hand painted, frosting, paint protection, pinstripes and scrolling trucks, wrapping vehicles and boats, 3D, routered signs, as well as printing.

“I enjoy creating something that my customers love, then seeing my work drive past me when I am out and about. The most enjoyable aspect is bringing peoples’ visions to reality and helping to create their own personal brand. I love nothing more than when someone comes in with a cool concept or project and I get to be part of their journey.

“A memorable moment for me happened after we created a logo for a young guy who was just starting out in his own business. He got the logo tattooed across his back.

“I love to design logos and then take that branding across a range of media and products, from business cards, clothing and signs to vehicles and buildings.

There is a satisfaction that you have when a customer’s face has a look of sheer astonishment of how the work looks when finished. It makes you feel like you have created history in that person’s life and business journey.

“Ideally, I want this company to work as a one stop shop for everything. Having a range of offerings under one umbrella will include the likes of sign maintenance, advertising, websites, anti-graffiti and anti-theft films, billboards, and digital signage. There are so many possibilities…”

In the next issue of our magazine, in part two, we follow Aaron’s journey giving back to the industry he loves.

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