AFTER contracting to organise the NZSDA’s expo and conference in 1995, Brian Fairchild received an offer to fill the role of secretary in January of the following year after the untimely passing of his predecessor, David Hills.

He took the opportunity and stayed faithful to the task for over a quarter of a century. He had earned an MBA from the University of Auckland in 1992 and, except for a 15-month period where he undertook a contract with a local authority trading entity Northern Disposal Systems, Fairchild had worked with not-for-profit groups in event management, conferences and trade shows since the mid-seventies.

He says, “The NZSDA, which celebrated its 50th year in 2015, represents the interests of sign makers throughout New Zealand. In the early days, that centred mainly on award rates and employment conditions. We worked on a number of important issues ranging from the establishment of rules associated with District Plans and Bylaws throughout New Zealand to, more recently, ensuring that their members are up to date with the requirements of the Health & Safety at Work Act of 2015 and its implications for those who make and install signs, displays, and graphic imagery.”

SubheadAwards and apprenticeshipsEARLY in his tenure, at the 1996 NZSDA annual conference in New Plymouth, Fairchild could see that the Sign of the Year Awards had reached their use by date. Working with sponsor 3M New Zealand and Les Berridge, life member and PR expert, Fairchild formed a strategy to revitalise the event. From 1997, it became the New Zealand Sign and Display Awards. 

He says, “It has evolved into an open event that celebrates excellence in the creation and delivery of signs.  3M continued its support and assumed the role of premier sponsor in the early days. Since then, it has grown substantially and now Avery Dennison fills the premier sponsors’ role.”

A stalwart supporter of the apprenticeship system, Fairchild also acts as a trustee for the Keith Langstone Memorial Trust, which supports industry training and recognises excellence in apprentices with a bequest from the late Keith Langstone.

Changes to the Industry Training Organisations over the last decade have seen mixed fortunes for apprenticeships within the sign industry. The closing of the NZSDA Sign School under the Communications and Media ITO dealt a blow to apprentice training and the NZSDA.

He says, “The school was established by donations from the membership over a two-year period. Then, with the training of apprentices being undertaken purely in the workplace, the need for new unit training standards was identified.

“With the amalgamation of the CMITO into Competenz, apprenticeship training has received a boost and apprentice numbers are getting back up to where they were back in the mid-nineties and the re-write of the unit standards is now underway, putting things back on track. A good thing in my view.”

Price it right

REGRETS? He’s had only a few. One involves not having had more influence or success in the pricing regimes of companies purporting to make and sell signs.

He says, “The advent of the wide format printer has opened the doors for traditional printers to expand their offerings by making signs for internal and promotional use without understanding the value of the sign or the traditional pricing structures. Similarly, a lot of home-based businesses also price without fully understanding the value of a sign to its purchaser. I expect this to be addressed with the launch of the NZ Sign Industry Pricing Guide that has been in development for some time now.”

Fairchild contends that during his time as secretary, “the advent of the affordable silicon chip, and its many and varied uses, has seen substantial changes to the craft of making signs. Yet the ability to design a sign or graphic that is fit-for-purpose, has largely remained in the domain of the signmaker. This, in conjunction with the passion that many in the industry have for the traditional skills and their adaption to today’s needs sees, in my view, the industry in good health.”

The sign industry has benefitted immeasurably from having Brian Fairchild at its helm. Signing off, he says, “I thank from the bottom of my heart all those in the industry that have helped in delivering the members’ needs and wishes; the many sponsors and supporters who, over many years, have made it possible for these aims and objectives come to fruition; and those who paved the way before me for their foresight and diligence in serving the sign industry in New Zealand.”

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