Follow the Signs
Advantage Graphics & Signs Combines Creativity and Wayfinding to Guide Atlantans
Odds are that just about everyone who has taken public transportation in Atlanta has seen the work of Advantage Graphics & Signs (AGS). The 26-year-old Atlanta sign company’s work appears in a variety of Metropolitan Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority (MARTA) stations as well as in the former Atlanta Civic Center and also at many retail/private sector locations in the greater Atlanta area.
On her first day of operation, July 1, 1992, AGS founder and President Kelly Spurgeon arrived at her new sign company location with a customer waiting for her to open the doors. The customer represented a company that had created an aerobic step device. “The company contracted with AGS to create graphics for their vans. They wanted a large logo and colorful footprints of sneakers on all four sides and the top of the vehicle,” Spurgeon says. “I started with one job, one computer and a large open warehouse.”
AGS started in the private sector providing signs for small businesses and entrepreneurs. “We have worked with thousands of companies on their signage, offering services to help them build their brand and image. We enjoy working with small companies in crafting new brands with a wide variety of products to help them get started,” says sales manager Pam Ridgway.
Since that start, the firm expanded its space in 2012 and then relocated and expanded again in 2017, opening its new Sign Super Store off Interstate 85 North and Interstate 285 East, convenient to downtown, north Atlanta and the surrounding metro area.
What They Do Best
The major focus of the company is government projects and contracts services. Signs are both a creative and precise aspect of a construction project. AGS comes in at the beginning of the project to understand the scope of the work and attends construction meetings as required by the prime contractor to set the timelines and the production schedules, Kelly says.
AGS provides signs, visual advertisements, digital displays, branding and contract services. “We design, fabricate and install signs across Atlanta. Signs can be digital displays, light boxes, channel letters, monuments, post and panel and routed/sandblasted. Almost anything you can put your name on, we can do—including print materials, banners and fleet graphics,” Pam says. Operations manager (and Spurgeon’s brother) Drew Spurgeon adds that the AGS team can also advise clients on which products can best fit their needs.
In addition, AGS can create add-on products, such as displays, banners, posters and shirts. The firm also helps clients by bundling services into one package. If a contractor has 50 trucks that need to be wrapped, AGS can do that and also provide site signs, mesh banners for fencing and decals for hardhats, and safety vests that are marked with the company’s logo.</>
The team’s expertise in advising clients comes from their varied backgrounds. Kelly earned her bachelor’s degree from the University of Mississippi in interior design, art and business, with experience ranging from interior design to drafting, airport signage and exhibit graphics and displays as well as graphic design and business management.
Pam joined the company in 2008 as the sales manager with the goal of further expanding the firm’s contracts into the government sector and to develop a contract services division for the company. In the 10 years that she has been with the company, AGS has achieved both of those goals, Kelly says.
Drew joined the team in 2002, bringing with him a wealth of experience working in a corporate environment, as well as his talents in computer technology and graphic art. He manages the production staff and works closely with clients to help them reach their desired goals. Kelly credits much of the company’s success to the solid project management team and leading technology they employ.
“Our company believes in Atlanta and we are proud of providing government signage that helps support and sustain Atlanta’s infrastructure,” Kelly says. Among some of the company’s high-profile projects are the Lindbergh Center MARTA station signage project last year and the Buckhead MARTA station pedestrian bridge signage project in 2014 as well as the Arts Center MARTA station wall mural project, the Atlanta Civic Center signage project, the Atlanta 1996 Summer Olympics signage project and Stone Mountain Park, a popular theme park.
One of the firm’s most unusual projects for MARTA was at the North Avenue station where a mural had been painted by a local artist almost 30 years ago. A cleaning crew pressure-washing the station damaged much of the mural by washing it away. AGS was hired to repaint the mural matching the colors precisely and in an environmentally conscious way.
“We had to update the kind of paints used, so we were matching paints with different bases in a full array of colors and recreating this wall mural from images and layouts of the original,” Kelly says. “While that was a special project, most of our work with MARTA has been providing the railway station signage.” This includes overhead wayfinding signs on the platform and concourse levels and the gates near the buses, as well as directory signs and all other station signage.
Pam says AGS has also completed some quick-turnaround projects for MARTA. The Lindbergh Center MARTA station signage project was motivated by a worldwide event that Atlanta was hosting on transportation. AGS created and delivered the signs for the project two weeks ahead of the deadline.
The MARTA project that means the most to Kelly and her team is the Buckhead station pedestrian bridge signage project. The bridge was designed to improve urban community access to the Buckhead MARTA station from the east and west side of Buckhead, which had been separated due to the construction of Georgia 400. AGS was a subcontractor for Archer Western Contractors for this project. The bridge crosses over both northbound and southbound lanes of Georgia 400, linking one of MARTA’s busiest train stations, allowing pedestrians to take this shortcut to the station. The station was also expanded by half and now serves as a catalyst for surrounding transit-oriented development, Kelly says.
Another favorite governmental project was the command center for the Georgia Department of Transportation. AGS is involved in both design work as well as various signage throughout the facility.
“We have a large focus on the government sector and direct experience with contract work for governmental entities and prime contractors performing government projects,” Kelly says. Many of these assignments resulted from AGS’ experience with the scope of work requested and the company’s various certifications. AGC is certified with the U.S. federal government as a Disadvantaged Business Enterprise (DBE), by the Women’s Business Enterprise National Council (WBENC)— the largest certifier of women-owned businesses in the U.S.— as a Women-owned Business Enterprise, and as a Women’s Business Enterprise (WBE) by local city and county agencies.
Connecting Ideas with Action
The company’s employees enjoy relating with people and helping organizations.
“I enjoy connecting with people, taking their ideas and concepts and bringing them into a physical form,” Kelly says. “I’ve always believed everyone knows exactly what they want, and my job is to help them get clarity on it in a way that we can create that for them.”
“We look to the quote by self-help author, Dr. Napoleon Hill, which we have modified to ‘If you can see it and believe it, we can conceive it and help you achieve it,’ ” Pam says.
Kelly also believes it’s important to give back to the community that has been so good to her firm.
One organization the company has supported is Pets Are Loving Support, Inc. (PALS Atlanta), whose mission is “to provide ongoing care and support to the pets of Atlanta area persons living with disabilities due to HIV/AIDS and terminal illnesses, and the elderly.” AGS provides programs for the PALS Atlanta monthly Bingo games. AGS also provides discounts across the board to 501(c)(3) nonprofits.
Beyond supporting charities, AGS also has a fun and friendly vibe. “It is a creative company and when you come into our shop, it is very apparent. The way we advertise off the highway with a banner and cutouts of some of the people in the company is also fun and inviting,” Kelly says, adding that keeping the shop clean and welcoming also expresses their management style.
Additionally, the staff knows that if they have an idea on how to improve a process, leadership is open to hearing it, Pam says.
The company operates like a family with a diverse group of people, Kelly says. “Many of our customers are also like family, and we’ve played an integral role in getting their businesses started. Having Drew on board is wonderful; he touches every project that comes through the doors and adds his personal touch to each project.” Drew adds, “It’s all about our clients succeeding. Our business is to help them grow. We create a partnership and as they grow, we grow.”
“It is fun to work with my brother, Drew,” Kelly says. “Together, we have been able to expand and grow the business. We are grateful for the business knowledge we have received from our dad, Andrew Spurgeon, and creative talents encouraged and passed on from our mom, Carolyn Spurgeon.”
All signs point to further growth for AGS. The team looks to expand business by working more with the construction industry, Kelly says. It’s all about working closely with clients and helping them meet their goals, whether it is wayfinding or business promotion. “Everybody needs a sign,” Pam says.