Building Brands Through Creative Signage


For nearly a decade, Duncan-Parnell has worked with The Splinter Group to help them bring their client's brands to life through creative signs and graphics.

For busy brand development agency, The Splinter Group, having partners you can trust and depend on is critical. For nearly a decade, Duncan-Parnell has worked with The Splinter Group to help them bring their client’s brands to life through creative signs and graphics.

The Splinter Group, a Carrboro, NC-based, full-service brand development firm, often works with new concept companies and restaurants or with existing businesses seeking to rebrand. The Splinter Group was founded by Lane Wurster and Steve Balcom in 2000 and focuses heavily on building brands with a creative approach.

Creativity Meets Innovation

How The Splinter Group and Duncan-Parnell began working together isn’t a typical ‘sales-rep-meets-business’ story. Roughly 10 years ago, The Splinter Group was working with a client, The Raleigh Wine Shop, which happened to be located right across the street from Duncan-Parnell’s Raleigh branch. When it came time for The Splinter Group to source a new sign for their client, the team at The Raleigh Wine Shop suggested Duncan-Parnell, partly because of the close proximity to them, but also because they liked using their parking lot on the weekends (proof that sharing is caring).

The Splinter Group ended up working with Duncan-Parnell on the graphics they needed for The Raleigh Wine Shop, specifically with sales representative Jason Horner. The agency wanted some kind of graphic for the exterior of the building but weren’t sure what the right option was. Jason recommended using heat applied vinyl for the graphics and it ended up working – not only from a logistics standpoint, but both Lane and the client were thrilled with the outcome. So thrilled in fact, that this material has become a go-to substrate for The Splinter Group, “[the vinyl graphics] ended up looking like a painted design, except we had graphic control over it… we’ve probably done 30 of those since then,” says Lane. According to Lane, this project made him realize the potential of working with Duncan-Parnell.

From Design to Sign

Since that first job, The Splinter Group has worked with Duncan-Parnell sales representatives, Jason and Matt Davis along with the Signs & Graphics team, to bring concepts to life that transform their clients’ spaces. Typically, Lane and his team will come to Duncan-Parnell with a flat design and some ideas on the type of signage they’d like to create, and that’s when the collaboration with the Duncan-Parnell team begins. Jason will make substrate suggestions based on how the sign or graphic will be used, adding dimension to the design. Sometimes, Lane doesn’t even realize something is an option until Jason suggests it, like printing directly on wood, “Duncan-Parnell keeps us up on new technology, new possibilities…they do more than just take our order,” says Lane.

This innovative approach was especially helpful when The Splinter Group was tasked with making a temporary sign for their client Vecino, a brewery in Carrboro. Keeping the design in mind, Lane didn’t want the temporariness of the sign to limit the quality of its appearance, “[we] felt handcuffed by some of the client’s restrictions, but Jason and his team came up with a great solution,” said Lane. Jason and the Signs & Graphics team came up with a custom-routed metal logo that could be mounted to a nice wood background. The finished sign was still temporary, but had a cool, rustic feel that matched the brewery’s ambiance.

Exterior sign at Vecino Brewing

With the variety of clients that The Splinter Group has, having a sign partner that’s both flexible and creative comes in handy. For one project, they came to Duncan-Parnell with an old Krispy Kreme donut cabinet they wanted to rebrand for their client, Rise. With over 15 locations, this biscuit, chicken and donut-serving fast casual restaurant is a big client for The Splinter Group and requires a lot of signs and graphics. When Duncan-Parnell delivered the cabinet to the restaurant the graphics were just as Lane and his team had expected, however, there was something unexpected too. Jason had added acrylic, semi-circle donut-designed handles to the display’s doors, a pleasantly surprising touch for The Splinter Group and Rise, “I’ve never had a vendor go above and beyond to the point of bringing an element that we hadn’t asked for,” said Lane, leaving him wondering, “why didn’t we think of that?”

Display cabinet for Rise

Building Brands

The partnership that has developed between The Splinter Group and Duncan-Parnell has made it easier for them to build and reinvent the brands of their clients. Lane and his team understand the important role that signage plays in developing and supporting a brand and having a partner like Duncan-Parnell on his side makes bringing his team’s ideas to fruition not only possible, but better than imagined. From exterior signs to menus and wayfinding, The Splinter Group relies on signage to breathe life into clients’ concepts, “In terms of branding, I think [signage] is the first glimpse of the experience you’re going to have inside that business or restaurant…[branding] begins to tell the story,” Lane said.

The Splinter Group’s approach to signage and branding can be seen throughout their clients’ businesses. One client, Heyday Brewing, wanted large posters of their can designs, however, Lane thought something more dimensional would be better at catching visitors’ attention, he just didn’t know what that would be exactly. Lane took his request to Duncan-Parnell and Matt and the Signs & Graphics team were able to create dimensional graphics in the form of large beer can replicas, “it’s fun how our creativity can go so far and then [Duncan-Parnell] can figure out how to bring it to life,” said Lane.

Dimensional signage for Heyday Brewing

Nearly a decade after that first project for The Raleigh Wine Shop, The Splinter Group continues to depend on the Duncan-Parnell team for the signs and graphics that play such a big role in their clients’ businesses. Through advanced materials, innovative approaches and a trusting partnership with Duncan-Parnell, The Splinter Group has been able to supply clients with out-of-the-box signs and graphics that satisfy both creative wants and practical needs. Regarding the long-standing partnership with Duncan-Parnell’s Signs & Graphics team, Lane had this to say: “It’s been one of, if not our proudest partnership… I look forward to seeing what we can do in the future,” or in short, “[Duncan-Parnell] makes us look good.”

Jason Horner and Matt Davis install new signage for The Splinter Group's client, Kitchen Chapel Hill

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