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After 75 Years, Signs Still Mean Business

This year, the International Sign Association (ISA) celebrates the 75th anniversary since its founding. This has been 75 years of constant change, and we are honored that ISA and ISA Sign Expo® continue to provide you with the resources you need to build your business.

75 years is a long time. So long, that ISA and ISA Sign Expo® were once known under different names. And logos.

Nesa Logo 1 Nesa Logo 4

The National Electric Sign Association (NESA) was founded on January 11, 1944 in the Chicago, IL area. The executive director, or executive secretary as it was said at that time, was Maury Ely.

From the beginning, NESA focused on the industry tradeshow, training for member company employees, federal sign code regulations and research among other key objectives.

NESA held its first annual convention in 1947 with around 400 in attendance.

In the mid-1990s, NESA became ISA and has since been located in Alexandria, VA. ISA continues many of these key objectives today, including ISA International Sign Expo® and an additional emphasis on local sign codes and regulations.

The size of the industry and membership in ISA has grown substantially since its foundation, with over 20,000 attendees expected at this year’s ISA Sign Expo®.

NESA Annual Convention Growth

  • 1947 (Chicago): 742 attendees; 31 vendors
  • 1950 (Cincinnati): 1,100 attendees; 66 vendors
  • 1967 (Chicago): 2,755 attendees
  • 1978 (Hollywood, FL): 2300 attendees; 77 exhibitors/113 spaces
  • 2018 (Orlando, FL): Over 20,387 attendees; 590 exhibitors

For many years, membership in NESA was heavily focused on electric sign manufacturers, which made up the large majority of sign companies. Today’s industry is diverse. ISA Sign Expo® annually brings together the breadth of the sign, graphics and visual communications industry, ranging from neon and LEDs to print and soft signage.

Isa Logo 1 Current Isa Logo

After 75 years of significant change, we are humbled that ISA and ISA Sign Expo® continue to be a leading force for change towards the future for both members and the sign, graphics and visual communications industry as a whole.

Honoring decades of progress, we are also excited to look forward to new ideas, technologies and strategies that will continue to bring change. And we look forward to playing a role in helping your business thrive through these advancements.

To mark this occasion, ISA is celebrating our anniversary throughout the year and at ISA Sign Expo®. ISA will not only acknowledge past accomplishments but also strive for improvement, while preparing the industry for disruptive technologies that are on the horizon.

Because, as we like to say just as much in 1943 as they will in 2043, “signs mean business.”