Editor's Picks

Campus Life

'I can offer all of the products our IU customers need, and I feel great about the quality going out'

Mar. 13, 2014

Take a look around the IU Bloomington campus from almost any vantage point, and you'll probably see a sign -- whether it's a room number outside a door, a "smoke-free campus" reminder or instructions on what to do in case of a fire. 

More than likely, those signs were created by Kathy Grant and her colleagues at the IU Bloomington Physical Plant's sign shop. 

Kathy Grant

Kathy Grant | Photo By Maggie Stephens

Over the course of her career at IU Bloomington, Grant has worked on an array of projects: creating campus bus services signs and homecoming banners; designing and installing the lettering on the prow of the USS Indiana; and providing Americans with Disabilities Act-compliant room identification, directional signage, custom signage for IU regional campuses and the large exterior signs outside every campus building. 

Customers can contact Grant at the sign shop for custom signs. She can suggest a solution based on the customer’s need and the IU image brand and then provide an estimate of the cost and a layout for approval.

Grant also provides support to the Physical Plant by providing identification signs for label switches and valves and other safety information for mechanical applications all over the IU Bloomington campus.

Some of her past projects have included the creation of corrosion-resistant, machine-readable, Quick Response barcodes to be used in the Central Heating Plant and under the streets below manhole covers. She has also developed a Plexiglas sun- and weather-resistant sign for climate control units on the roofs of campus buildings. 

Grant also oversees the saws and drills for the signs in the Physical Plant. Her words of wisdom on the job: “Just be sure to keep a steady hand when you use the box cutter or you’ll lose a finger.” 

Some of Grant's jobs have been odder than others. When the IU Research and Teaching Preserve near University Lake installed an organic toilet -- which composts faster and promotes a greener environment -- Grant was tasked with creating instructional signs to be placed in the bathrooms.

“No one knew what they were, let alone how to use the toilets,” she said. 

When Grant came into her job in 2008, it would have been nearly impossible to create any of those signs. Then, the equipment consisted of one 30-year-old rotary engraver and one 15-inch vinyl cutter. The signs were created using a computer that was only loaded with Windows NT, which was not compatible with a mouse, and a DOS-based program was applied to operate the engraver.

Since then, she has helped the sign shop upgrade with new computers, new engravers with rotary and laser technology, a large format laminator and a large format ink jet printer capable of printing projects that are 54 inches wide on myriad materials for inside and outside applications.

Kathy Grant

Some of the work created at the sign shop. | Photo By Maggie Stephens

“I feel comfortable with the sign shop now," she said." I can offer all of the products our IU customers need, and I feel great about the quality going out." 

Grant received her Bachelor of Fine Arts degree from Indiana State University and worked at an Indianapolis advertising agency, Caldwell Van Riper, for 13 years before coming to IU.

She even owned her own graphic design business in Boulder, Colo., for five years. At the ad agency, Grant stuck to strict deadlines and the need to stay within a budget.

“That’s how I run the sign shop now,” she said.

Grant admits her mind doesn’t stop when she leaves the office at 4 p.m. She and her husband, Keith, designed a new deck and gazebo for their house. She drafted the plans and took care of all of the technical aspects, while her husband did most of the building. She also helps her husband, who is a school administrator at Indian Creek Elementary School in Trafalgar, Ind., by designing T-shirts for the school’s wrestling team and taking on some occasional graphic design projects.

Read more Campus Life stories »