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Adam Brown Signs Up for Art, Commerce

Nov. 6, 2012
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Adam Brown may be Brewtown’s most masterful blender of art, architecture, design and commerce. He and his company AFX/Sign Effectz Inc. are the hidden hands behind art and signage citywide.


How would you describe yourself?

A sponge for knowledge. I’m curious about how things work, and I constantly implement what I learn—especially in turning hobbies into business opportunities.


How would you describe AFX/Sign Effectz (signeffectz.com)?

An art studio that generates income. A facility that executes and manufactures ideas. Artisans and craftsmen building signs.


What’s the best part?

The mosh pit of materials—aluminum, steel, copper, neon lights, LED, fluorescence, plastics of all kinds. Thousands of ways to process them. I relate it to the schoolteacher who gives his student a box of random stuff and says, “Make something.”


How do you balance corporate versus artistic?

The corporate world works on structure; they’ve spent millions building image and brand. So be malleable and receptive to outside opinion. Also: budgets. The commodity work (e.g., signs for gas stations and other retailers) provides capital to fuel the studio and fund acquisition of new knowledge. But you have to keep the studio open…


You exist largely where art, design and function collide. How do you blend, merge, shuffle and balance them?

We always work hard when we create. Just because it wasn’t your idea doesn’t mean it can’t be beautiful. I love building others’ art as much as my own. There is gratification any time emotion is struck.


Where can people see your work?

We cover a half-dozen states on the commodity sign side. AFX works in Seattle, New York, Orlando and San Diego. We’ve shipped pieces to Canberra, Australia. We do sign work across the Midwest. We created sun canopies for buildings throughout Wisconsin. On the art side, locally, we did the five “Pedestrian Drama” kiosks on Wisconsin Avenue, near Veterans Park; a metal sculpture at Port Washington’s First Congregational Church; and 12,000 square feet of acrylic panels for the Racine Art Museum’s exterior.


Did you really make giant doors out of old Blatz bottles?

Yes, for Johnsen Schmaling, a Milwaukee architectural firm. They needed doors as a space divider between the entrance and a lounge/party area. And they wanted to hold on to the heritage of the Blatz Brewery building by incorporating beer bottles. Their design was incredible—9-foot-by-9-foot pivoting doors that generate a warm, amber hue when sunshine passes through. Un-encapsulated, too—they wanted people to touch and feel them. Thankfully, broken bottles are easily replaced. The design basically reverse-engineered a six-pack ring holder. They received several awards for it. We continue to work with them today.


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