Your signage is your first — and one of your best — opportunities to communicate with the public. Signage must be effectively designed, well manufactured and correctly installed to optimize your message.
From a business perspective, a sign is not best viewed as an expense, but as an investment. You pay for the sign once, yet, with proper maintenance, it will last for years and return your investment many times over.
With this investment approach in mind, select a sign company that can meet your needs.
What does a sign company do?
Most sign companies perform five primary functions:
- Sign design
- Sign maintenance
1. Sign design
Good design begins with a survey of your location and building, or an analysis of the architectural design, ideally prior to construction starting. Traffic volumes and patterns are noted. Visibility is considered. The bottom line is your sign company must assure your signage’s visibility and readability (and conspicuity) under standard conditions. (More about “Evaluating Your Business’s Location Signage Needs” in the “Designing a Sign” section.)
This information is blended with your name and logo, the architectural design of your building, and your marketing plans to develop a street presentation unique and effective for your business. If you don’t have a logo or unique type style, your sign company’s professional designers can usually help develop one that you can use throughout your business and other advertising media to reinforce or “brand” your business.
The sign must be large enough so the customer can read, react and stop safely. A signage package with low readability becomes little more than a street address. Make sure your signs will be designed to their maximum potential to keep your site “branded” and capable of influencing a purchase, as well as complimenting site architecture.
Except for unique, local, governmental conditions, your sign company may obtain the necessary sign and electrical permits required. If variances are required, then you and your sign company will work together to present your needs to the appropriate officials and obtain the approvals. (Additional information about legal rights, regulations and codes is available in the “Legal Considerations” section.)
Many communities will require that your sign company be a licensed contractor before they’ll issue the permit. It is recommended that you only work with licensed contractors.
Proper construction of your signage (which conforms to the local and national codes and standards) is essential for a long-lasting asset. Good workmanship is a must.
Visit your sign company. Look at the condition of their factory and the quality of the product they build. Ask for references, then take a critical look at other signs they’ve built in your community, and talk to the business owners about their signs. You should also drive around your area and look for attractive signs. If you find one you like, ask the business owner where they purchased the sign, and contact the sign company directly. If you are purchasing an electrical sign, ask if the contractor is UL listed.
Design, production and installation of signage doesn’t happen overnight. It may require 6-8 weeks to complete the process, depending on the size and type of signage you choose. You should begin your company and sign selection very early in your business-setup process.
This is a major component to selecting a sign company, because you probably don’t want to be responsible for installing the sign yourself, or for hiring an appropriate professional to do so.
As mentioned above in “Permitting”, communities often require that a sign company be licensed before they will issue an installation permit. Sign installation often requires specialized equipment, and safety is essential. These are additional reasons to work only with licensed contractors whenever possible. The sign company will be working on your property, too, so ask for their certificate of insurance; you don’t want to be assuming liability for their crew’s safety practices.
5. Sign maintenance
Signage is a visual device, and customers must be able to clearly read your signs. Will your sign company be able to keep the sign in good condition? Did they engineer the signs for economical maintenance? Do they have the equipment necessary to perform this service? Make sure you get these answers (see the tool link below).
Remember: Don’t focus primarily on price. If you do, you’re likely to purchase a lower-quality product with limited life expectancy — a product that will present a poor image to your customers. Signage is an investment worthy of your time and careful consideration. Keep all aspects of the signage in mind (including the above five functions) when you analyze your choices of sign companies.
In summary . . .
Designing, permitting, manufacturing, installing and maintaining a sign is a complex job. If not done properly, you could not only lose your communication effectiveness, but also lose your customers.
This link will display a printable tool to help you research and choose a sign company (PDF file.)