Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Part Four of Display Product Guide – Signage

Signage - aka Signs, Internal Signage, External Signage, Plaques, Fascia, Lettering, Totem Signs, Slat Signs, Freestanding Signs, Building Signage, Wayfinding Signs, Directional Signs - Not to be confused with - Vehicle Signs, Window Graphics, Portable Signs, Banners & Flags (see parts 1 -3).

Signage usually refers to some marking used to identify a building, to offer information or to brand a premises. As mentioned above there are portable variations when it comes to signage but this entry will focus on the static signs which would make up the more traditional portion of this product sector.

One of the most common forms of building signage, both internal and external, and arguably one of the most attractive, is cut lettering. This is where individual letters are cut or formed from perspex, metal, wood etc. These letters stand proud from the surface they are attached to. This type of lettering is very eye-catching and custommisable but can only be used with lettering of a decent size - smaller lettering will have to be attached to a panel rather than individual letters attached to a wall, for example. A good supplier will be able to include a cut-out of most logos in this of sign.

Another type of well known sign is a neon sign - famous for their visibility - but these signs are very delicate and expensive to maintain. These are rapidly being replaced by LED signs which are just as visible and are cheaper to produce and less temperamental than neon! As with most sign types, there are standard neon signs available ('vacancies' for example) or you can have a custom sign made which will cost more and take a bit longer.

Also highly visible are backlit signs - very professional looking signs that can be replied upon to draw attention to your office or shop. Perspex is the most popular choice for the face of these signs as it allows a degree of light through, although laser cut stainless steel is also popular (the light shines through the cut portions). Again you can stick to stock shapes to save time and money, or custom order a sign for an individual look. For these and neon signs you will have to consider a power source for your sign and may need to engage an electrician.

Indoor signs, directional signs and those used in industrial estates or retail centres often incorporate slat or totem systems, which allow elements of the sign to be changed without replacing the whole sign. Another option here is a fingerpost sign, which consists of a pole to which various arms can be attached, all pointing in different directions. Consistency is key here so make sure your supplier can replicate or replace the slats in the future to keep a uniform look.

Building signage can also be in the form of flat aluminium panels, with vinyl or digital print applied. A more refined look can be achieved by having the edges 'turned back' or using a metal edging as a border (border can also be used as a feature if its in a contrasting colour or texture). Temporary building signage can be made from foamex or a similar lightweight substrate, with digital print or vinyl applied. Make sure these signs are over-laminated if they are for outdoor use though. Consider materials such as anodised aluminium or finished dibond which are durable but allow you to customise your look with a wood laminate, or hammered metal or brushed metal finish for example.

Brass plaques mounted on wood have traditionally been used as smaller signs beside office doorways or reception signs. These give a traditional and formal image but because the materials and
labour required are expensive these are a dear option. A more contemporary version is a stainless steel plaque or 'reverse tray' sign, or a glasslook plaque, which still look very professional and are also generally cheaper than brass plaques.

When you haven't got a wall to fix your sign to, you can use posts to support the sign or hang the sign from a support if you have a sheltered area to do so. Bear in mind that sinking posts will often require concrete to be cast and fitting signs at great heights will incur extra labour costs and the hire of a cherry picker or crane.

Health and Safety and Braille signs are often available in stock versions which will save a lot of money and time - custom versions of braille signs especially will take time to produce and incur a premium. Make sure you comply with regulations for Health and Safety and Braille signs, available by clicking on the above links.

Of course, your needs or wants may not fit into any one category, or maybe your premises does not provide any easy or obvious place to support a sign. In that case your only option is to contact a custom signmaker with a good track record to engineer something specifically for you.

Things to look out for when ordering signage:

**Check what stock options are available, as opposed to custom made signage, to save you time and money

**Think about where you want the sign to go - the higher the position the more it will cost, but this may be offset with extra visibility achieved. Is it necessary to sink poles to support your sign? Is it in an exposed area where it could be damaged by harsh weather or vandalised?

**Make sure your signage is fit by an expert - the heavier the sign material and the more elements involved, the more important this is, both for durability and safety. For very heavy installations the services of a civil engineer are advised.

**Engage a designer who specialises in designing for large format uses - a sign must be easily legible to be useful and this type of design differs greatly from business card or web design for example.

**Consider incorporating a panel which can be replaced if you have information which may change – patches and other changes can be very visible on well established signage.

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