Points to consider when buying signs ( 06-October-2009 )
Signage - How and when to use Signs
How do signs make a difference in the promotion of a business?
Effective signage can improve any company’s image to a huge degree – it doesn’t always have to be the biggest spend that creates the best impression, although, as in life in general, you get what you’re willing to pay for. Consider a simple manufacturing unit, lost amongst hundreds of others on a not very well maintained industrial estate...... Clean, clear signage can ‘lift’ this one unit and make it easier to find and identify, plus it says to its clients ‘we care about how we look to the outside world’. It’s a bit like having a smart, freshly painted front door at your home: it tells the world you’re proud of what’s inside!
What jobs do signs do?
I always say that signs should do at least one but ideally several of these things: Advise, Instruct, Direct, Inform, Educate, Enhance and occasionally even, Entertain!
How do business owners decide what type of sign they need?
Leaving aside the purely advisory/instructional (such as road traffic and safety signs), practically every company will have a need to do at least one of the following
· direct its customers to its door,
· inform them of opening times, its products or services or even simply its name,
· educate them about technical details or special offers,
· enhance its image
· advise them of new products or offers
· And occasionally take the opportunity to entertain inan effort to be memorable.
A good sign maker should be able to offer you a means of doing all of the above, in style and within your specified budget.
The term ‘signage’ or ‘sign’ is a bit of a catch-all for anything which displays who you are, where you are, what you do, how to contact you etc. It could be a scrap of paper stuck to an office door, saying ‘Joe Smith Systems Co.’, but this isn’t likely to inspire confidence in potential customers, now is it? A professionally designed and manufactured sign will do a much better job.
Let’s take this fictitious ‘systems’ company from start-up to well-established.
Firstly, Joe Smith Systems Co. starts up with a warehouse and will need a sign to identify itself on an industrial estate. This should be large enough to be seen from the nearest main road, and positioned close to the building entrance, but away from goods deliveries areas. As it’s not likely to be visited after office hours it probably doesn’t need to be illuminated.
Materials to suit the sign and location
As to materials, it could be a framed (aluminium frame) foam PVC or acrylic (often referred to as ‘Perspex’ which is simply a brand name) sign, or for a more robust sign, one made from aluminium or aluminium laminate – which won’t need a frame. Shown here (Trafford Electrical) is an aluminium laminate tray sign for the larger sign and aluminium laminate flat panel for the ‘Deliveries’ signs. Note that both signs, despite their different ‘jobs’, display the company logo in the same place and follow the same basic layout. This helps to strengthen the brand image.
Smaller signs may be needed to indicate a variety of specific areas: goods inwards and outwards, car parking, storage, stacking, any safety instructions or trading hours, washroom, staff areas etc & so on.
Then Joe Smith Systems Co. grows and needs to occupy an office to accommodate its sales force. In a nice office building in town, this calls for a more sophisticated approach to signage.
Perhaps engraved signs at the entrance, simply stating the name of the company and its office hours? These could be aluminium, brass or at the top of the range, polished or brushed stainless steel, like those shown here for ‘Top Gear Recruitment’ and ‘Rocket Science Recruitment’.
Simple ‘line’ shapes can be engraved as well as text, so Joe Smith Co. could incorporate its logo here to define its brand. These types of signs are traditionally found at the offices of the ‘professionals’: accountants, doctors, dentists and so on, (think of John Street in Manchester, you’ll get the idea!) but can be equally well employed in many situations, especially where space is limited. Again, Joe Smith’s offices are unlikely to be visited at night, so illumination is not relevant.
A more contemporary alternative may be clear acrylic panels, held away from the wall by what are known as ‘stand-off’ fixings. They do what they say, they make the sign stand-off from the wall. The result is very effective at a reasonable cost. The example shown here is obviously ‘internal’ but this style of signage is perfectly happy outside too.
After some time, Joe Smith Systems Co. decides to ‘go retail’ and takes an outlet on the high street. Now we can start doing something a lot more imaginative – both externally & internally! Joe Smith Systems Co. could be well advised to now consider an illuminated sign. The company needs to be identifiable ‘after dark’, and during the winter months that could mean anytime after 3pm.
This brings up the thorny topic of PLANNING PERMISSION. My advice is always, ‘when in doubt, apply’. I’ve come across many cases where business owners haven’t done so and have been ordered to remove offending signs for which they’ve paid thousands of pounds. Not a happy situation. The larger sign companies may be able to handle this application for you, but at the very least you should expect your signmaker to provide all the necessary specifications and scaled drawings to facilitate this process.
Back to the exciting bit – the design. Joe Smith Systems Co. has already used the services of a good graphic designer and so is able to supply the necessary logo artwork and colour references for the signmaker to work from. If he hadn’t, he’d have found that most signmakers can offer this design service either in-house or sub-contracted. The actual detail of this sign will depend on so many things: budget, personal preference, differentiation from the competition, physical constraints (not all buildings are suitable for all types of signs), time available, and safety.
Typically Joe Smith Systems Co. might opt for a ‘lightbox’
(like the picture here) which is basically an aluminium box containing fluorescent tubes with an acrylic face and translucent graphics. This allows the illumination to either affect the graphics or the background (the substrate). This construction is suitable for internal or external use.
Or if he wants to go a lot more up-market, he could go for something ‘architectural’ i.e. with a thickness, in perhaps stainless steel (as shown here) or acrylic.
The addition of LED lighting within the structure ensures an even more dramatic effect.
There are many options and your signmaker should give you all the relevant information to help you make the right decision for your business.
Joe Smith Systems Co. now purchases a fleet of vehicles. Perfect for promoting the company and should never be wasted as an opportunity to confirm the brand image. Day and night, these moving advertisements earn their keep many times over.
For Joe’s personal car, (which he wants to use at weekends,
devoid of company branding), magnetic signage is the answer.
So now Joe Smith Systems Co. is well established with his warehouse, his office, his chain of retail outlets & his fleet of vehicles – what more could a sign company do to help deal with future growth?
Sooner or later he’ll need to exhibit at specialist trade shows.
This calls for transportable displays: often referred to as ‘pop-ups’or ‘rollerbanners’ these are invaluable and can be used time and time again, so are a good investment. The one shown here has been used at many 'bridal fairs' by wedding photographer Issy Jones and has won her several jobs.
Joe Smith is also a keen golfer and supporter of his local junior football team – so regular banners are now also part of his sign portfolio. Incredibly cost effective, pvc banners are so much more sophisticated than the old ‘happy hour’ pub banners we used to see everywhere. With the advent of digital printing, full colour photographic work is now easily incorporated into something costing around £100 and which he’ll be able to use time after time, indoors and outdoors.
So, apart from the legislative requirements which it must comply with, we’ve taken Joe Smith Systems Co. pretty much through its sign requirements as it grows.
Finally, to achieve effective, affordable signage, like any sensible business, Joe Smith Systems Co. considered these points when selecting its signmaker.
· Testimonials and referrals –A reputable sign company should be able to provide photos of something similar to what you have in mind
· State your budget – this will save lots of time for all concerned & prevent your signmaker from going off into flights of fancy!
· Be clear about what you want to achieve – is it long or short-term effectiveness you’re after?
· Look around you and make note of what you like – tell your signmaker about it.
· Don’t be afraid to show your ignorance about materials etc. Your signmaker knows signs, and doesn’t expect you to the way you know your business.
· When purchasing a ‘permanent’ sign, like the ‘fascia’ sign described earlier, a reputable signmaker will not quote until he has carried out a site visit. There are too many variables and safety issues to consider. Give him the opportunity to do this.
· Make sure you give reasonable lead times. Any signmaker can ditch current clients to chase a new, profitable job, but a reputable one won’t. And without the ‘rush’ factor, you’ll get a better job in the end.
Designer Flowers ( 03-July-2009 )
Designer Flowers by Rodgers
‘Designer Flowers’ is the newest incarnation of the long established & highly respected floristry company ‘Rodgers the Florists’.
Well known in and around Manchester since its formation in 1911, Rodgers the Florists has been a leading light in the floristry business for almost 100 years. The company has always remained in the hands of Rodgers family members: in fact great grandmother Edith, who started the business, was a founder member of the now huge & multinational Interflora organisation, and the Rodgers family have maintained this link ever since.
The business is now in the safe hands of 4th generation members of the family: MD Jason, Event Specialist Lynette & Creative Director Karen bought the business from father, Tony & uncle, Peter Rodgers who had grown the company successfully over many years, notably supplying all the flowers for the Commonwealth Games in 2002. Tony & Peter are now enjoying a well-earned retirement whilst the youngsters continue to build the business by supplying the likes of Manchester United and numerous, nameless ‘celebs’!
The current owners continue the practice of constantly reviewing & updating the company image and are well aware of their position within a fast changing market. With this in mind, they decided on a change of look for their huge West Didsbury ‘flagship’ store, the site of the original nursery 100 years ago….a case of new broom?
The ‘Gloriosa’ was chosen as the ‘emblem’ of the new ‘Designer Flowers’ brand and presents a particular challenge to the poor old sign maker due to the complexity of its form
At Vital Signs & Graphics we have worked with Rodgers for almost 10 years, and have supplied many fascia signs, vehicle liveries & exhibition panels, charting the development of the company through the years.We were of course delighted to be asked to play a part in this re-branding, resulting in the emergence of the all new ‘DESIGNER FLOWERS’ brand image.
What we did:
Firstly the fascia panels on both aspects were replaced with aluminium composite material in black. This gives us a smooth, cleanbase to build on and represents exceptional value to the client due to its longevity in-situ. Because this material has good long-term stability it can be affixed directly to the wall, without the aid ofa frame which here would have been obtrusive
We created the text & ‘Gloriosa’ emblem
by cutting it
from the same composite material, but with a mirror finish.
This gave us the glamorous & highly visible look the client wanted.
The logo and main text were mounted using stand-off fixings:this creates a 3D effect, and with the addition of white shadowgives good depth to the message.As the remainder of the text was considered to be of lesser importancethis was simply created using self-adhesive vinyl text.
The ‘Interflora’ logo was included on the sign,
as an integral part of ‘Designer Flowers’ business, and to capitalise on brand recognition, the phrase ‘by Rodgers’ was added as a by-line. Finally, contact details were included in self-adhesive vinyl to complete the signs.
“We have worked with Vital signs for a considerable amount of years now and have never been disappointed. It’s great to ‘throw’ an idea at someone who understands what you are looking to achieve and produces an excellent resultevery time! We pride ourselves on going the extra mile for our customers and it is great to work with a company sharing the same principles.”
Jason Rodgers, MD Designer Flowers
Booth Ainsworth ( 05-February-2009 )
Job Profile: Booth Ainsworth Chartered Accountants
Managing partner, David Powell, approached us to come up with some ideas for new signage on Booth Ainsworth’s purpose-built, modern office building in Stockport, ‘Alpha House’. The partners had decided that the existing signage was looking rather ‘tired’ and did not reflect the firm’s positive approach and long-standing good reputation in the town. There was also an issue with visitor car parking: Booth Ainsworth wanted to make sure that their staff & visitors were able to park safely within the firm’s private car parking area.....clear & effective signage was needed to deter non-authorised use of this facility.
Pre-Existing signage to main fascia
Existing signage on the main fascia was showing clear signs of excessive wear & tear
due to inadequate paint finish on stainless steel characters.
In addition, the firm had recently changed status; becoming an ‘LLP’. The partners wanted the new signage to clearly reflect this.
Eve Haffenden from Booth Ainsworth’s PR & Marketing Department was able to provide all the necessary facts & figures to enable us to comply with the firm’s corporate image.
The final proposal came about as a result of consultation between Eve & David from Booth Ainsworth & Sharon from Vital Signs & Graphics. The signs were to be positioned above the first floor windows, towards the top of the building. This ensured optimum visibility (the building occupies an ‘almost corner’ position at the junction of Stockport Road & Greek Street in Stockport) for both motorists & pedestrians.
Built-up acrylic text in blue to match colour reference provided
The material proposed was self-coloured acrylic. The face of each letter is 3mm thick, with a 30mm return. This gives the appearance of a solid letter/character, but allows for ‘secret’ fixing (the fixings are hidden within the return of each character). There was little discussion about the colour – the blue had to match Booth Ainsworth’s corporate colours. Fortunately it happens to work extremely well with the light colour of the modern brickwork!
As specialist access equipment was needed in order to safely reach the site of the sign, fitting was carried out very early on a Sunday morning. This meant minimal disturbance to Booth Ainsworth staff and passers-by alike. The whole job was completed by two experienced fitters before lunchtime: just in time for late bacon butties in fact!
Car Parking Area: To the rear of ‘Alpha House’ is a private car park for the exclusive use of staff & visitors to Booth Ainsworth. The existing signage was not giving a very clear message & the site was being abused by casual parkers. In addition, the firm wanted to be clear about its strict adherence to its ‘disabled user’ policy in allocated spaces. Vital Signs & Graphics produced a range of colour infilled engraved signs in brushed stainless steel. This material continues the prestigious image & is practically indestructible
“Booth Ainsworth became an LLP in April of 2008 and wanted to change the imagery and branding immediately. One of the most important things was to change the signage outside of the building and also our car parking notices.
As the offices are on a busy road in Stockport with a lot of passing traffic we wanted to give our office sign as much exposure as possible.
Sharon came to visit us and she interpreted our needs brilliantly, adding her own creative ideas. In a matter of days we had all the plans we needed to approve the project and the signage was implemented within budget and on time.”
David Powell, Managing Partner
'Unitown Hire' ...Signs for new building June 2008 ( 07-July-2008 )
Our client, Unitown Hire, supplies replacement private hire vehicles and has been operating since 1997. In spring 2008, having outgrown their previous offices & with a view to further expansion, the company moved to new, purpose-built premises in Beswick.
MD Jonathan Rose had approached us some weeks prior to the move, to discuss signage for the new bulding. Jonathan selected us to carry out this work, because (in his own words) "We chose VS&G because we had been happy with the quality of a variety of previous work they have done for us & knew them to be reliable"
Jonathan’s brief instructed us to:
- Make good use of the improved company logo
- Ensure visitors were able to find the building & locate the correct entrance easily
- Create as much impact as possible
- Add interest to a blank fascia
- Ensure that the image projected was professional & sophisticated, complementing the company’s status as one of the leaders in their field.
- Complete within 3 weeks (the move was iminent!) and to specified budget
Vital Signs & Graphics Director, Tony, met with Jonathan to present his proposals, which were accepted. The only outstanding issue was: To illuminate or not? Given that Unitown Hire is sited off the Hight Street & is not concerned with atttracting business outside of regular 9-5 hours, it was felt that, certainly at this time, lighting for the signs was not an important issue. If at any point in the future it’s decided that external illumination would be worthwhile, then this can be added with relative ease. Tony designed & sited the signs with this in mind.
Vital Signs & Graphics proposed 2 signs for this new building.
Firstly the main fascia sign, to identify the building. This was made up of a white aluminum ‘tray’ at 3.3Mtr x 1.2Mtr with a 50mm ‘return’. Printed vinyl graphics in soft grey, depicting the logo, were applied to the face of the tray...forming the background of the design. Then, individual letters, reading ‘UNITOWN HIRE LTD’ were cut from 5mm thick black acrylic and applied, by means of stand-off locators, over the grey logo.
This method of production produces a sign with good depth & substance, compared with for instance, a flat panel sign. The use of powder-coated aluminium ensures longevity & value for money. The ‘Unitown’ logo was faithfully reproduced & the inclusion of the strap-line ‘VEHICLE RENTAL’ ensures that the company & its business are closely allied. The sign was sited in the centre of the main fascia, at the optimum height for maximum visibility from the main access road.
Main Fascia Sign
Main Fascia Sign (detail)
In order to make sure that visitors accessed the correct entrance from the car park, a second sign was proposed. This was sited immediately over the main entrance, and read simply ‘RECEPTION’. In this instance, 250mm high individual built-up letters in black acrylic were used. Built-ups differ from flat-cut letters in that, although the face of the letter is cut from the same thickness of acrylic sheet, a ‘return’ (in this case, 25mm deep) is affixed to all sides of the letter, giving the appearance of a 30mm thick solid shape. This method of construction allows for the fixings to be hidden within the return and gives a very clean look to the finished job. The black colour was selected in order to provide maximum contrast against the grey aluminium cladding which covered a large part of the building.
Unitown Hire MD Jonathan Rose was very pleased with the result & reported that "..the signs have been very positively complimented upon on & Vital Signs & Graphics have gained business by being asked to supply signs to a company which deals with Unitown Hire, on the strength of the quality & appearance of our new signs"