What’s A Custom Sign?
Anything that’s personalized just for you verses “off the shelf” is, by definition, custom. That covers just about every kind of sign you could need. But for the purposes of this discussion, lets define custom signs as those that exceeds the norm. Those that utilize a higher level of design input, extra care and craftsmanship in their fabrication, additional steps taken to produce something more unique, use of specialized techniques and exotic or premium materials, creating a final product that is visibly a cut-above. A visual display that stands out from the field, captures your attention and creates an attraction between itself and you.
You’ve seen signs like this. Signs that truly caught your eye and compelled you to go in and check out the establishment. When you’re in the market for a new sign that will be your primary identification, you have an exciting opportunity to create just such a powerful marketing tool for yourself. It’s actually more than just an opportunity, it’s an obligation.
How Much Do They Cost? How much have you got? The more you can afford the cheaper they are. What on earth is Joe talking about now? Simply this, good signs, like good employees or good equipment, don’t cost, they pay.
They are proportionately more effective in pretty much a direct relation to how well they are made. Being “well made” means well designed first and foremost. A very good design rendered simply, in modest materials, will always outperform a poor design (no matter what you do to embellish it) in terms of attraction and positive attention. Beyond that, there are other direct relations between your budget and the amount of custom fabrication techniques that can be utilized, and the quality of the materials you can incorporate to maximize overall longevity.
Whenever possible shop for the “look” first, then “longevity”. Shop for price last.
Consider this, with a minimum expected life span of 5 – 10 years or more, signs are by far your dirt-cheapest form of advertising. The Department of Transportation keeps traffic census records in your area that will tell you the count of cars that pass your place of business on a daily basis. Take a fairly modest count of 500 cars and do some quick math. If you allow 1.5 occupants per car, 365 days per year for just 5 years, you come up with 1,368,750 viewings! That means for every $1,000 you spend on your sign, 14 people will see it for each penny spent. That’s like me showing your business card to 1,400 people for a dollar. Can you justify that? Keep that in mind when setting a sign budget.
How Do I Find a Good Sign Maker? This is not always simple. The problem is there can be huge differences from one sign shop to another in their abilities and experience, possession of or access to specialized equipment to expand production, personal preferences or styles, and their skill in interpreting your needs. The more sign shops there are in your area, the harder it can be to decide who to use. There are some ways to make it less daunting.
Gathering some facts before you contact the sign shop will be well worth the effort. Stop in at businesses who’s signs you like and ask who made it and how they were to work with. I have known absolutely brilliant and visionary signmakers who were downright terrible at customer relations, time frames, communicating and the like. Conversely, some perfectly professional, reliable, successful shops lack dearly in the imagination and creativity department.
Try to have a budget in mind and a handle on the quantity and sizes of the signs you need. Bring in a copy of your logo, color swatches and maybe even a photo of the area where the new sign is to be located. This will aid the signmaker greatly in narrowing down the vast field of variables in sign materials and methods.
The final choice is mostly an emotional one. If you are comfortable with the personality, the portfolio samples you see, the general professionalism of the individual and the setting, then it’s probably right.
Signshop Ethics. Time and talent ain’t free. It isn’t fair to call a signshop to come out to your place, take measurements, research code restrictions, draw up design concepts and make a presentation to you if you are not serious about actually buying a sign. And whatever you do, never, never take one shop’s drawings to another shop to solicit a competitive bid unless you have paid the first person for their time.
One of the services Cape Craft can offer is CONSULTATION – where we provide all that design, feasibility, research and engineering for a fee, specifically for the purposes of securing a permit or even soliciting competitive open bids. In a consultatant relationship our obligation becomes to create renderings, materials specifications and files that anyone can reasonably bid and fabricate.
But most sign jobs don’t work that way. Typically the sign shop will keep specs vague and files guarded till a deal is struck and a deposit is tendered. Their design and sales time is a net loss if you don’t buy the sign, which will make them reluctant to spend too much time with you unless you express some sincerity in dealing with them exclusively. If you enter into an implied agreement with someone this way, honor it. Sign shops, like anyone else, are looking to forge long-term relationships with their clients. If you treat them fairly, they will always be there for you.
-Joe Rees c.1995