What Do I Need to Know When Purchasing a Sign?

William (Bill) Hayes

If you are undertaking a sign project for the first time or for the first time in a long time, you may be wondering: 

  • What do I need to know?
  • What will the supplier need from me?
  • Do I know what I want?
  • …or do I need help from a design perspective?
  • Do I have a brand standard for signage?
  • What will the municipality allow?
  • Should I purchase something static or should it be digital?
  • What about illumination options, issues and restrictions?

I’ve been in the signage industry for 30 years and have plenty of experience when it comes to signage design and planning. As a Project Strategist, I work with our clients at the start of every project to ensure that potential issues are nipped in the bud. This includes reviewing existing documentation (sign code, brand standards, etc.) and helping our customers further define their goals for their signage.

Because so many questions can arise when you first begin your sign purchasing journey, I want to take some time to highlight a few common pitfalls and issues that customers often face at the start of a new project.

Where Does the Design Come From?

You can work with a design firm to refine your branding and sign design, or you can work directly with the sign vendor. Oftentimes the sign company can provide design at a less expensive rate with a clearer focus on what really works in signage. Whether you already have an established brand or need assistance to produce your designs, the manufacturer will need vector artwork for production.

What Kind of Signage Can I Have?

When it comes to what the city will allow, you can verify the zoning online and then review municipal code directly on the city or county’s website. You can also utilize a central database like Municode.com.  This due diligence will put you in the driver’s seat when it comes to knowing what is possible, how large, how tall, whether you can employ a digital display or animate your sign.  You may be restricted on the use of and duration during the day and night, to illuminate your signage.  Also, each city or county will differ on allowing you to advertise your services or products vs. simply identifying your business.

Structure Design Schematics | Outdoor Illuminated Business Signage

Part of the signage design process includes planning out the structure of your signage, to not only ensure feasibility, durability, and safety but also that it's fabricated in a way that meets your local municipality's signage requirements and regulations.

Where Should I Place My Sign?

Another major concern is location of signage.  Should you place the sign directly on your building or should the sign be ground-based for the best visibility?  If you think it would be best placed on your building, perhaps because you have large amount of pedestrian traffic, you should consider if the signage would have better viewing angles by being mounted directly onto the front of your building or should the sign be mounted perpendicular to your storefront, i.e. a blade or flag-mounted sign.  If you are in a multi-tenant facility, be sure to inquire with the landlord or property manager if you can be included on any shared signage in the development.  These location questions will be aided by gathering photos of the potential sign locations, having architectural drawings (if available) and gathering any sign criteria or landlord guidance on signs.

What Do I Need to Know About Illumination?

If your sign will be illuminated, keep in mind you will need to have primary power at the sign’s location.  That may already exist in the vicinity.  If the Electricity is within roughly 8-10 feet of the sign location, most sign installers will do the final hook-up.  If power is not that close to the sign, include in your planning and cost considerations that an electrician will likely be required to run power.  Some types of signs will require a dedicated circuit where others can share an existing circuit.

You should also consider how illumination will be controlled.  Will it simply be on a manual switch or will it be part of a timer system? Does your facility have an electronic management system or should the sign have a photocell so the sign illuminates at night or when ambient light is low during stormy weather?  All of these options can be considered and answered by the sign company and/or electrician.  Keep in mind the municipality may govern when your sign is allowed to illuminate, especially when in proximity to a residential neighborhood.

Putting it All Together

These are all things that we’re always sure to discuss with customers at the start of their signage projects. It’s important to consider everything from illumination to placement, the legal criteria of your local municipality, and the design of your sign.

Purchasing signage is a major consideration, but by being informed you will find it less intimidating and be able to enter the process having a better idea of what is possible and most importantly, what is right for your business!

William (Bill) Hayes
Written by

William (Bill) Hayes

William (Bill) Hayes, with over 20 years of experience, is deeply committed to assisting small and medium-sized businesses in developing effective B2B advertising strategies. His expertise primarily focuses on integrating on-premise signage solutions with traditional advertising methods. At Signdealz, Hayes leads the charge in innovating advertising tactics aimed at SMEs, concentrating on generating efficient, lead-producing mechanisms that outperform competitors in both immediacy and cost-effectiveness. He spends much of his time working directly with small business owners, guiding them in evaluating locations, advertising strategies, and the necessary systems to attract customers to physical sites. Utilizing a tested network of partners, Hayes plays a crucial role in facilitating the nationwide distribution of signage, underscoring his dedication to enhancing the visibility and growth of businesses across various sectors.

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