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Harford County Signs and Banners Blog

Ho Ho Ho – Holiday Signs Already Here

Friday, November 21, 2014

Image courtesy of Danilo Rizzuti at

Signs of the holiday season range from retail shelves stocked with red, green, silver and gold ornaments, to the bell-ringing collection canister outside every retail establishment and the holiday music blaring from store speakers before Thanksgiving. But the literal signs that communicate to holiday shoppers are most important.

You need signs in your retail location to help customers have a satisfactory holiday shopping experience. All too often during the frenzy of holiday buying, customers go to the wrong line, find an item that is mis-marked, or simply can’t find what they’re looking for because there is no signage in the store communicating to them. The result: a frustrated customer who won’t return or who will tell his or her horror story both at holiday cocktail parties and on social media.

Whether you choose to use large digital monitors or attractive easel-back point-of-purchase signs, get your communication started. If you have a hot item, or a deal of the day, use a sign to highlight it and guide customers to its shelf. If you have sale items, clearly communicate the sale price with signage that is unmistakably associated with the item. Signs should be on the correct fixture, next to the correct merchandise and clearly spell out the sale. Is it 50 percent off the original price, or 50 percent off the current marked price? It makes a big difference. Save your staff a lot of time by having signs in the right places. Also, mark your check-out lines. If a line is express or a specialty line, make it clear with friendly signage.

Finally, your staff should be both identifiable and available. Identifiable means in a uniform with nametag or store logo on it. Customers shouldn’t have to ask, “Do you work here?” and risk asking someone’s Aunt Mary who just happens to be browsing the shelves today. The easier you make the shopping experience, the more likely you are to have repeat customers and referrals.

Happy signing!

Let the Wind Blow

Friday, September 12, 2014
If you’re using vinyl banners for outdoor signage this Fall, here are a few tips for both storing and hanging them so they are secure and stable even in windy or stormy weather.

First, start with the banner construction process.  Take into consideration the banner’s purpose, use and location.  Details like location will influence the material selection.  For example, indoor banners use light-weight scrim materials, but outdoor banners that may be subjected to the elements require a heavier, more durable material.  Web mesh can be added to the banner for additional strength.  Next, your signage professional will recommend ways to hang the banner and design it according to your needs.  Banners can be secured in a variety of ways, but many of the methods require a manufacturing process.  One way to secure vinyl banner is by using ropes sewn into the material for weight and support.  Or, if the banner will be hung on poles, it can be manufactured with pole pockets.  

All banners should have hemmed, or finished, sides on all four sides.  This not only gives the banner a more professional appearance, it gives it some reinforcement and weight around the edges to protect it from damage.  Corners can be further reinforced and grommets can be incorporated into the edges.  Your signage professional will also provide recommendations for grommet placement around the banner.  The more grommets, the less stress placed on the corners of the banner.  Strategic grommet placement results in a flat, fully stretched banner that lasts longer. 

Finally, ask for storage recommendations for your banner and follow them carefully for maximum banner life.  In general, never fold vinyl banners.  You’ll get creases and fold marks that are difficult to remove –no, they won’t just “hang out.”  When rolling banners, roll the printed side inward to protect it, but be sure it doesn’t stick to itself.  Store the banner in a cylindrical tube in a temperature-controlled environment.  

Can You Read That?

Monday, July 21, 2014

The purpose of a sign is to guide, announce or inform a prospective customer or an entire audience. If your audience can’t read the sign, they can’t get your message. Your signage professional can advise you about specific sign sizes and lettering, but here are some guidelines.

North Chapman Building signA recent study showed that significant factors in signage are legibility, readability, environmental (illumination) and personal factors, such as the viewer’s attention level.

Font: The bigger the font, the better the readability. Likewise, increased character height improves legibility and readability, as does use of both upper and lower-case letters in a sentence format. This is especially true with visually impaired readers. Choose a simple font that does not have fancy curls or resemble script handwriting – these are often attractive close-up, but when hung at a distance and enlarged, they can be difficult to read.

Color: Use green or gray letters for the best results with people who have normal or low vision. The background should be non-glare and contrasting for best readability.

Spacing: Allow enough white space around letters. A general guideline is two inches of height per line, for standard 5/8-inch high letters. If letters are higher than 5/8 inch, allow two times the height of the characters. Don’t crowd the lines or the lettering, because it will impede readability. No matter how large the letters may be, if they are too close together, they will still resemble a jumbled alphabet.

Logo: Keep it simple, both in design and color. Allow enough white space around it to make it clear that this is an identifying mark and to guarantee no text infringes on the image. Make sure it’s identifiable and readable as your logo.

Remember: If you can’t read it or understand it, chances are, no one else can either!

Signs of Sponsorship

Monday, July 07, 2014

If your business plans to sponsor events or teams this summer, make sure you get the most from your efforts with meaningful signage. A sponsorship agreement will usually provide the parameters of the deliverables you’ll receive in exchange for your financial support, and it usually includes some type of name recognition. Whether through program listings, advertisements or signage, this is the showcase opportunity for which you’ve paid. If you evaluated the audience and deemed it important enough to buy a sponsorship, then make those dollars count.

Your sponsorship signage should be simple, yet impactful. It should always include your company name and logo. If space permits, a brief tag line or a few words that can easily identify your business should accompany the name. Even better, it should have a way for potential customers to learn more – such as your website address and/or phone number. Choose bright, bold colors and a clean design. Remember, you’re trying to make a memorable impression on your audience.

If the organization you’re sponsoring is having the signs made, then ask to be personally in touch with the professional sign manufacturer. Provide your artwork or work with them to create artwork that will be readable and attention-getting. If the organization is designing the signs, or if all sponsors will be represented equally on a sign, be sure the artwork is acceptable to you. Make sure your logo translates clearly and your message can be easily identified and read.

Finally, if you’re approving signage artwork electronically, keep in mind that the signage space is exponentially larger than your computer screen. Sometimes, what looks great on the screen doesn’t translate well on a large sign or area. It often looks like it’s too small on the end product. Be mindful of the dimensions and perspective when checking the proof on-line. Next week, we’ll talk about how to determine the correct size of your logo and text.

Score One for the Scoreboard

Friday, June 20, 2014

digital scoreboardWhile traveling around to youth baseball, soccer or lacrosse games this summer, note the scoreboards you see. Are they simply tallying the scores or are they relaying messages in various formats? Scoreboards at Little League fields, soccer and lacrosse fields and even at swimming pools pose a great opportunity for the innovative marketer. If you like to promote your business to a captive audience using signage, what better way to get noticed than to be right where people look for information? Get yourself noticed on the scoreboard!

First, let’s talk about existing scoreboards. If the teams or recreation councils that already have them are also savvy marketers, they will have a system in place for potential advertisers or sponsors. These opportunities can be on a static scoreboard or on an electronic scoreboard. Approach the team or the rec council with your ideas for placing your logo or message strategically on the scoreboard. Sometimes the scoreboards are designed with static panels that can display company logos or tag lines. On an electronic scoreboard, the video portion of the board can also serve as an advertising vehicle. If it means revenue for the organization, it’s very likely your proposal will be accepted.

Now, what about becoming a scoreboard sponsor? That is, donating or partnering with the team or field to provide a scoreboard, on which your company logo will reside forever. You would have the ability to provide moving messages if you are donating a digital scoreboard. If it’s static, then negotiate the right to change out the sponsorship signage on or near the board on a regular basis. Talk to your signage professional about all angles – from vinyl sponsorship signs to digital scoreboard hardware and software.

Take advantage of the captive audience to communicate a clear message that will score big for your business.

From Signage to Shipment – Every Step Counts

Friday, May 09, 2014

poster tubeYou hired a professional sign manufacturer for a reason: to produce a professional sign. You’ve completed the graphic design, the message is clear and concise and the manufacturing flawless. Now it’s time to ship that sign to its destination. Don’t let the shipping fall short or damage your signage. Take the time to ask how it will be shipped – whether it’s to you, to a customer or directly to a job site –you should be the decision maker on the method and the cost.

Don’t cut corners on shipping. It’s the last thing to happen in the process, but it can’t be an afterthought. That afterthought is what will cost you hundreds of dollars more if the sign gets damaged in transit because of poor packaging. In addition, you’ll have the time factor of waiting for another sign to be produced.

Your sign manufacturer should choose the most cost-effective and efficient method of shipping. If that means he’ll deliver it himself, then that’s what he should recommend. This is very doable if the delivery address is local. It also establishes the sign manufacturer as a trusted partner who will go the extra mile. If the sign needs shipped out of town, have a plan in place with your sign company. If the sign is vinyl or cloth and can be safely rolled, it can be shipped in a sturdy cardboard or plastic tube. Fragile items like lights need to have a soft cover around them for protection. Wood crates or plywood sheets lined with a soft material like felt are good bets for signs that can’t be folded or rolled. The wood protects the sign from outside damage and the felt keeps it from rubbing on the inside wood.

Consider how often your signage will be shipped – you might want to invest in special packaging. If it’s for a trade show or a traveling exhibit, it will be shipped often and will need a sturdy case. Wood or heavy-duty plastic make excellent sign cases that not only protect the sign but also make it easy to pack and unpack.

From Soup to Nuts

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Designing a permanent sign for your business should be a careful process. If your professional sign manufacturer tells you the sign can be ready the next day or even the next week, you might want to re-evaluate your resources. Getting the right sign takes both teamwork and time.

Finney Trimble signStarting with idea generation and carrying through manufacturing and installation, your sign company should know your objectives not only for the sign, but for your business. If your goal is to increase store traffic, you’ll consider a different type of sign than if you are going for a new identity. Your brand image should always be included in a sign design discussion and the graphic design should reflect your company image. Full-service signage manufacturers will make recommendations for sign design, as well as for materials and signage positioning. If the company has graphic designers, they will provide sketches of ideas for your review, and convert them to digital art for printing and production.

The company should have a project manager or account executive who manages or “traffics” your project from the idea stage through installation. Sometimes this is the company principal who is hands-on with clients. Often, it is an experienced manager who knows how to get peak efficiency from the company’s resources. This person keeps the job moving, gets your approval as necessary, and addresses any challenges along the way. You’ll get a final proof of the sign design prior to production – pay careful attention to details like colors, spacing, and copy. Once you approve this stage, any changes are costly and time-consuming.

On installation day, you should carve out time to inspect the sign both before it’s installed and after it’s finished. Check to make sure you’re satisfied with the material quality and the durability of the sign. Get instructions on sign maintenance and be ready to unveil your new sign!

Digital Signage Heats Up Your Message

Monday, February 03, 2014

First Security digital sign2014 promises to be yet another growth year for digital signage. The hardware, software and content companies are banking on it. More and more industries are taking the plunge into this market, both because the prices are getting more reasonable and the ROI is more measurable. We’re seeing digital signage around the Harford County area in banks, restaurants, health clubs, schools and churches. If you’ve got a changing message, or simply want to make a statement, you may want to explore digital signage. The key elements are hardware, software and content. If you don’t have a plan for the content – i.e. how you’re going to communicate through digital signage – then don’t bother investing in the hardware and software.

According to the trade publication, Digital Signage Today, analytics were an important part of evaluating content in 2013, and this process will become even more so in 2014. Advertisers will be able to evaluate who the viewer is, how long they look at a screen and the impact of the content. The publication also predicts we’ll get a better understanding of the significance of a “call to action” in the messaging and how digital signage can be used as a tool for behavior modification. They also see social media becoming more of a factor in content. There’s lots to think about, vs. a simple changing daily menu at the diner.

As far as hardware and software are concerned, the hardware prices are stabilizing, and many displays are now accompanied by built-in media players. Keeping the system simple, at least at first, gives you the freedom to experiment with messaging and upgrade as necessary to a more complicated and feature-rich system. Your signage professional can recommend the best screen size for your site -- whether it’s an LCD, LED or video wall display. The media player package will be tailored to your needs, as well, and it should be something that will be easy for you or your staff to use.

A Sign to Freshen Up

Friday, January 17, 2014

outdoor signJanuary and the beginning of a new year is a good time to re-evaluate your signage needs and freshen up your physical signs. First, ask yourself whether or not you need new signage. If your business outdoor sign is more than five years old, you might want to consider a face lift. Sprucing up the sign with a heavy-duty cleaning that will leave it sparkling, or investing in a new sign are good options. Ask yourself: Does the signage still reflect the personality and brand image of your business? If you’ve had a branding change, any updates in your communications strategies or simply changed your mindset about how you do business, reflect those changes in your signage. Patrons will notice and stop in to see what’s new.

Even if your sign is less than three to five years old, regular maintenance is important. Make sure you are cleaning it properly and keeping it safe from nature’s elements. Consider an awning where possible for protection of the sign. Depending on the material you chose for your sign, wind, rain and snow can still be damaging and fading, making a sign look dirty and worn. Find ways to make your sign updatable. If you haven’t invested in digital signage, think about switching to a colorful LED board that can have up-to-the-minute messages. Or, add a message board to your existing signage – your sign professional can tell you how. These message boards move you into the high-tech era and give you the capability to “talk” to your customers. Once you’ve evaluated your outdoor signs, look at all of your signs – from trade show banners to window signage and point-of-purchase signs. They should all reflect your current brand image, be clean and sleek-looking, not tired and in need of repair. Your sign is really another of your “faces” to your customer. Put on the best one.

Signage EVALUation

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

The Economic Value of On-Premise SignageYour signage value can be calculated in hard numbers as well as intrinsic value. The Signage Foundation recently presented an updated study from the University of Cincinnati titled, “The Economic Value of On-Premise Signage.” The study included a national survey of business owners and case studies from a variety of industries that showed signage is associated with revenues and profits.

Signage value can be calculated by using equivalent outdoor advertising figures for the amount of traffic that passes by the signage in a given time period. It’s calculated on cost per impression, and is the basis for billboard or today’s electronic sign advertising rates. But, the key to success is increased revenues resulting from signage. The University of Cincinnati study showed that on-premise signage plays an important role in the overall branding and marketing strategy for a business. The visibility and conspicuousness of the signage are key factors. Highly visible signs make it easier for customers to obtain the information they need to make a purchase. Nearly 60 percent of businesses surveyed reported an average 10 percent increase in sales transactions when they changed their signage and took into consideration viewing distances, location, size and other factors.

Your professional sign manufacturer can advise you on the best sign location, size and materials. If you have clearly outlined objectives for your business signage, your signage consultant can help you meet them. The study results confirmed what signage professionals try to communicate to customers every day: signs should be based on an assessment of many factors such as the location, road curvature, traffic lanes, speed limits, landscaping and sightline obstructions, to name a few. Your business industry will also play a role in the type of sign you select. In the case studies, a national lodging chain experienced increased occupancy rates with the use of digital signage to display pricing. A national retail banking business found pylon signs outperformed monument and wall signs in terms of visibility and increased teller transactions. Specialty store small business signage needed to communicate the value promise and be sensitive to community and customer expectations.

Whatever your industry, evaluate your signage needs and incorporate signage into your profitability plan.

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