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Considerations for Signage

There are a multitude of issues to consider when thinking about signage for your business.  Placement, size, and orientation play a huge role in the effectiveness of your sign and has a direct impact on your business.  Watch the following videos to get a sense of the things you'll need to consider when purchasing a new sign.

Sign Visibilty

Measuring Sizes

Sign Height

Basic Guidance for Sign Design

  1. Know what the local zoning ordinances and building codes will allow and knowing what, how, when, and why to appeal to a zoning review board.
  2. Know what options are absolutely necessary and what are available in terms of the Architectural and Advertising Components.
  3. Know the minimum size and amount of copy required based upon the traffic / pedestrian conditions of the targeted audience. Reduce the copy to a minimum amount to avoid clutter and confusion.
  4. Know the options available in terms of type of signage needed to accomplish the items listed above.

This information is here to assist you in gaining a basic understanding about specific signage issues, technologies, and uses regarding real potential applications. If you have further questions that involve actual potential applications, please call us. We'll help you in any way we can.

The best way to begin this discussion is to clarify the actual character of a sign. The primary focus of this information will be for exterior / outdoor signs. An "On-Premises" (on your own property) sign differs greatly from an "Off-Premises" sign in that it has two separate yet integral components.

The On-Premises sign has both an architectural component and an an advertising component. To ignore either one of these components could greatly cost your business in the long term. Forgetting the advertising component may cost you literally hundreds of thousands of dollars in lost advertising capacity and effectiveness over the life of the sign. Forgetting the architectural component of the sign detracts from the overall professional appearance and credibility of your company for all who pass by and notice.

Most of the overly restrictive city ordinances ignore and even neglect the advertising component of On-Premises signs and, in the long run, cost their own city significant loses in tax revenue that will not be generated due to the overall lack of effective company advertising. It is this component that is being used effectively via Civil Rights / free speech laws to battle the overly restrictive zoning ordinances.
The "Off-Premises" sign has primarily an advertising component. It is used strictly as an advertising media and seldom has a highly esthetic appeal. The most commonly used "Off-Premises" sign is the billboard.

Advertising Component
What is it they say in real estate? Oh, yes. The three most important valuation factors in real estate are "Location, Location, Location." Did you know that an On-Premises sign is what actually gives your commercial location its value apart from highway delivery points. Customer activity in a local market can be driven almost entirely by an effective advertising visibility component in a prime location.
In our society we have a few basic advertising media that dominated the commercial marketplace.
Broadcast media includes radio and TV advertising. It is typically the most expensive method of advertising and reaches a broad spectrum of "customers" usually based upon demographics and their "common entertainment choices".

Print media includes newspaper, magazine, and newsletter advertising that attempts to gain access to its customers by targeting a local physical market via address or a personality profile by its positioning in a publication. It is much more cost effective in terms of overall cost per sales dollar and cost per contact with potential customers.

The fixed sign (Off or On Premises) attempts to gain direct access to potential customers via highway or road traffic counts. The higher the traffic count in terms of vehicles per day, the more effective the advertising component. And since the outlay for the On-Premises sign is a one-time cost (electricity use is the only on-going cost) the cost to reach customers with a message becomes less and less as time goes on.
Paying more for a well designed, quality built sign today that could last twenty years or longer will pay you back a thousand fold over its effective useful life span. Skimping on a sign budget may come back to haunt you in terms of lost sales that you may never be able to account for. Finding it hard to come up with funding in your construction budget for a quality, effective sign? Look at your advertising budget and you will definitely find what you need right there.

Architectural Components
The second most important aspect of sign design is the architectural appeal. Complimenting the architectural designs of the property without the signs getting lost and disappearing must be balanced with signs that stand out proudly and clash with the architectural design of the property.
Color combinations are essential for creating and building architecturally aesthetic signs. Understanding how colors react to light, reflect illumination, and illuminate are essential to prevent having to go back and replace sign faces. Examples include using purple and blue alone for sign faces and having the signs disappear at night even while fully lit is one event that everyone should hope to avoid. Knowing how to apply those colors along with other applications to improve effectiveness is the key.

Size of signs is also a relative issue. Relative meaning their are three essential inputs to determining the overall size of the signs - restrictive local sign and zoning ordinances, the overall size of the building or property that requires the signage, and the visibility required for the target audience or rather the distance and speed of the vehicular or pedestrian traffic that needs to read the sign.

Visibility Issues
Did you ever wonder why a Bob Evans restaurant looks like it does no matter where you travel? How about a Cracker Barrel, a McDonalds, or a Pier 1 Import store? These companies have all learned trade secrets they will never share publicly but you can see the results - locations with a high signage / identity / visibility component!
The visibility component has three important aspects - recognizibility, conspicuity, and readibility.
Recognizability often times can only be achieved through brand name recognition caused by multi-location positioning and mass advertising.

Conspicuity refers to the conspicuous nature of the signs. It does not do anyone any good to have a sign blend in with the architecture and landscaping to the point that no one even knows it is there or everyone fails to recognize that the item is actually a sign.

Readability is the aspect that ensures drivers in traffic can not only see your signs while traveling at the posted speed limit they can have a minimum of 16 to 18 seconds to respond or react to what they read.
The following chart illustrates actual visibility components of a sign. It demonstrates how far away a sign can be read and how slow one must traveling to actually read it for a period of at least 18 seconds.

Maximum Readable Distance
Letter Height
Readable for Maximum Height
Distance Impact
Maximum Speed for Minimal Viewing
NOTES: The following distances will vary approximately 10% with various color combinations…
5,280’ (feet) equals one mile / 1320’ equals one quarter mile / 528’ equals one tenth of a mile…

Maximum distance in color would be RED or BLACK on WHITE background…
Assumes Reader has corrected vision of 20/20 or greater for maximum readability.
Have you ever wondered why a shopping mall would allow larger sign letters for the storefronts that some cities will allow for an On-Premises sign in front of a major company or institution located on a busy four lane road? Some local politicians have vocally expressed an opinion based upon ".all signs are ugly." and as a result, have pushed through an agenda based legislation that drives overly restrictive sign codes. The smaller signs that result from such codes most often do not meet the minimum requirements for federal traffic codes as outlined in the Uniform Manual for Traffic Control Devices.

Such sign codes written based surely out of spite and narrow minded opinion are now being fought in Federal Courts and businesses and institutions are winning those battles. The latest battle won against such restrictions is the North Olmsted, Ohio case. The battle line is based upon a civil rights argument that basically says businesses have the right to minimum basic communication levels with prospective customers. Cities also may NOT legislate sign content based restrictions. Another recent landmark ruling is the Broadview Heights case.
For a copy of the North Olmsted or Broadview Heights federal court decisions call us or e-mail us. For the cost of copying and mailing, we will be happy to send a copy for your review. You may also contact the Signage Foundation at This e-mail address is being protected from spam bots, you need JavaScript enabled to view it
Choosing a Manufacturer
All sign manufacturers are NOT created equal! Many sign companies claim to provide manufactured signs. In reality most companies purchase their products from wholesale manufacturers and have very little ability to actually control the quality of their products.
Many companies do not have their own in-house neon shops and will not make their own channel letters or sign cabinets. Its very important for you to establish EXACTLY where your product might be manufactured. You need to know just how much ability your sign company has to remedy a problem once the sign is delivered and you are not satisfied.

Ask the sales representative to show you photos of his manufacturing plant. Ask if you can visit the plant to inspect the product prior to shipment and installation. Ask if you can see a list documenting exactly what the company can actually build or assemble. Do not allow them to side step the issues. There are many quality companies that will out source some manufacturing work, especially if they become backlogged in house. The question you should have answered is, "Are they capable of truly standing behind the product I am buying?". The area below will focus on specific design issues and manufacturing types. After that is an area that will demonstrate the differences in manufacturing techniques and quality of the end products.

Types of Signs Wall Mounted Signs

  • Individual letters on a building face
  • Remote letters
  • Raceway mounted letters
  • Sign Cabinet
  • Free Standing Signs 
  • High Rise Signs  Pylon Signs 
  • Multi-Tenant
  • Single Tenant Monument Signs 
  • Multi-Tenant
  • Single Tenant Ground Signs 
  • Multi-Tenant
  • Single Tenant Way finding Signs  Traffic Signs
  • Identification Signs  Message / Advertising Signs  Way finding Signs  Architectural Signs    

Methods of Manufacture

  • Sign Face Options Polycarbonate Faces  
  • Flat 
  • Panned 
  • Embossed 
  • Panned-Embossed  Router-Cut Aluminum Faces   Flat Copy 
  • Push Through Copy  Flexible Face Signs   Pressure Sensitive Vinyl 
  • Heat Transfer Vinyl 
  • Digitally Printed Vinyl Graphics 
  • Ink Jet 
  • Scotch Guard 
  • Digitally Printed Flexible Face  Advertising and Changeable Copy Boards   Changeable Copy Boards 
  • Electronic Message Centers   Incandescent Displays   Monochrome - White  Full Color
  • LED Displays   Monochrome - Red or Amber  Tri-Color - Red, Amber, or Green  Full Color Video Boards Non Illuminated   Solid Color 
  • Reflective  Illuminated   Solid Color 
  • Changing Color  
  • Options for Lighting Incandescent Lighting 
  • Light Bulbs  Fluorescent Lamps  Halogen Lamps 
  • Low Voltage
  • High Voltage Metal Halide  High Pressure Sodium  Neon 
  • Neon - Reds and Warm Colors
  • Argon - Blues and Cool Colors Fiber Optics 
  • End Point
  • Side Glow LED 
  • Individual Pixels
  • LED Panels
  • LED Light Bulbs

LED Light "Strings" Establishing Color Choices -  Color guide selectors are available in the marketplace for vinyl, neon, paint, and nearly every other applicable component used for exterior application on sign products.  Material Options - Materials and products should be specified PRIOR to final award of any project. Material samples should be requested and approved prior to sign fabrication. Final selections should be made based upon the desired outcome and appearance of the final sign product design. Many top quality products will fail to give the desired performance if not used in a complimentary application.

When possible, request mock-ups using complimentary applications such as a lighted sign face with a piece of specified vinyl applied. Accent Lighting - Accent lighting, while not a specific sign function can be a very attractive component in the overall architectural look and design. Both interior and exterior areas may be decorated with architectural accent lighting. Examples of architectural accent lighting include neon, side glow fiber optics, end point fiber optics, LED's, fluorescent lamps, low voltage halogen and high voltage flood lamps, and direct "Laser Light" shows.

Options for Accent lighting - NEON is the most common form of accent lighting today. There are two primary gases used to make neon glass. Neon is Red and used for most every warm color and Argon is blue and is used for nearly every single white, blue, or cool color. The glass used for making neon lighting is typically coated with phosphorus and other materials to provide color reactions with the electrified gases. That is what produces the hundreds of neon colors available in the market today. Clear glass pumped with neon is pinkish / orange and pumped with argon it is a very light blue. The primary advantage is long life illumination with extremely high brilliance.

Fiber Optics involves the use of cabling consisting of strands of clear fiber optic "wire" that carry light from a specific source. The light source typically used is specially designed light box with a high lumens lamp that focuses the light directly into the end of the cable. Fiber Optic lighting can be used one of two ways - end point and side lit. Side lit provides long strokes of illumination similar to neon but at 85% or less of the brilliance. End lit provides points of light capable of being terminated in open areas such as ceilings or enclosed areas such as points of light inside "light bulbs". An optional color wheel installed inside the light box gives you a continuous change of colors throughout the visible area.
The primary advantage of fiber optics is changing one lamp as opposed to neon glass, bulbs, or transformers in hard to reach places. Fluorescent lighting provides larger areas of light without the harsh direct brilliance of neon. The primary disadvantage of fluorescent lighting is the relatively short life span of lamps in harder to reach areas.

If you will proceed from here to the following link directly to our Sign Buyer's Friend page, we have attempted to provide comparisons between competitor's signs actually installed in the marketplace with construction / manufacture methods and signs in the marketplace made by the Wagner Electric Sign Company. We are not always the lowest price on a project and we feel that it is important for you to know exactly why that is. There IS a difference.




EMH Regional Healthcare System
Over the past few years, we have had the great fortune of developing a business relationship with the Wagner Sign Company.  During this time, they have completed multiple sign projects for EMH Regional Healthcare System.

I really cannot say enough about Wagner Electric Sign Company’s professionalism and performance.