Question: I need a sign for my business, what should I do?
Answer: Most sign companies offer free consultations for new sign buyers. A sales consultant or project manager will meet with you to review your ideas and to give you recommendations. After asking some questions and listening to your responses the consultant can suggest sign types, size and placement, review city codes, and address other concerns you may have. It’s a good idea to think about how the purchase will affect your business, what your objective is in buying a sign, and how much you’ve budgeted for before you meet with a sign company representative. Visit these informative websites from the Small Business Administration and the International Sign Association for guidance and suggestions with your sign purchase.
Question: How much do signs cost?
Answer: $200 to $200,000 and anywhere in between. The cost of your sign(s) will depend on how many signs you need, what size sign you want, the complexity of the sign design, if you want your signs illuminated, type of illumination and the type of material used to build your sign. Because signs are a design-build product the cost varies by many factors. A professional sign company representative will be able to guide you in your decision while keeping your budget in mind.
Question: What kind of a sign should I buy?
Answer: Depends on your budget, location and city sign code. Ask yourself some questions, such as “What is my objective in purchasing a sign?” “Will I be advertising my name, a product or service, or am I simply advertising a destination?” Consider all the reasons you might be intending this purchase. Your location plays a big part in the type and size of sign(s) you can have. Your lease may specify what type of signs you are allowed per criteria specified by the landlord. Your sign will also be restricted by city sign code. Your location will often determine whether you can have a free standing sign or a wall sign or both. Your location and store frontage area will also determine the allowable square feet that your sign can be. Be sure to have a copy of your lease agreement with reference to the signage allowance, if applicable, when you meet with your sign company representative. This will prevent delays in the purchasing process.
Question: What is an effective sign?
Answer: One that attracts customers, brands your site and creates impulse sales. An effective sign help builds top of mind awareness and helps draw in customers who may not have intended to stop at your business. Your sign should be visible and conspicuous. Location should be as close to the roadway as possible, location and sign code allowing. Content should clearly define your product or services, 3-5 words are best, save the details for the sale. Readable, white space is just as important as words and graphics and contrasting colors are best.
Question: Should my sign be lighted?
Answer: Having an illuminated sign is not a requirement, but is recommended. In today’s society a sign can be working for you 24/7. To get the most value from it your customers must be able to see it at night. Sometimes being seen at night is not an objective when purchasing a sign. Spending more time on the websites referenced above will help you determine if lighting your sign is a good investment. This will also be a good item to discuss with your sign company professional.
Question: Do I need a sign permit?
Answer: In most cases the answer is yes. Most exterior signs require a sign permit. Interior signs normally do not. If you are upgrading to a new logo or simply updating your outdated sign face for your existing business and keeping your old location, you will likely not need a permit. Your local city or county building and planning department can answer this question with a phone call or a visit to their website. Most sign company representatives will find the answer for you.
Question: What will I need to get a permit for my sign?
Answer: Leave it up to the sign professional that is helping you. Most cities and counties require that a licensed sign contractor applies for a sign permit. You may have to provide a site plan for your location, a design showing what the sign will look like, the size you intend the sign to be, and placement of the sign(s). An application must be filled out with certain information requested by the building and planning department. A valuation of the project will be required which is used to determine the cost of the permit and applicable sales tax that will be charged. Some cities charge a fee just to submit an application; others charge a fee to review the application. Most cities will charge some tax, normally the city and county tax. A full service sign company will have a designer on staff to create the drawings necessary to obtain the permit and a staff person who will submit the application for you to the city or county.
Question: How long does it take to get a sign permit?
Answer: Same day or up to one month. Again this varies by city. Some cities issue permits “over the counter” meaning that if you submit an application that conforms to the sign code you will get your permit immediately. Other cities can take up to one month to issue a permit. If you are asking for permission to deviate from the sign code you can expect a variance request to take considerably longer than a conforming permit request. A variance request will cost more than a typical sign permit application submittal and is usually only issued when ‘hardship’ can be proved. The time it takes to get a permit is an important step in the process because most sign companies will not begin manufacturing your sign until they have a permit.
Question: Are there any additional charges besides the sign (s) and permit?
Answer: Sometimes. Unless your quote request specifically states that all costs are to be included in the final proposal you might find some additional costs upon the completion of the project. When you meet with your sign professional ask questions about additional fees. No one likes surprises. Your sign company representative will be able to tell you what to expect and how changes to the project will be handled. Did the design staff create a logo for your new business? Because designing your logo will take more time for the designer to accomplish there will usually be additional cost vs to simply provide a design from your already created art file. Sometimes cities will require engineering of the sign when requesting a permit (mainly for awnings or sign footings). This fee is usually not added into the proposal but is specified as an additional charge, if applicable. If your location does not currently have electrical power running to where your sign will be installed and you’ve ordered an illuminated sign you will need to hire an electrician. This additional cost is usually handled in the same manner as the engineering on the proposal. Another additional cost that is typically not included in the final proposal is sales tax charged on the materials used in the manufacture of the sign (s). Your invoice upon completion should line item additional charges.
Question: What do you need from me to start fabricating my sign?
Answer: Artwork, design approval, signed contract, and a deposit. The sign company will need an electronic file of the logo and the font you’ve chosen for your sign for the designer to work from. Some full service sign companies have a designer that can create a logo for your new business if you do not have an art file that the designer can work from. Once an approved design has been created, the contract has been signed and 50% deposit received the permit will be applied for, if applicable. Manufacture will not begin until the permit has been approved from the issuing building department.
Question: Why should I provide vector artwork?
Answer: Vector images retain their high-quality at any size. A raster image is composed of a collection of tiny dots called pixels. Because they contain a fixed number of pixels, a major disadvantage of raster images is that their quality suffers when they are enlarged or otherwise transformed. So the logo that looks nice and crisp on your computer screen just looks like a collection of dots when blown up to 2’ tall. Common raster formats include TIFF, JPEG, GIF, PCX and BMP files. Vector images use mathematical equations to define each component of an image, so they can be scaled to any size and still obtain their quality. Common vector formats include AI, EPS, CGM, WMF and PICT (Mac).
Question: How long will it be before my sign is installed?
Answer: Once a permit has been issued one week to 6 or more weeks. Once a sign is added to a production schedule it will be worked on until complete. The number of sign projects in queue ahead of yours will determine when your sign will be ready for installation. Some other factors that will affect the fabrication time frame will be the complexity of the sign and its fabrication methods. Availability of materials can also play a role in getting your sign fabricated. Your sign company representative will tell you what the expected production time frame is before you sign the contract. When the sign nears completion the installation will be coordinated and an installation date will be determined. Most sign companies will provide a ‘rush’ order for an additional fee. Be sure to ask about insurance and qualifications of the installing company.
Question: How do I pay for my sign (s)?
Answer: Ask your sign company representative about payment options. Many sign companies offer a variety of payment options. Consider paying by check, via credit card, or using the sign leasing program offered by your sign company. Leasing can free up cash that can be used elsewhere for the start up business. It can allow a new business owner to purchase more signage than they could otherwise have budgeted for. This additional signage and cash flow can lead to a faster and more successful start up, bringing in more business and meeting break even goals ahead of schedule.