Who DESIGNS your businesses Signage
I know this question sounds rhetorical, but it is actually a serious question.
In our experience, depending on the size of your business and your budget, the DESIGNER will range from the business owner to an upmarket outsourced design team. This may involve a LOT of different people, but how many of these people are actually SIGNAGE specialists?
The reason I am asking is that in our experience, especially for businesses with a smaller budget, the sign is designed on PAPER.
This may seem obvious, but what does it actually mean. Let me take you through a process to explain.
You, the needer of the sign, either have a great idea yourself or get an DESIGNER to come up with your CI – Corporate Identity – such as your logo, your business cards, your letter heads and the like. Your SIGNAGE is generally an AFTER THOUGHT and as such will simply be a physical representation of said CI.
Most times this is not only acceptable, it is also practical and sensible. The issue may come when you, the purchaser of the sign, now approach THREE (we will use best practice) sign businesses to make the sign or signs for you.
Standard process is to get three quotes and possibly ask each sign manufacturer for a visual representation of what they are selling you.
This is where the aforementioned PAPER design comes in.
What is most likely to happen is that each of the three sign businesses with trace your logo – unless you supply them all with vector format artwork – and superimpose said copied drawing onto a picture showing an artist impression of what the finished product will look like.
As a buyer you will assess the pictures to make sure that YOU are happy they look like what you are looking for, and then assess the quotes on PRICE. This is pretty much standard practice.
The difference in PRICE will most likely be attributed to the three competitors making different profits, as our standard assumption is that ALL sign businesses will use the SAME material and they will ALL make the sign the same way.
This is where things tend to get VERY MURKY.
You see, a sign is not a sign is not a sign. What do I mean. Well on paper the signs ALL look the same or extremely similar. This is paper design. HOWEVER, a sign can be MADE from many different materials, some of which even some sign manufacturers are not aware of. (This may be a topic for another, separate, article.)
So while you the buyer THINK (or ASSUME) that all the signs are made from the same material and will be made the same way, this is not necessarily true.
So what would we as a sign manufacturer recommend?
Make sure you get a breakdown of MATERIALS that will be used when you get the quote. If the quote is too vague, ASK for detailed descriptions. This may seem obvious but is not. Also this is because even some of the same generically named materials – think of KLEENEX when referring to a facial tissue – can have HUGE variances in pricing, because some are meant for internal use only and others are made for long term outdoor use and carry appropriate guarantees, BUT ALSO COME AT substantially HIGHER PRICES.
Try partner with a signage company that can design – preferably one that has experience – to create a CI together with manufacturing specifications. This is what most large businesses do. This has the benefit that when asking for a quote they rightfully EXPECT that they are comparing apples with apples, by not leaving the design to the manufacturer who may operate in a different market and may be so focused on value for money – as in being cheap – that they do not see the LONG TERM cost of the materials they use.
A simple story best illustrates this. The writer had some plumbing done at his home. When the plumber took the writer to purchase the material the plumber advised what to buy, which is what happened. A few years later there was a problem with the water pressure. A different plumber was called in and the writer was advised that the pipes that were used were to thin and should have been the next size up. The saving at the time was in the region of USD1. The repair cost thousands.
Educate yourself enough to know what different materials do, their expected life and the different costs involved. This can take a long time, but it does not need to. When getting the three quotes, ASK questions. This will generally make the sales people more honest, especially if they know you will be asking their competitors the SAME questions. It will also make the sales people aware that they may need to advise on different materials as this will display THEIR knowledge, making you, the buyer more comfortable and building trust.
If you are in the market for business signs, SignForce is available to assist. We have an experienced design team that are capable of designing made for purpose and made to fit signs.