What makes a #sign expensive? Signs as an investment.

What makes a sign ‘expensive’?

Expensive is a VERY subjective word, so lets look at the input costs and how that could, would or should influence one’s purchasing decision.

#SignForce, as all sign suppliers, work in a very competitive market. There are generally many sign businesses in a relatively small area, especially as #signage is a low entry cost business. Because of the high level of competition, each sign business needs to have ‘something’ that makes our business ‘stand out’. For the person making the purchase, the high level of competition means one SHOULD be able to compare various options and get the best solution to fit your requirements, although COST, OUTLAY or INITIAL INVESTMENT is often the deciding factor, very often at the sacrifice of long term investment or long term LIFE of the sign.

Because COST or INITIAL OUTLAY is such a HUGE determining factor for many buyers, one of the easiest ways to stand out  is on ‘price’. It is easy for clients to choose the lowest cost supplier, as, generally, all suppliers will quote to supply the same LOOKING sign.

Often how this works is the potential client (or buyer) will send out a ‘tender’, which consists of a picture of how the sign should look. Sophisticated buyers will also supply detailed specifications – which they understand and can check – but this is less common than only supplying a picture and sizes. Also too often the person supplying the specifications does not gave a great understanding of what they are specifying so their ability to ensure that they receive what was quoted could be limited.

Because EVERYONE is quoting on the same OUTCOME (read that as picture), when the buyer gets their three or more competing quotes, they naturally assume they are comparing ‘APPLES’ with ‘APPLES’, but because #signs are not standard, off the shelf items, the design, makeup and materials can (and generally will) differ from manufacturer to manufacturer. As such, although all the signs may (initially) LOOK the same when installed, they could, in reality, be EXTREMELY different.

In order to explain I am going to use the example of a modular, internally illuminated light box sign with an acrylic face that is illuminated using energy efficient LED lights. I am using a modular frame as we can then assume that everyone that is quoting is using the same external frame, so all the quotes would have the same (or similar) input costs for the frame.

Now lets look at the make up of the sign, starting with ILLUMINATION. There are a number of LED’s that can be used on a light box sign. The difference can be anything from in how much light the LED emits (lumens) to the size of the individual LED units (or modules) to the angle of the light emitted from the LED module (especially if the module has a LENS), the expected life of the units and the COST. Because there are so many variables, for the purpose of this article I will compare cost that can vary from about R35 (US$ 13) per meter to about R500 (US$ 186) per meter. It would seem obvious there are a number of variables that affect the cost, but for #SignForce the important differences are (a) the LED’s are the correct LED’s for the job (meaning they will give equal and sufficient light), (b) the expected life of the LED and (c) the LED’s are sure to do the job (preferably guaranteed) so that the business will not have any unnecessary call backs which can be substantially more costly than the cost of the LED’s.

Other factors that can have a GREAT  impact on the cost include, but are not limited to, (a) the size of the sign (this has way too many variables to reference in this article), (b) the cost of the decoration (print versus cut vinyl versus ink versus paint) (we will only refer to PRINT where costs have a range difference that can easily exceed 500%, with the quality and life span of the print varying greatly), (c) the thickness of the acrylic face (this is influenced by the size of the sign and possibly the location of the sign, and will in turn influence the cost of both the acrylic (the thicker the higher the cost) and the beading that holds (supports) the acrylic face). (d) If the frame is to be painted the make up and application method of the paint can also have a great impact on costs, both due to the large difference in cost of the base paint as well the time and process differences between the various application methods which range from ‘dipping’ to using a paint brush to spray painting and powder coating.

At #SignForce we take our guarantee VERY SERIOUSLY, and as such we use materials which, while generally more costly, will have a higher likelihood of lasting and not creating negative comebacks from clients. This does tend to make the initial outlay slightly higher, (historically this is generally no more than 20%), but #SignForce’s logic is that having to redo a sign after three to five years could be substantially more costly than having a sign that does it’s job well for it’s intended life, which is generally seven years, even if the decoration needs to be replaced more regurarly.

For more information on why SignForce views #signs as an investment or on purchasing  quality signs that will consistently keep you in your prospective clients eyes for many years to come, please contact #SignForce at info@signforce.co.za

How BIG must my sign be?

How LARGE MUST my sign be? What size sign will best convey my message? From how far will people be able to read my sign?

These are questions we often get asked. As a joke, we tend to advise clients that, as a rule of thumb, (a) the bigger the better and (b) the sign should be as large as your budget allows. (Please note this IS a joke and while it is valid for outdoor signs, is not always best for intimate signs, where too big becomes gaudy.)

In truth, if a sign NEEDS to be visible from a specific distance – because it is located on the side of the road or it will only be viewed from moving vehicles or the sign is some distance from the point where it will be read (to name three of many scenario’s), then there are some rough scientific calculations that can be used to calculate the height the text needs to be in order for the text to be visible from a specific distance, as well as from a distance at speed. Please remember, at best, these calculations are rough guide, as they do not take into account ALL factors that affect visibility, especially height above the viewer.

The table below has been adapted from information taken from signsnow.com. For more in depth calculations, especially for measuring legible distance while driving, please visit https://www.usscfoundation.org/USSCSignLegiRulesThumb.pdf

It is important to remember that the table below refers to LETTER height ONLY. This means that if you have multiple lines of text or multiple words or either of these combined with a logo, the SIZE of THE SIGN will change, with the dependent factor being the DISTANCE at which the TEXT must be legible.

legible sign distance

For assistance for any signs, especially when you need to calculate sign size in order to make the sign legible, please call #SignForce on + 27 (0) 11 440 7524 / 5 or email arnold@signforce.co.za

#Signs and the Coefficient of Change

Coefficient of Change

Experience is an amazing, if somewhat costly, teacher.

We at #SignForce we recently asked to maintain a #sign (#signmaintenance) where the lights had stopped working. When we touched some of the letters they literally fell apart.

Now let me give some background. #SignForce did not initially make the sign and we don’t know exactly how old it is. We do know it has been in it’s current position for 30 months when the sign moved with its owner. The reason I am explaining this is when one hears that the sign fell apart, it is common for the first thought to be that is is a result of poor workmanship, which I do not believe is the case in the instance.

Back to experience and the difference in the coefficient of change.

A while back – in 2010 – #SignForce manufactured and installed a 3D sign that was attached to the glass face of the building – the sign is in fact a total of eight stories high. One of the lessons that was learned from that installation is that, if the coefficient of change – the rate at which one material expands and contracts when it heats or cools in relation to a second material – is too large, one or both of the materials will literally tear themselves apart.

On inspection of the letters that fell apart, it seems this is the issue. The #stainless steel and #acrylic that were glued together simply placed too much strain on the #acrylic causing the acrylic to fracture in multiple places.

While the two materials CAN be attached to each other, various factors need to be taken onto account in order to prevent fracturing – something that comes with experience and expensive lessons.

If you are looking for a sign that combines various materials it may be worth approaching a business like #SignForce who have been around the block a few times and could thus be able to assist without the sign falling apart.

Contact #SignForce now on 011 440 7525 or at arnold@signfrce.co.za to get assistance and an obligation free quote.

How will the SUN affect the life of my sign?

Digital print; large signs, pylons, billboards

How drastic is the effect of the African sun on a digital print


Does the SUN truly affect the life of a sign?

The short answer is YES.

The two attached photo’s are of a sign in Johannesburg. This is not one of SignForce’s customers, but it is a brilliant sign to demonstrate the drastic effect the sun can have on a sign.

Some background.  The sign was installed about two years ago, and is a full colour digital print. I do not know what printer was used, although for this article that is not relevant, as although different printers may have different life expectancy’s, it can be assumed that both prints were printed on the same machine, so they should have the same life expectancy.

The ‘white’ face is north facing, and the ‘yellow’ face is west facing. The big difference is that the north facing sign gets full sun the whole day and the west facing sign, while it gets the strong ‘western’ sun, only gets sun exposure for about four hours a day.

The results of colour fade are evident in the difference in colour of the two faces of the sign.

In Southern Africa a digital print is only expected to last a maximum of three years, with the life expectancy being dependent on:

  1. The colours that are used – reds and lighter colours will fade quicker,
  2. The printer being used – at SignForce we mostly use a Roland VP540 with original inks that are shown to last better than most in the harsh African sun, and
  3. The position of the sign, including daily length of time the sun will be exposed to the sun.

Although it may not always be a financially viable option, when a sign has no half-tones (that is no shadings) and if the design is uncomplicated, the life expectancy of the sign may sometimes be increased by using cut vinyl that has a life expectancy of between five and seven years. As mentioned, it may not always be financially viable as even with inflation linked increased printing costs, it may be more cost effective for the sign to be reprinted every 30 to 42 months, with a fresh face and possibly even a fresh design improving the signs return on investment.

For further information on the digital printing, or if you are in the market for professional looking signs at “FAIR VLAUE”, or if you would like advice on how best to project your business’s image while considering any funds you spend on marketing and signs as an investment, contact the writer now at arnold@signforce.co.za or david@signforce.co.za and use the subject line: ADVICE PLEASE.

Why business signs make good financial sense in the modern world

Why business signs make good financial sense in the modern world

There is an old sign adage that reads: “ A business without a sign is a sign of NO BUSINESS”, and believe it or not, it is as true today as it was a hundred years ago – possibly even more so.

OK, before you all shoot me down, let me elaborate.

Yes, in the modern world, I have to concede that not every business needs a sign, because some businesses simply NEVER see clients. Cyber businesses are one such example.

However, being the human animals that we are, most people still visit stores, not only for the social interaction, but also be cause they want to TOUCH and FEEL the merchandise they are going to purchase. It is an almost primal need to touch, in order to see better. If you are a parent, simply think of how often you have to tell your toddler that they don not need to “touch to see”! (The truth is they DO! We all do)

Because of the desire to touch to see, shops, stores, supermarkets and the like are still going to be around for the foreseeable future, and if they want people to visit them, they have to stand out from the competition. One way to achieve this is to possibly have a bigger, and certainly have a BETTER sign.

BETTER in signage generally refers to LARGER, although this is not always the case. Sometimes a simple sign can make a far bolder statement than the larger, illegible sign that is screaming at you.

In the modern world us human animals are still pretty much unchanged in our habits and nature, and as such we need to remember that while internet marketing, social media, Google and the like are all fantastic tools, they are just that – TOOLS! Like a good electrician, who will have more than a hammer and a set of screwdrivers in their toolbox, a good modern marketer should keep in mind that even if your internet marketing gets the client’s to the shopping centre where your store is located, if the client walks past your store because you do not have a sign, all your marketing effort has been for naught!

There is also the reality that signs tend to be a once off purchase, or at worst an irregular purchase. When one compares the cost of a great sign to the monthly cost of a salaried salesperson who may not have the best client service manner, the cost of the sign tends to be a lot cheaper than the alternatives.

If you are willing to hear OUR truth, and possibly even receive some expert advice on what signs will work for you, SignForce are marketing professionals with experience over multiple medium’s, and we will gladly give you our truth.

If you are in the market for professional looking signs at “FAIR VLAUE”, and would like advice on how best to project your business’s image while making any funds you spend on marketing and signs an investment, please contact the writer at arnold@signforce.co.zaor david@signforce.co.za and use the subject line: ADVICE PLEASE and we will get back to you.

http://www.signforce.co.za http://www.signforce.co.za/blog