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

A business without a sign is a sign of no business!

signs; lightbox; illuminated signs

This beautiful LED illuminated sign is on a main road

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This is a photo of a recent job we installed in Hartswater, South Africa – yes, we can assist you anywhere in South Africa or the world!

While we understand that not everyone wants their business sign and name up in lights, and sometimes there is no benefit to having your sign illuminate, there is NO DOUBT that the old adage ‘a business without an sign is a sign of no business’!

Signs are in all likelihood your best marketing investment, because a well designed sign will require one payment and last for over five years, ensuring that your intended prospects know where you are and can easily find you.

Your sign (whether on a shop front or a vehicle) also often gives the first, ‘irreplaceable’ impression of your business. If your sign is shabby, what are you telling your prospective clients about your business?

A few years back a client asked us to REFURBISH their existing, tired sign so they could run a closing down campaign as the store was running at a loss and a new store would open in a nearby location about eight months later. The sign was broken and had birds living in it. The refurbished sign looked way better, and before the closing down campaign could run the store started to show a profit again – the ONLY change was the refurbished sign. Needless to say the staff all kept their jobs and the store only closed at the end of the eight months when the new store opened.

If you have not looked at your sign with a FRESH, CRITICAL eye in the last few days, give us a call (if you are in Johannesburg or Pretoria we do the check for free) so we can see your signs with fresh eyes to ensure that the message you are conveying is the message you WANT TO convey.

Email arnold@signforce.co.za or david@signforce.co.za or call on +27 (0) 11 440 7524 / 5

SignForce is a full service sign supplier. We strive to take all the pain you may feel out of the sign purchasing process, with a team who can design, manufacture and install every sign – visible communication – you want or need.

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

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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.

What type of sign does my business need?

What kind of sign does my business need?

One of the most important decisions that you can make about your business signs is ‘What  kind of sign’ is going to be best for your business taking into account:

(a) what the sign is intended to achieve,

(b) your businesses location and

(c) your budget.

While it may seem ‘obvious’ that as your sign supplier I want you to spend as much as possible on your sign, it is important for me to remember that it is not about me, but rather what is best for your business and from SignForce’s perspective, our future relationship as your business grows and prospers.

I find it is ALWAYS best to start with knowing and understanding what your sign needs to achieve.

If, for example, your sign is intended solely to make a statement that YOU as a business “HAVE ARRIVED”, then an excessively large sign may work and do well to get your desired message across. If, on the other hand you want people to see your sign as an invitation to visit and come into your premises, then the said large sign may result in you spending more than was necessary, and may be costing you business by dissuading potential customers from entering your premises because the sign is not the correct type of sign for your intended target market.

Generally signs will be used to invite, inform, direct and persuade potential readers.

An example of a sign that ‘invites‘ could be a store front sign that is intended to ‘invite’ the reader into your store. Because the sign is intended to invite the reader into your store, the sign needs to be able to stand out from the surrounding signs and environment. For example, if your store sells fast food in the fast food area of a shopping mall, and your competitors all have beautifully decorated illuminated signs, unless your sign is equally beautiful and illuminated, possibly with an additional dimension like flashing lights or a lifestyle picture showing someone enjoying one of your meals, the chances are that your potential clients will overlook your sign and your business, thus potentially costing you money. While ‘invitational’ signs can be decorated Chromadek (treated metal), this is often not allowed by shopping centers, and may not achieve your desired effect. Often fabricated,3D signs are used for invitational signs.

 An example of a sign intended to ‘inform‘ is a street sign or a warning sign. These signs are intended to ‘inform ‘ drivers of impending dangers or of changes in road conditions or of upcoming situations, such as a guarded intersection, an unguarded intersection, a traffic light or hidden access to the road. Information signs are usually large and generally made from the most cost effective material that will achieve the objective of getting the desired message across while at the same time having the desired life span, which depends a lot on the climatic conditions where the sign is to be installed.

 Signs that are intended to ‘direct‘ include motorway and highway signs – such as directing readers to keep in the right lane to go to Timbuktu and keep left to go to Cape Town. Directional signs, like directory signs, also assist readers to get to where they are looking to go. Like information signs, Directional signs are usually made from the most cost effective material that will achieve the objective of getting the desired message across while at the same time having the desired life span, which depends a lot on the climatic conditions where the sign is to be installed. Directional signs, especially those that are indoors, also offer the opportunity for designers to integrate the signs into the aesthetics of the building and office environment, so the range of possible materials is large and could include wood, plastics, metal or glass, or a combination of all of these.

Directional and directory signs can begin doing their intended work when entering a premises – with say a sign reading RECEPTION with an arrow directing people to the reception, followed by a directory board in the reception – with the directory board informing the reader which wing, floor and room the reader is intending to visit.

Lastly an example of a sign intended to ‘persuade‘ could be a in-store poster or a billboard sign showing a product, such as a sign showing how a specific brand of washing powder will wash whiter and brighter than a competing brand. The message is intended to persuade the reader to buy and try the advertised product.

All of the above must take into consideration your budget as well as what return is expected – measured in terms of any of the following: number of feet, increase sales, decreased complaints, decreased incidents and accidents, or a combination of all of these. The most common upmarket signs that are used to persuade tend to have a metal (aluminum) frame with the printed message printed onto a gloss paper or vinyl. The material used would depend on the look and feel of the store as well as the intended target market.

By now I am sure you understand that while there may be a standard, off the shelf solution to your question as to “what type of sign does my business need”, there are many variations, answers and opinions to the answer the question. For this reason, as well as all the reasons given above, or if you are unsure of what sign you are looking for, or which sign would best achieve your intended objective, calling a SignForce sign consultant to get an expert opinion can reduce your stress and help you make an informed decision.

If you are in the market for professional looking signs at “FAIR VALUE”, and 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, please contact the writer at arnold@signforce.co.za or david@signforce.co.za and use the subject line: ADVICE PLEASE and we will gladly assist and advise you.

How to Illuminate a sign

How should my sign be illuminated – or How do I light up my sign

There are three main directions that a sign can be illuminated, namely FRONT ILLUMINATED, EDGE LIT and REAR ILLUMINATED.

1. Front Illumination – also known as front lighting – refers to the sign being illuminated (lit) from the front, generally either from below or from above, and is commonly used on advertising billboards.

Front illumination is most commonly achieved with bright, ‘spot’ light type lighting, although almost any lighting, including florescent lamps, can be used for front illumination, where the light is being ‘reflected’ off the face of the sign.

Front illumination tends to have the advantage that it can keep costs – both initial investment and running costs – low. This saving does, however, tend to be at the trade-off of clarity and possibly visibility, because one of the largest disadvantages of front illumination is that if the light source is not properly, or well, focused, the sign can become totally illegible at night – just when the lighting is supposed to make the sign visible – as the light reflecting at the incorrect angle can result in the full brightness of the light reflecting off the face of the sign directly into the viewers eyes, similar to the effect of looking into the headlights of oncoming traffic, and effectively blocking the sign’s message.

2. Edge Lighting – also known as side lighting or side illumination or edge illumination – refers to when a sign – generally for a framed glass type sign – is illuminated from one or more side (or edge). Edge illumination is commonly used for safety signs that are illuminated from one edge, as well as for smaller signs that are placed in poorly lit area’s, and ‘slim’ signs that are located in area’s with limited space.

The biggest advantage of edge lighting is that the sign can be extremely thin – from as little as 20 mm deep – so that the illuminated sign can be hung like a work of art or used in the place of a standard piece of artwork, such as a decorative painting.

While there are many advantages to having thin signs, especially when space is at a premium, it is worth remembering that edge lighting can only be used with ‘thin’ light sources, such as T5 florescent tubes or LED lights, so that, for now, (or until the technology improves), the illumination is often not very bright. This does not tend to be an issue if the area where the sign is to hang is poorly or not illuminated, but can be problematic when the area is well illuminated, or there is a lot a ‘other’ light in the vicinity of the sign, as the edge light may not be as bright as the competing light, and thus the most powerful effect of the illumination can be lost.

3. Rear Illumination – also known as internal lighting, back illumination and back lighting – is the most powerful, and most common lighting, used for business signs, building signs and ‘light boxes’. Rear illumination refers to the light ‘passing through’ the face – and illustration – of the sign, thus enhancing the picture, and / or message.

Because of the work involved in the manufacturing and wiring process, rear illumination does tend to be the most costly form of illumination, although the costs are coming down with all the wonderful developments being made in lighting technology.

One of the many advantages of rear illumination is that different types of illumination can be used to create different effects for the viewer. An example of this is when old technology florescent lights (running off magnetic ballasts and starters) are placed behind a picture of running water. Because of the flow of energy in the tubes, the water in the picture also gives the impression that it is moving. While the effect is wonderful, and old technology ballasts are inexpensive when first purchased, it is common for these ballasts to fail. They are also very eco-unfriendly and use a lot of energy because almost 80% of their output is lost to heat.

Modern, energy efficient florescent lights such as the one’s that SignForce use, run off eco-friendly electronic ballasts, and while their cost is constantly decreasing, the initial investment required for this type of lighting is still significantly larger than that required for the older technology, magnetic ballasts. That said, the increased initial investment is WELL WORTH IT, both because of the longer life expectancy of the modern ballasts and tubes, and also because of the lower running costs – both from a power consumption AND a maintenance perspective, as well as the fact that the sign box will not need to have all the ventilation required from the heat generating magnetic ballasts, contributing to a lowing of the manufacturing costs.

It is becoming increasingly common for rear lit signs to be illuminated with energy efficient, eco-friendly LED lights, because of the reduction in running costs, the extended life expectancy of LED lights and the ease of use.

Another advantage of rear illumination is that the picture and / or commercial message is enhanced when the lighting is from the rear, making the message brighter and clearer.

If you are in the market for professional looking, illuminated signs, or simply require advice on how best to illuminate your sign – and get a return on your illuminated sign investment – email arnold@signforce.co.za or david@signforce.co.za using the subject line: ADVICE PLEASE and we will get back to you as soon as possible.

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