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

The Signs of Pride

Pride!

Pride is an amazing emotion!

It can lead individuals and nations to war and destruction and it – the same emotion – can push those same individuals and nations to unimaginable heights.

Pride can also be broken down into a number of categories, for example pride in one self, pride in one’s work, pride in one’s nation and so on.

I do believe that is pride in (a) oneself, (b) pride in one’s work and (c) pride in one’s workmanship that leads to upliftment and a desire to excel.

I for one take great pride in the work SignForce puts out. I feel an immense sense of pride when I drive down a road and can point out the jobs that I know SignForce has completed. My sense of pride is for more than the mere fact that we have successfully completed a job, it is from HOW the work was completed. More than the visible workmanship, the thought processes that have resulted in a successful, brilliant looking sign that makes the people who worked on the sign, the owner and SignForce proud.

A great example is the accompanying photo. A job well done and worth being proud of.

Proud of workmanship

Cut out brushed Aluminium letters

Individual cut out letters

Brushed Aluminium letters on an invisible frame installed onto a hard rock wall

How long should a painted sign last?

How long should a painted sign last?

One method that can be used to increase the life of a sign is for the sign to be painted.

In order for the paint to last as long as possible – when referring to signs that means a period of five to seven years – there are three important factors that need to be present.

 1. The substrate – underlying material – must be well prepared

2. A good and appreciate primer must be used, and

3. A good quality paint must be used.

As with every paint job, proper preparation is essential if the paint is to adhere properly and last a long time. Proper preparation beings with cleaning the substrate, then sanding the substrate to ensure adhesion, then cleaning the substrate to ensure the surface is dust free before painting begins.

Once the substrate has been properly prepared the substrate must be primed with the correct primer. The correct primer is essential to ensure adhesion between the paint and the substrate. While not all substrates require primer – some modern paints have mixed in etching properties that work very well on certain substrates, removing the necessity for primer – most signage substrates still do require priming. If the primer is ‘left out’ of the process, there is a very good chance that within a short time of being exposed to the weather, the paint will most likely begin to chip and peal, as can be seen in this photo.

painted signs

Why preparing the sign before painting is essential

Different quality paints do exist, and while good quality paints do cost more than their ‘cheaper’ competitors, there is good reason for that. Generally the better quality paints use better quality pigments which last longer than, so the paint will not fade as quickly as a cheaper paint. The more costly paints also use better quality mixing agents, making them adhere better and they also spread better than cheaper paints.

At SignForce we ‘mostly’ use 2K automotive paint, because it is the most cost effective good paint that is easily accessible. Sometimes we use QD (short for Quick Dry) which is also a thinners based paint, but doesn’t tend to have the life of 2K. The benefit of QD is that, as the name says, it dries quickly – it is touch dry withing an hour versus almost eight hours for 2K.

Unfortunately 2K paint is not environmentally friendly, so newer, more expensive cars are now painted with more environmentally friendly, water soluble paints. At the time of writing this article the cost of the water soluble paints are still excessive when compared to 2K, but it looks that in time, the use of 2K will be replaced by the use of the environmentally friendlier water soluble paints.

While SignForce use 2K paint, ‘enamel’ paint can be used – as can a number of paints that fall between the two. The reason SignForce use 2K is because the pigments tend to last longer and the paint tends to adhere better to more substrates and the various primers. If the primer and paint are not fully compatible the paint may, at worst, bubble immediately, or at best, result in a reduced life of the paint.

While it is possible to get ‘long life’ (five to seven year) vinyl that can be cut, the range of colours is limited. Digital printing does an excellent job of overcoming the limitation of matching colours – as almost any colour can be printed, however, digital prints have a life expectancy of no more than three years. In some instances it is more cost effective to use a digital print and budget to renew the sign in 30 to 36 months, but this is not always the case, as there are times then the cost of refurbishing the sign is substantially more than simply replacing the face – be it because the sign is not easily accessible or because the sign is facing north in the harsh South African sun which burns the vinyl into the substrate so the entire substrate needs to be replaced or because the exchange rate is unfavorable so the print is simply much more three years later than it cost initially.

For cost effective signs that are made to fit your requirements, be that a tight budget or for the sign to last a long time, and sometimes the two at the same time, contact SignForce at either arnold@signforce.co.za or david @signforce.co.za

http://www.signforce.co.za          Telephone: +27 11 440 7525