It is often said, "A business with no sign is a sign of no business". This is an area where thought and design can speak volumes about a company or institution. Illuminated or neon signs are a common feature of promotional signage used in everyday life. Health and safety signage is an ever-growing area, such as are fire protection signage, and general directional signage....more
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Signs are an important feature of every day life as they provide a means of informing people. Information given by signs is diverse and falls into many categories. The most common place usage is to provide information on a business. This may take the form of a basic sign that gives the name of the business, generally found on high streets and within industrial estates, to alert people to the presence of the business and guide them to the door. The shop front sign is perhaps one of the oldest forms of signage around, alongside religious signs. Nowadays in our increasingly commercial and consumerist society basic shop signs have evolved to incorporate instantly recognisable logos that are designed for maximum impact, instant recognition and brand promotion. Shop front display signs, also known as shop window signs, have also become increasingly ornate with in store shop fittings, such as shop displays and shelving units becoming increasingly complex to aid product promotion. Shop signs were originally hand painted by skilled sign writers, however with the advent of modern screen printing processes and computers sign designs can be replicated many times, accurately and with time saving benefits. Printing can be conducted on a wide range of materials, including plastics such as polyvinylchloride (PVC), vinyl and polypropylene. Most sign manufacturers will offer sign design services and guidance on material selection and construction methods to best achieve the desired effect.
Plastics are widely used for producing marketing signs and advertising signs, particularly where they are not needed on a permanent basis, as plastic is cheap and durable if supported by a suitable surface, such as a display board. Common uses for plastic signs include product promotion and temporary advertisements, like estate agent signs. Many eye catching products are offered by sign makers to aid product promotion and advertising campaigns, with banners being a firm choice for this purpose along with event promotion. More niche sign products in the form of printed flags and pop up banners, often printed on plastic mesh materials to give a strong visual impact are also becoming common place. Moving signs, like swing signs and rotary signs also have the ability to stand out from the crowd, amongst more standard signage and are popular for business promotion. Swing signs represent an enhanced form of sandwich board, also known as an A board, and are commonly positioned on the pavement outside shop frontages. Most shop frontage signs can be classed as being 'bespoke signs' as they are made to individual requirements, even though they may display the shop details of multi national companies.
With the advent of neon lights illuminated signs can be produced in a wide selection of vibrant colours to advertise products and illuminate shop frontages. Recent years have seen the introduction of LED (light emitting diode) signs which can offer low running costs for illuminated signs and the ultimate night sign solution.
Where signs are constantly being replaced and their content is changed on a regular basis printing is usually undertaken on paper or card, however it must be protected from moisture and the elements. Paper or card signs can be displayed on open fronted notice boards, if sited in an internal environment. If an external display is required a glass fronted display board or covered notice board could be used. The term sign board is often used as a generic term for a display or notice type board.
Signs are also widely used to display public information, especially within external environments. As a result most sign manufacturers produce a form of covered notice board to fulfil this purpose. Notice boards may be used to provide information on events within town centres, opening hours of libraries and community information within villages. Notice board surrounds may be manufactured from wood, metal or aluminium with clear translucent plastic or glass windows for protection.
Other information signs for external environments include signs for recreation areas or areas of specific interest, such as nature reserves and historical monuments. These signs provide information that needs to be read and digested by users in all weathers. To make this possible sign fabricators have come up with many ingenious sign designs, which generally incorporate a central notice board or printed display board held on posts and sheltered with a roof. These display centres, or covered signs, can be constructed from timber to create a rustic look to blend in with natural surroundings or in metal (steel or aluminium) to provide a more modern and durable structure. Educational signs often take this format, but can be designed to incorporate interesting features to hence learning experiences. Lectern signs are typically used for information purposes at view points and allow the user to glance up from the sign to take in views beyond. Many lectern signs are produced in steel, on to which sign engraving is undertaken to depict landscape features.
Town centres require many directional signs or sign posts, to guide the public to well known town monuments, churches or simply direct people to public transport facilities such as railways. Directional signs may take the form of finger posts, commonly produced in cast iron since Victorian times, or from printed sheet aluminium to give a more modern look. Finger post signs 'point' in the direction of the feature and are also common in country parks, although manufactured from wood. Town signs can be described as street furniture and can be used to complement items like rubbish bins or benches produced from similar materials to create an over riding theme and a uniform feel. Many small plaques, for historical information purposes, are made from cast iron to give a durable vandal resistant finish. Stove enamelled signs, such as those used within the London Underground are vandal resistant as the enamelled finish can be easily cleaned of any paint or graffiti. Some designers have the ability to offer a design and build service, where they will be able to undertake sign installations, for the signs they produce. An installation service may prove to be particularly useful in a built up environment.
The road network utilises many advisory signs, along with the construction industry. Street signs are generally manufactured from aluminium sheet metal to reduce their overall weight, whilst some construction industry signs, especially warning signs are made in plastic and then printed. A selection of sign designs for health and safety purposes, to advise and warn, for use in industry and work environments can be purchased in sheet plastic form. Many are also produced in self adhesive format, such as fire protection signs and emergency signs.
Many sign manufacturers also offer a variety of vehicle graphics, usually self adhesive, these graphics can be designed to promote and advertise a business. Simple ones may include a company name, logo and contact number, whilst more grander designs may advertise products. Where a vehicle is to be used for private use a removable magnetic sign could be considered.