Some signs, for one reason or another, will be small. But they can still build big impressions.
Meri Weber and her husband, Adam, started their business 12 years ago in Indianapolis. Design 27 develops a wide range of technology and acoustics solutions for a variety of clients in a number of industries.
Only this past year have they been able to invest in a sign. That's because, like many small businesses, they started out working from home then hopped around in various rented spaces that suited their modest needs. Eventually, they grew. And the prospect of owning their own space became more of a necessity than a distant goal. An opportunity finally presented itself, they jumped on it, purchased the real estate, moved their business into it, and then realized they would also need a sign.
"Once we moved into our small converted bungalow office, we were often told how wonderful the place looked," says Meri of their new office space. "But at the same time we heard comments about our lack of signage."
Although their clients and potential clients come from a slim spectrum of places, they were growing. Just as it is with any growing business, the need to build a brand and create top-of-mind awareness in a specific field of expertise is important. A new sign would help. In Meri's words, "It had to get done."
With a logo developed that resonated well with customers and potential clients, Meri and Adam were ready to tackle the sign. They had a general idea of how they wanted the sign to look but didn't know how to get things moving. They tried to work with some local sign shops but were told they really were not that all that interested in assisting with such a small sign job. Then I entered into the project.
Through a network of history and connections, I was introduced to Meri and her vision for a new sign. I knew instantly that although the sign itself was not going to be anything too complicated or large, it would be artistic, dimensional and present the sort of image they wanted. Meri's good taste for aesthetics with my design and fabrication input would merge well to make an impression-building small sign.
With a little due diligence, I was able to determine the ordinance guidelines for their address and zoning. As is often the case with properties located close to residential districts but are zoned for small office business operations, the ordinances were quite restrictive in terms of size, setback and illumination. Even the process itself for securing the necessary permit was going to require quite an effort for a sign no larger than 12 square feet and no taller than four feet from grade to top. Additionally, their office building is small. So a sign too big would not have looked right in context to the size of their business office or front yard.
"I want to use our logo with wood and layered metal," Meri told me.
From there I immediately began generating renderings to capture her vision. A few revisions in and we arrived upon the perfect design for her and her business's brand, image and impression.
From there, and after securing the permit, we went to production with the sign using a rich looking stained cedar for the backer panel with various thicknesses of routed acrylic components to be installed in layers to the front surface. The acrylic components were coated with metallic Matthews paints. The support structure to hold the sign up was custom fabricated from steel tubing and painted to match the dark trim of the building.
The sign turned out exactly as Meri had hoped and it portrays the excellence and professionalism that their business provides to their clients. The dimensional features with the choice of materials and colors gives this small sign the sort of qualities that make it unique, elegant and artistic while not sacrificing effectiveness or functionality.
The point is that small signs don't have to be cheap, flat, boring or be produced from standard "sign" materials. In fact, the more creativity and custom craftiness you can put into the small sign, the more impact it will have and the more appreciated it will be.
All sign types are part of the package when running a sign shop—even the small ones. You can turn them down, like those who did with Design 27, but often there is a good opportunity within the smaller sign project if you're willing to try and get your customer to buy in to higher-class ideas.
Small Sign Spotlight
Bobby Taylor started his family-owned sign business, Signs by Gina, in 1997. They are located in Owensboro, Kentucky. Like most sign shop owners, he's seen just about every type of branding project come through his doors. And he's done his share of small signs. At the same time, he understands the value of making the small sign special in order to make bigger impressions. Bobby and his son Larry share the details of a recent small sign project and how they made it a building impression.
"We were recently approached by an upcoming store called Bushay's Men's Boutique & Home Decor. Ms. Hauser, the store owner, brought us an image of a sign created for an architect firm out of state. By looking at the image, we could determine what material was used and how it was made."
"Silver standoffs, composite metal with a stainless steel finish, and acrylic lettering. The standoff sign photo they showed us, like most, was fairly small. We were asked if it was possible to create their sign to be similar but at a specific size of 3ft tall by 6ft wide. We chose to use custom 2"wide stainless steel standoffs that we had special made for this project."
Sign Design Process
"We started with design where we mocked up different logo designs and presented them to our client. Ms. Hauser confirmed that she was most interested in a modern minimalist design. We used a more modern font for the name, and a thin all caps sub-wording that describes what the store offers. A thin font is not usually best for most signage especially when viewed from a distance, but for the sake of keeping the branding of the store consistent, we kept it as is. Then we went to production."
Sign Production and Materials
"We used 25" white gloss acrylic for the logo. The logo was laser cut in-house by our laser. We installed the logo by laser cutting a cardboard template for correct placement and measurements. We then placed each acrylic letter carefully into the slots with high tack automotive double sided tape. The sub wording was installed in white Oracal 651 vinyl below the name. The sign material was composite metal, coated with a stainless steel finish."
Final Sign Result
"The sign turned out great and the customer loved it. In fact, during the sign making process Ms. Hauser consistently reached out to us for more printing and branding applications that would be used for other store needs that included various decals and graphics, displays, custom made tags for the clothing and merchandise, and their business cards."
"Dreams don't work unless you do," says Larry Taylor when sharing with me about his experience of growing up within and helping in the sign business.
"I couldn't be happier with the great privilege I have to be a part of providing branding solutions that build those impressions you talk about for our customers—even with the small signs."