Design & Price: 4-by-8-ft. real estate sign

By SignCraft.com

Posted on Friday, February 4th, 2022

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In every issue, SignCraft gives a few sign makers an imaginary project. We ask them to do a sketch of the sign they might have produced, and to quote a price for the job. Most of the details are left to the designer’s imagination. The object is to see how different sign makers approach the same project. Here’s the scenario these sign makers were given:

A local realtor who is a good customer calls in an order for a single-faced overlaid plywood sign. He stresses that it has to be a high-impact layout because the sign will stand along a busy road. Make a sketch of the sign you might have designed for this customer and quote a price.

 

Larry Hansen  |  Lettermen Signage, Inc., Mokena, Illinois

I love this premise. First, since it’s a regular customer who also happens to be a developer, we know we won’t be getting a check anytime soon. We also know this guy is cheap and pushy, cheap and particular, or pushy and particular. We can deal with any combination of two, but not all three.

The copy is also interesting. It points out how nomenclature varies in different parts of the country. Around here we use the term Outlot rather than Out Parcel and show dimensions as on a site plan. I remember traveling through Eastern Pennsylvania years ago and noticing that the “For Sale” signs there eliminated the word “For. All the signs I saw just read “Sale.”

Another interesting parameter is the six-lane highway that suggests a relatively high speed limit in addition to the distance from the farthest lane to the sign. I assume a local sign code restricts the size to 32 sq. ft., which doesn’t help this client. Picking a feature and legibility are key to the success of this project. After all, if it can’t be read, we have failed the customer.

Price: Each design features simple, straightforward copy arrangement and color selection. A few notches with a jigsaw are a quick way to add visual appeal. Design A is per SignCraft’s specs and would cost $750 installed. Design B illustrates how we would approach the project at our shop and would cost $750 installed.

Design A

Design B

Troy Strane  |  Signs & Designs, Quincy, Michigan

I’m always scratching my head, trying to conjure up new and exciting ways to present “For Sale” on sign layouts. On a 4-by-8 sign, it’s simply not enough lettering to fill a nice amount of horizontal space without going too much vertically. And “For Sale” effortlessly placed across the top of your sign makes it look like every other for sale sign you’ve ever seen. Sometimes a more clever idea is in order.

Since most folks will already know that something is for sale by the nature of the copy, my solution is to downplay “For Sale” and design the sign so that a viewer will conclude in a glance, “Hey, it’s got to be for sale. What else could it be?”

That makes it okay to place “For Sale” in a less conspicuous, secondary-copy sort of way. It still needs to be in the layout to dismiss any “For Lease,” “At Auction” or “Now Renting” confusion; it just doesn’t need to be the headline.

I’ve woven my thinking into my design efforts here and attempted to balance the bold copy with the understated “For Sale” in the script that adds an interesting visual splash. Since the signs will be located along a busy highway, loud and contrasting colors would be chosen to get it noticed. There are many combinations, but I think the black background would be the most fun.

Price: Honestly, I get many land developers and marketers stopping in who have nothing to gain if they can’t move the property. In turn, they’re not very excited about investing big dollars in signage. They’re the ones you’ll have a tough time drawing $350 to $400 out of, and they’ll be doing the installation themselves—in their dress clothes. I can and often do basic signs for these clients, but the designs shown here would probably be sold to a customer a bit more conscious of image and impact. A price range of $800 to $900 is likely. Installation would be an additional charge.

 

Sam Pitino  |  Barrett Communications, Cambridge, Massachusetts

I had a couple sets of criteria going into this project. The first was the practical: the sign needed to be punchy and visible from a six-lane highway. That assumes people are sometimes traveling at high speeds. My gut instinct would be to recommend a larger sign like an 8-by-8 or something in that range, but I am assuming for this purpose that a sign that large would be against code. The sign then needed to deliver the information as simply as possible and without clutter or gratuitous embellishments.

The second criteria was more personal. I think signs like these usually end up looking stale and extremely under-designed, thus tend to get overlooked among the clutter of who knows what. I also believe signage—no matter what the purpose—should communicate on many levels, not only informational, but visceral. It is important that our trade play just as important a role in our culture as  other design disciplines, like furniture design, textile design, graphic design, industrial design and architecture.

Lastly, I wanted to have fun when it came time to produce this sign. By spending a little more time up front on design, I am able to enjoy the craft of sign making and take pride in producing my product. It doesn’t matter if it’s done in vinyl or paint; it’s the end that counts, not always the means.

Design A: I thought a vertical format would be a little unexpected and might get noticed along our six-lane highway. My approach was to use simple shapes and color to bring the most important information to the front and set others back, while still creating interest and a unified message.

Materials: $150

Time:

Design 1.5 hrs. $75/hr.: $112.50

Production 6 hrs. $75/hr.: $450

Installation 1.5 hrs. $75/hr.: $112.50

Total selling price: $825

Design B: I wanted to reach back into the past for this one, but still remain current and hip. A flip through my vintage collection of Good Houskeeping magazines pointed me toward the color palette. Once again, I was compelled to break up the messages, using panels and high contrasting colors.

Materials: $150

Time:

Design 1.5 hrs. $75/hr.: $112.50

Production 6 hrs. $75/hr.: $450

Installation 1.5 hrs. $75/hr.: $112.50

Total selling price: $825

Design A

Design B

Judy Pate  |  Signs by Judy, Albany, Georgia

Design A: For greater impact I am using large panels in my layout for this sign. I prefer to use primed 1⁄2-in., Good Two Sides (G2S) overlaid plywood. I use this because I find that the single-sided material tends to warp.

Materials:

Primed G2S 1⁄2-in. overlaid plywood: $60

Paint: $30

5 1⁄4 yds. high-performance vinyl film: $40

Total materials after 100% markup: $260

Time:

Design .5 hrs. $75/hr.: $37.50

Coat out 1.5 hrs. $75/hr.: $112.50

Cut, weed, mask 1.5 hrs. $75/hr.: $112.50

Apply vinyl 1 hr. $75/hr.: $75

Total selling price: $597.50

Sales tax and installation are not included.

Design B: Again I’m using primed 1⁄2-in. G2S overlaid plywood on this sign. I’ll prime the overlaid plywood with a whiter Jay Cooke All-Purpose Sign Primer since the background will be white. The primed overlaid plywood I buy has a gray primer and white never covers it in one coat.

Materials:

Primed G2S 1⁄2-in. overlaid plywood: $60

Primer and paint: $30

9 2⁄3 yds. high-performance vinyl film: $128

Digital print: $66

21-by-24-in. attached overlaid plywood panel: $22

Total materials after 100% markup: $612

Time:

Design 1 hr. $75/hr.: $75

Prime and paint 1.5 hrs. $75/hr.: $112.50

Cut, weed, mask 2.5 hrs. $75/hr.: $187.50

Apply vinyl 1 hr. $75/hr.: $75

Total selling price: $1065

Sales tax and installation are not included.

Design A

Design B