Posted on Wednesday, September 14th, 2022
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:
This customer is opening a floor covering store and was referred to you by one of your customers. He is permitted to have a 2-by-16-ft. sign on his storefront. He has no logo but has had some basic business cards printed. The sign must be installed on the wood-frame wall. Make a sketch of the sign you might have designed for the customer, and quote a price.
This appeared in the May/June 2009 issue of SignCraft.
Prices have been adjusted for inflation.
Sign cost: $1035
Sales tax: $103
Mark Fair Signs, Montgomery, Alabama
This sign, on 1⁄2-in. overlaid plywood, would be painted using a cut-and-roll technique using a paper masking frisket. For the paint, I’d use high-grade acrylic enamel or exterior satin finish house paint for a richer look.
Chapman Design Studio, Temple, Texas
Plywood, paint, vinyl: $175
Mark-up on materials: $90
Artwork (including sales time): $138
Cut/coat background: $100
Paint panel shape: $50
Cut/weed vinyl: $100
Apply vinyl: $100
Installation: $175 (depending on location)
Labor and Materials subtotal: $928
Plus 10% profit: $93
Total: $1021 plus state sales tax
For this version, the material and labor cost are similar, but there’s some additional time involved in painting the panels and applying the vinyl film.
Total: $1175 plus state sales tax
A long, skinny format is always a design challenge. Our client has included what any flooring business would want on their sign, and they’ve done a good job of eliminating a lot of unnecessary copy that would only detract from their image. Of course, the name is priority and the types of flooring they offer is just secondary information.
I would suggest eliminating the “Inc.” It isn’t necessary and doesn’t add anything to the overall image. Plus, it throws the whole layout off balance.
On such a small sign, including a lot of pictorial elements would only add conflict to the layout. If the panel were to be digitally printed, a background of carpet or tile could be effective if the contrast with the letter was kept high.
Either of these designs would be done with high-performance vinyl film on overlaid plywood, finished with acrylic latex paints. These are prices that we would actually charge for this type of project, although we specialize in dimensional sign work—which is less competitive in our area. For a sign this size, it wouldn’t be uncommon to get a price less than half of what I am proposing.
Chris and Barb Shuster
Bluegrass Design, Inc., Winchester, Kentucky
Original design and specs (if purchased separately for bidding purposes): $1200
Original design (if purchased with sign; can be used for other advertising): $200
2-by-16-ft. sign: $885
Permitting ($35 cost plus $35 processing): $70
We would start off by visiting the site and taking photos and measurements. During the first meeting with the client at our shop, we’d show samples to help determine what sort of look he has in mind and discuss ballpark costs. We’d explain how prices vary depending on flat or dimensional and then discuss other issues such as design, installation and permitting. After agreeing on an approximate budget, we would request a $200 retainer.
At the second meeting with the client, we would present a proposal that would include the designs and costs. We would help the client select which version would best suit his needs and budget. We’d get a 50% deposit and then go to work.
We recommend a digital print for this job. This allows us to customize the colors and create a dimensional look complete with beveling, fades, shadows and highlights. We use a cast vinyl film with a cast matte-finish laminate applied to an aluminum composite panel. Unlike overlaid plywood, these products have a flawless smooth surface and will not rot.
Typically, we would install a sign like this offset from the wall on 5⁄4 pressure-treated vertical strips spaced every 2 ft. or so. It adds some dimension and looks better than when mounted flat on the wall.
We always take the opportunity to propose additional advertising options the client may not have considered: things like door or window lettering with logo, hours, phone number and address. And then, of course, there’s vehicle lettering or magnetics, business cards, letterhead, envelopes or other advertising specialties.
We’d like to thank SignFonts.com for Graceland Script and Edoras Regular and DavidButler.com for a beautiful panel and scroll from his Butler Gold clip art CD.
David Design, Bryan, Ohio
This is the type of sign work we do all the time because here in Bryan, Ohio. No sign in the downtown area can be larger than 3-ft. in height. So the standard size for storefront signs downtown is 2-by-16-ft. I like this format and it seems to work well in our town.
I’ve designed two sign layouts for this project. They’re both pretty straightforward and feature fonts that I know will do the job.
1⁄2-in. overlaid plywood: $175
Labor to prime then finish coat: $275
Cut-out panel prime/finish: $175
Layout, cut and apply vinyl: $400
Overlaid plywood: $175
Prime, finish, cut-and-roll color bar: $275
Cut and apply vinyl: $400
Cutout S on “Specialty”: $100
Install either sign on wooden storefront: $275
This design features two bold color panels on each end, with a cut-out applied overlaid plywood panel listing the company’s services; carpet, tile and so on. The end panels are navy-black blue and the add-on panel is yellow with medium blue text.
The background is pale yellow blended left-to-right to a bright yellow. “Specialty” is red and “Flooring” is black with highlights of medium-blue lines running vertically in each letter.
This is another straightforward layout that uses Mike Stevens fonts. The script makes it a bit snappy, especially with the “S” going above the 2-ft.-tall panel. I would hand letter this script. All other copy would be high-performance vinyl film. The bottom color bar would be cut-and-rolled.
The background is light tan, the bottom color bar and border are dark brown. The list of products on the color bar is ivory, “Specialty” is dark purple with lighter purple hand-painted highlights and “Flooring” is black with dark purple vertical lines. Everything but “Specialty” is high-performance vinyl film.