Give site signs the impact they deserve

By Gary Anderson

Posted on Saturday, January 28th, 2023

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There are extraordinary temporary site signs that get done for high budget projects, but as a rule those don’t apply to the everyday site-sign projects handled by most sign shops. However, even the more budget-minded site-sign projects offer unique design opportunities. This is where the concepts covered earlier in this series of articles—over-scaled poles, the box structure, pictorials, cutout and carved elements or some gold leaf on occasion—can make a major difference in the sign’s appeal and effectiveness.

Twenty years ago, most of the site signs in my town were of the generic type: a white background with red or black block letters. Others used a small casual lettering. Some were just spray-painted lettering on pressed board saying Lots for Sale and a phone number then nailed to bare 4-by-4-in. poles.

About that time I did some work with a developer who fortunately recognized the tremendous marketing value of these signs. He wanted something more creative that would make a statement. The more sophisticated signs were very successful, and soon my client became the largest and most respected developer in the area. They could trace 35% of their sales directly to the site signs.

This created peer pressure to a point that other developers had to adopt a more professional approach to their advertising. In many cases I did their signage, too. Improving the quality of the design of these site signs was not only good business for the developer, but also good business for me. Along with that came the opportunity to design entries and permanent signage. It’s further proof that people react to good design without understanding why.

The more restrictive sign codes that many towns are adopting make a strong case for designing site signs for maximum effectiveness. Many times the codes are too extreme in how they limit size, number and placement of signs, but most of us still have to deal with them every day.

For instance, in my area one double-faced 4-by-8-ft. site sign (or a total of 64 sq. ft. for a single-faced sign) is all that is allowed, regardless of the size and scope of the project. I need to be especially creative to get people to notice and to make an impression when I’m working with that limited square footage.

This appeared in the March/April 2008 issue of SignCraft.

Here’s a before-and-after example. This developer had noticed some of our projects and came to us thinking a more creative approach might help their flat sales. By turning the allowed 32-sq.-ft. sign vertically and adding nice poles, the effect changes dramatically. They were so pleased they couldn’t wait to get their old sign down—and soon called to say their sales had improved.

Gary Anderson’s shop, Bloomington Design, is in Bloomington, Indiana. Now retired, he has contributed to SignCraft for over 35 years, and authored two books: Signs, Graphics & Other Neat Stuff and More Signs, Graphics & Other Neat Stuff, both published by SignCraft.