Turn the building into a sign

By signcraft

Posted on Friday, September 1st, 2023

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Sometimes it seems a sign isn’t big enough to get the job done—or it can’t be big enough, thanks to sign code restrictions. One solution is to “turn the whole bloody building into a sign” as Australian sign designer James Dobson does when he gets the opportunity.

“To me,” he says, “doing a panel or sign and putting it on the building is similar to just doing a small panel on a vehicle as opposed to doing the whole thing. The impact is tenfold for the client.”

All it takes is a coat of paint in a distinctive color and maybe some additional graphics or a complete paint scheme for the building. Either way, when that is coordinated with the signage to create the effect that the building itself is the sign, all of a sudden the sign code square foot limitations are not quite as limiting. Those limits usually apply only to the area occupied by the signage.

If painting the whole building isn’t an option, it can even be done on a wall or section of the building. The only secrets are effective design and striking colors.

As for selling jobs like these, James says there is no doubt about it: seeing is believing.

“I’ve found that taking a digital photograph of the building then adding the design to the photo is really the way to go,” he says. “It shows clients what is possible. Talking with them about what is possible seems to almost always lead nowhere.”

“I did the Osburn building while at Signs Plus in Wagga Wagga [Australia],” James says. “I suggested doing the whole building then designed it with Mick. The lettering was router-cut from acrylic sheet bonded to high-density foam. The funky graphic is two pieces of aluminum composite bonded to foam, then hand painted with lettering enamel. The client loved it when it was done—but a month later complained because of the increased business!”

This appeared in the January/February 2011 issue of SignCraft.

“I suggested using the whole building,” says James, “which was hand painted in low-sheen acrylic paint. It took about four days to complete. The graphics were projected on the walls. “

“The whole wall becomes the sign,” says James, “when the background color is coordinated with the sign on jobs like these. It adds a lot of impact.”