Designing Your Sign

Create signage that catches customers' attention.

Retailers and restaurateurs alike realize the power of a goodsign. Some companies rely on drive-by or walk-by traffic forcustomers, and if that's the case with your company, your signmay be the most important element of your entire corporateidentity.

A good sign must do more than just attract attention; it alsohas to be readable from a good distance. That's why youroriginal logo is so important-one that looks great on a tinybusiness card may not transfer well to a huge sign above yourstore. Clearly, going to a professional in the first stages ofdeveloping your image is essential. If you find out your great logocan't be reproduced on a sign, you'll have to go back tosquare one and rethink your logo, which will end up costing youmore in the long run.

In recent years, a whole host of new signage materials hasemerged to provide more variety and individuality. This also meansit's harder to choose among all the possibilities, whichinclude neon, plastic, metal, wood and more. Do some investigatingbefore making your final decision; there is a wide discrepancy inprices for various materials. Depending on your location, signplacement can make a big difference, too. Options include afree-standing sign, a wall sign, a projecting sign or a roofsign.

Since you probably don't have the know-how or the equipmentnecessary to make a sign yourself, you'll have to go to anoutside manufacturer. Don't expect manufacturers to offersuggestions or point out any problems with your design ifyou've come up with one on your own. That's not their job.Before you head to the manufacturer with your designspecifications, check your local zoning laws. You may find that thedesign you've come up with for your fried chicken restaurant-a30-foot neon number in the shape of a chicken-isn't allowed inyour area. If you are planning to move into a shopping center, thedeveloper may have additional regulations governing signage thatcan be used in the facility.

Most entrepreneurs need professional assistance with signagesince they don't have experience in this area. You probablywon't know how big the letters should be to be visible fromdown the block, and you may not know which materials fare best ininclement weather. For this reason, you should visit aprofessional-either a designer or a sign fabricator.

A good designer knows when fabricators are cutting corners andnot using the material requested or doing a shoddy job. A designerwill also be present at the installation to make sure the sign isput in place properly. The cost of a sign varies greatly dependingon the materials and type of sign. Buying directly from afabricator can cost as little as $500, but you run the risk of notmeeting zoning requirements. If you hire a designer, you'll paya design fee in addition to fabrication costs, but you have abetter guarantee that the finished product will work for you.

Excerpted from Start Your Own Business: The Only Start-UpBook You'll Ever Need, by Rieva Lesonsky and the Staff ofEntrepreneur Magazine, © 1998 Entrepreneur Press

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