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Signage for Your Local and Distant Facilities

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Serving Global Real Estate, Facilities and Office Managers

"While you're contemplating how your new sign will look — we’re contemplating how new your sign will look 10 years from now"

Attribute #6 — Signs that Work

Signs that Work

A Guide for Sign Buyers and Sign Specifiers

Learn from a sign fabricator's perspective about engineering signage products to:

  • meet client objectives
  • accommodate existing conditions

Firms doing branded environments will have less use for this material because those outcomes are destined to work. Branded environments enjoy early dedicated focus and signs are integrated among express architectural support.

For others, signage can be an afterthought. Problems emerge when signs are addressed last and in a rush. Participants possess varying levels of expertise. Rapid decisions made in a vacuum can look good on paper. They will include relevant and appropriate materials, but they can wind up slowed and diminished by emerging contradictions and incompatibilities. The disconnect between logos / messages and the surfaces onto which signage is intended to go occurs, more often that not, in the specifications.

Signs that Work are satisfactory outcomes.

Signs perform as expected and they last for the duration.

Signs that Work stem from signage specifications (specs) that have been distilled and optimized for your project's unique needs.

Your sign's anticipated purpose leads to optimized specs. Optimized specs evolve from a 2-step approach:

  1. Establish what constitutes fit for purpose by fully addressing purpose. Glance at our list of attributes to consider.
  2. Detect and reconcile discrepancies by modifying your specs to compensate. Discrepancies otherwise emerge and undermine best-laid plans.

The findings of steps 1 and 2 become your functional objectives. They serve as the yardstick by which signage specifications are measured. Specs are evaluated and filtered, leading to your short list of optimized signage specifications.

In addition to aesthetics, an optimized spec is curated to be:

  • Effective at communicating for it's the sole reason the sign will exist.
  • Physically complementary, in both appearance and attachments, among your graphics and your facilities decorations and substrates.
  • Capable of contending with forces and influences your sign will be subject to in the vicinity it will be situated.

If you prefer to delve into the topic, a quick scroll is where it's broken down into a methodical framework.

If you'd like to discuss your project, reach out. Techsign is at your disposal.

Signs that Work Sprang from Experience and Observation

  • Experience in adroitly helping consumer’s and designer’s preferences mesh with prevailing conditions.
  • Observation of conspicuous lapses of signs we'd spotted and diagnosing the source.

Sources of lapses invariably came down to specs — our takeaway being how a minor change in specs would have effectively countered the problem.

Communication can be diminished when it is assumed and not planned

Surroundings can challenge communication if it is not recognized beforehand and sign’s specs have not been modified to counteract.

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Camouflage Effect

camo effect sign

Camouflage can unintentionally appear when mirror-polished letters are in the vicinity of complicated scenery.

Commentary & Solution

This condition is directionally dependent. The sign approached from another direction might be more easily seen and read.

One suggested specification change would have been to swap finishes among the letters and the background. It would be easier to read, but lettering would still need to be picked out from the busy background.

There are other workarounds that would support immediate recognition and clear legibility, but that would go beyond the scope of this example display.

Murky Effect

murky sign

It's clear to see this sign is immersed in darkness. Why that's so might not be readily apparent.

Commentary & Solution

This is a tough place for a sign, just above strong sunlight streaming in from the glass entrance, creating a bit of silhouette for the entire wall surface.

Both lettering and background appear to be satin stainless steel; given a warm cast from the surrounding light and stone. Stainless steel, reactive to light, also reflects darkness and shadow that is opposite the sign. Errant light happens to fall on a portion of the sign.

Additional lighting fixtures added after the fact would be conspicuous; the architecture is tightly accounted for.

The workaround: Higher contrast among lettering and background would have helped the sign's visibility; a less reflective surface characteristic would have prevented the darkness reflections.

Chameleon Effect

chameleon sign

A chameleon is a lizard whose body can adopt the color of the surface it is resting on. This is a lettering method that unintentionally mimics that.

Commentary & Solution

Subtlety might not be the most appropriate means to do a building identification number.

The plus side of the balance sheet is it's permanence. The negative side is all the tardy and stressed people looking for the address into perpetuity.

Silver leaf could be added to the incised lettering, creating a contrast with the background.

Shadow Obstruction Effect

shadow sign

Strong sun casts strong shadows, elongated at certain angles of incidence. This adds uninvited message confusion for a good portion of sunny days.

Commentary & Solution

Lettering on stilts inadvertently make for part-time legibility in exterior applications.

This kind of arrangement is best seen on overcast days. On sunny days, this is what you get.

Stood-out lettering looks nice, but there's a practical limit to the length of hardware — in addition to how much hardware is exposed.

Advice would be to lose the pins for the spot in which this sign is situated.

Low-Contrast Effect

low contrast sign

This is a 2018 branding initiative that's not working. There is a stark need of contrast.

Commentary & Solution

Camera position is pulled back to where the sign should be clearly visible during a fast-moving approach.

The fact that it's a hospital is not readily apparent, as is the second line of text almost impossible to discern. Sunlight behind the sign casting shadow on the face worsens the problem.

Can you imagine the money this ran? And yet it does nothing. In fact, it works against the sign buyer.

No easy specification tweak, other than having applied fundamentals beforehand supporting visibility and legibility.

The present effort can be patched up to lend higher contrast in order to salvage the majority of what's been fabricated.

Non-working signs we discovered were apparently green-lit, suggesting submissions for approval were not preemptively checked. In the case of those non-working signs from the buyer's perspective:

  • Drawings didn’t help. Drawings can optimistically look better than the sign will when it materializes. Drawings may not be an adequate reflection of optical and physical properties inherent in the facility.
  • Samples didn’t help. Samples that looked great at the meeting might not look as great in the spot that the sign will occupy.

What would have helped? Detecting and reconciling discrepancies that undermine best-laid plans: Signs that Work.

If your project is too big to fail (even small projects can be too big to fail), contact us and let's collaborate.

Signs that Work: under the hood

To create a sign that works versus just creating a sign, let’s delve into details.

Signs that Work stem from a framework of priorities.

Priorities are stacked:

  • Communication is on top. It’s the primary reason for getting a sign.
  • Aesthetics is in the middle. It conveys who you are.
  • Practicality is on bottom. It’s the foundation for general satisfaction.

Interactive Priority Stack for Signs that Work


The Primary Goal

Visible, Legible, Understood

  • Full time visibility is preferred, not part time.
  • Visible and legible from any and all practical angles of approach.
  • Legible with attention paid to proximity near and far.


The Appearance

Dress your message and reinforce your market position

  • Consistent with your Brand and Profession
  • Coordinate with your Surroundings
  • Tailored to Fit
  • Positioned relative to architectural elements


The Foundation

Equip your message to handle practical concerns that support economy, peace of mind and lasting enjoyment

  • Feasible
  • Safe
  • Secure
  • Stable
  • Durable
  • Lawful

For Signs to Work, we ideally address the entire stack through process.

Process discovers your project’s unique combinations of variables, constants and dependencies.

Process mediates among priorities, as it relates to your unique graphics requirements and as it applies to your unique facility configuration.

So what's Signs that Work look like in practice?

A process of elimination backs into your ideal short list of sign specs. And it is the same subset of specs that can be modified to tame conspicuous lapses or lurking issues. Those can occur either with supplied graphics (front end concerns) or with adverse job site conditions (back end concerns).

  • Communication of your product ensured:
    1. Review your sign's graphics capability to convey its message.
    2. Review the sign's destination to check for interference.
  • Materials and methods for your product evolves:
    1. Ensure it is soundly built within thresholds inherent in both materials and sign-making method.
    2. Secure attachments should be preconfigured for site-specific decor and substrates.
  • Deterioration less likely where installed:
    1. Appearance maintained the best way it can given environmental changes.
    2. Surface or material defects mitigated from anticipated tampering, whether accidental or intentional.
    3. Attachments examined for potential loosening or dislodging from accidental or intentional stresses.
  • Value realized over time:
    1. Value engineering could be applied making it work for less.
    2. Appearance that looks newer for longer yields an incalculable intangible benefit.
    3. Expenses are reduced by lessening maintenance or replacement needs.
    4. Planned means of removal and relocation extends the useful life of the product.

Signs that Work are made before they are manufactured

If you wait too long to address signs, you’ll inevitably lack the time to ensure your signs will work. Give us a ring and let's make it work.


Signs that Work

9 Attributes

1) — Communication.

Your sign works when it is Visible, Legible, Understood.

The primary goal of a sign is communication. Clear graphics are only one part of the equation. The other part concerns proactive measures to counteract detriments that will obscure your message or conceal your sign where it is situated.

  • Full time visibility is preferred, not part time.
  • Visible and legible from any and all practical angles of approach.
  • Legible with attention paid to proximity near and far.

2) — Consistent with your Brand and Profession.

Layout and materials dress your message and reinforce your market position.

3) — Tailored to Fit.

Your sign works when it occupies just the right amount of space.

4) — Coordinate with your Surroundings.

Your sign works when it looks like it belongs.

5) — Planned for Feasibility.

Your sign works when its content and attachment is furnished in compatible specifications.

Materials have limitations, as do sign-making techniques, as do installation substrates. A feasible project considers all variables, leading to a specification compromise that is your curated short list from which to choose.

6) — Planned for Durability.

Your sign works when it goes the distance.

Each sign should be suitably equipped to help counter conditions to which it will be exposed. It includes attachment, weathering, and proximity to the public.

7) — Planned for Affordability.

When budgets are low, get there with lower cost material and methods delivering maximum benefit emphasizing style and communication.

8.) — Planned for Safety.

Your sign works when it's build and attachment reduce liability.

9.) — In accord with Local and Federal Law.

Your sign works when it conforms to prevailing rules and laws.