What Architects Need to Know About Signage Design

Smooth integration of signage both internal and external should be of paramount concern to all involved in a building or retro-fit project. Signage design, like dmv handicap parking permit architecture design, can be beset with unforeseen roadblocks that can derail/delay projects endlessly. As a designer I’ve appointed myself the designated oracle to address a handful of major issues that need to be addressed to avoid roadblocks and keep projects flowing smoothly.

Exterior Signs Have Both Physical and Political Parameters

External signs have physical parameters and political parameters. Physical parameters are the structural limitations of sign placement and mechanics of the signage. Political parameters are the city/county/region/ landlord/building management requirements for the sign’s size and structural composition. Most of the political requirements are outdated and borderline obsolete. Sign permits can be costly and most sign permitting processes are byzantine. Landlord and building management design requirements also may not be consonant with city/county/region permitting requirements, so plan ahead by meeting with both building management personnel and governmental planners, and make time to address these situations at the beginning of your project.

Understanding Design Elements of Illuminated signs

99.9% of commercial signs use lettering. The vast majority use internally illuminated signs, and the vast majority of illuminated signs use letters by themselves. There are three main parts to an illuminated letter: an acrylic face (usually translucent), opaque “returns” (the sides of the letters) and “end caps” (small strips that connect the face to the return). The end caps and returns can be painted to match both materials and colors. The translucent faces can be faced with colored vinyl or painted. Perforated vinyls are available that can expose the color of the lighting at night, while appearing like the color of the face during the day (when the lighting is off). The lighting for the letters comes in two sources: LED lighting, which comes in a variety of basic colors, and neon, which is more brilliant in color, but more expensive to create and use.

All internally illuminated signs have to be supplied with power, which means access to power sources needs to be readily available. You should try to make the power sources and connections as visually non-obtrusive as possible. The size, candle-power, orientation, and number of building piercings are easily the biggest bones of contention with regulatory authorities and landlords.

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