January 26, 2015

Steps to Creating a Sign for your Business

A well designed sign that is creative and aesthetically pleasing  will affect your business in a positive way just as an old or poorly designed or an out of date sign will detract from your business.  A well-designed sign should accomplish three things:

1.  The sign should /clearly convey your message/.  The message should make your business easy to identify whether it is a single sign that identifies a group of businesses, or a single tenant sign, the ability of a sign to quickly convey its message is essential.

2.  The sign should /be compatible with its surroundings and building/.  The sign should be in scale with the placement on the building or in the landscape area and in scale with other signs in the area.  Signs are an accessory and should work within, not dominate, the building or landscape

3.  The sign should /promote a visual image and reflect the character of your company.

Signs come in all shapes and sizes, often featuring company colors and logos and should be designed to fit in a variety of settings.  Signs America can assist in selecting the best design, shape and colors for your sign. The following elements should be kept in mind when designing your sign:

**Number of Words – The fewer the words one must read, the easier they will be to read.  Sign*A*Rama  recommends 6 words for quick recognition.

**COLORS – Simple color schemes can aid in accentuating important words.  Sign*A*Rama recommends no more than 3 colors be used.  When a sign gets too “busy” it becomes harder to read and get its messge across to the reader.
LETTERING COLOR SCHEME – In addition to limiting the number of colors, Sign*A*Rama also recommends that light-colored lettering be used on a dark background.

LETTERING SIZE – The most important part of the sign – your company name, should be in the largest sized letters.  All other information – i.e. address, tag line, web address – should be a smaller size and possibly in a different color.


Building signs should be compatible with surrounding signs and appropriate to the area.  If the sign is proposed in a walkable area, the sign should address pedestrians.  If constructed in a historic district, it should compliment the historic character of the district.

Instead of competing with a building’s architecture, a sign should complement it.
Alternative sign types should be considered.  Awnings, hanging, and projecting signs can be used to add greater dimension to get your message across to your clients.


Monument signs can be made from a wide variety of materials.  Materials should be selected to to compliment the architectural elements of the building or area where the monument will be placed.  Stone, brick, concrete, and stucco are just a few choices.
Multiple listings on directory signs shoud be limited, as many names and logos on the sign make it difficult for the prospective client to identify your business.

PERMIT PROCESS – Both building and monument signs require permits.  Signs America provides the service of creating the documents required by the City of San Francisco.  The cost for this service is on a case by case basis.

Sign*A*Rama San Francisco provides a complimentary consultation service to assist you in selecting the right sign for your business.  Our staff of designers will conduct a site survey, provide ideas for type of sign as well as color that will put the “WOW” factor into your sign.

Creating an Effective Sign for your Business

Exterior Signage for La Boulange in Novato, CA.

Three factors dominate the effectiveness of your sign: visibility, legibility and readability.

VISIBILITY – the purpose of having a sign is so that the intended audience notices the sign and reads the message.  Four factors affect visibility:  shape, size, color and location.  An effective sign makes the best use of all four factors.

LEGIBILITY – is the sign easy to read from 300 feet away?  Is the font a unique style that makes it hard to recognize?  Signs America can provide renderings of your sign with different  color options for the background and different letter styles.  Knowing the optimum distance for viewing the sign is the first step to calculating letter height

READABILITY – the message should be easy to understand.  This is determined by using the correct font style, correct letter height and spacing. Signs America has hundreds of fonts to select from.  Often, changing only one element of a sign – the font style, size, spacing, color contrast or layout – will directly relate to the effectiveness of the sign.

SITE SURVEY – Sign*A*Rama provides complimentary site surveys.  During the survey, we will look at the space where the sign is to be installed.  We check to see if trees or buildings are in the way, if there are awnings, telephone poles or other signs or that block the view.  We can determine how high the sign should be placed on the building.

Contact Sign*A*Rama to set up an appointment for your complimentary site survey and bring your signs into the 20th century.

Winery Menu

A menu says a lot about what you are selling.  When you walk into a deli or coffee shop what you order may depend on how well the menu is done.  Some places have what seems like a dictionary full of items and options and every single combination is spelled out for you.  Other places may have a short list of items to choose from and they want a cleaner look.  Whatever your style, I think the most important is readability.  I think the more readable the menu is the more success you will have on the customer ordering more items.

Things to consider:

Text color vs. background color-  This might seem obvious, but sometimes people get really fancy with the text color and background to a point where its unreadable.  High contrast between text and background ensures the best readability.  The highest contrast is white on black or vice versa.  A bad example would be a light yellow on a light orange background.

Text Size- The size of the text is equally important.  If you are a deli with a thousand and one ingredients but you only have 4′ of space to work with, your text will be very small to fit a thousand words onto a 4′ area.  The key with text size is the less text the bigger the text can be.  For most people ordering at a deli 1/2″ to 1″ tall text is plenty.  Any smaller and it becomes fine print and we all know that fine print is for lawyers.

Change- Some menus might be just a list of services such as a auto body shop or oil change place others might be a local breakfast nook where they have daily specials.  Something to consider when designing a menu is to think about how often you might want this menu to change.  If you are a parking garage and your rates only change once a year that is much easier menu to maintain since you only have to think about the change once a year.  However if your menu might have daily specials or weekly happy hours than you or your employees will be the ones to change the menu so ease of changing needs to be considered.

Here are some sample of our recent work:

Sweet Sixteen

Sign-A-Rama has often enjoyed working for it’s neighbor and client, Fork and Spoon , a very creative catering company that serves the Bay Area. Their productions are often quite imaginative and when they want to incorporate signage, they call on us.

A recent collaborative effort happened recently when they were catering a Sweet Sixteen party. The party was for two very close girlfriends and their parents wanted two large signs that had the girl’s images on them. Blown up to life-size, the signs needed to be free-standing, lightweight and conducive to being signed by all their friends.

Fork and Spoon provided Sign A Rama with the high resolution image which we printed directly to 10 mil Coroplast (a very thick, plastic cardboard). The signs were designed  with a good amount of “extra” material at the bottom so they could be folded back and secured with Velcro, making this a sign that could literally “sit back” upon itself. (see picture). When the time comes to take the signs home, the parents need only separate the velcro strips and the sign folds flat. Easy to transport. At nearly 5′ tall and 4′ wide, the signs were quite a hit and may likely lead to more Sweet Sixteen projects.

Banner Stands for Trade Shows

Banner stands are a great way to have colorful graphics and be mobile as well.  Banner stands were invented for the traveling sales team in mind.  For example; if you are a part of a sales team that is going to do a presentation to a trade group at a hotel in another town, you might bring a retractable banner stand that is a self contained unit where the banner retracts into the stand and fits into a nice carrying case.  The retractable banner stand is  light weight and expands to height of 7 feet and is free standing so installation and take down is easy to do with out a lot of head aches.

Here are some banner stands from different clients.  Contact us for more information and on pricing.

New A-Frames for Squat & Gobble

Squat & Gobble has about 5 locations.  Not only do they have a great breakfast (I go to the West Portal location regularly)but their menu’s have a unique chalk board look.  Sign*A*Rama SF was approached by Squat & Gobble’s graphic designer to make sidewalk signs to reflect the chalk board look and feel of their menus.

Other than providing material samples of the material we were going to print on, I left the design and look of the print to the designer.  There were other challenges though.  One challenge was that Squat & Gobble wanted the a-frame sidewalk signs to have changeability.  Food specials change, menu changes, price changes, all these types of changes need to be done in a cost effective manner and with a quick turn around.

My solution was to mount a magnetic receiver to the their existing a-frames.  This way the Squat & Gobble would just give me the digital files and I would print their design to magnetic material cut to size.  The magnetic panels would then be delivered to the client who then can be mounted by the Squat & Gobble staff with ease when the new promotion starts.  This keeps any installation costs to minimum and now Squat & Gobble will start building a library of magnetic panels that can be swapped out when ever to keep the a-frames looking fresh.

Alameda Restroom Signs

Signs America just completed a sign program for the Alameda Boys & Girls Club’s new facility in Alameda, California. The signage for this project included everything from ADA Restroom and Permanent Space signs, to Way-finding and Exterior Dimensional Graphics. The signage was conceived to match aluminum architectural elements, so Signs America found a solution involving Anodized Aluminum Laminate over Black Acrylic for the base, with Black raised graphics. The end result was modern, but conservative, and perfectly fit the overall look of the club.

Fireside Post and Panel- Mill Valley, CA

Post and Panel Sign – Our client, a housing complex located in Mill Valley, CA, came to us to solve a problem.  The complex had two entrances, but only one entrance to the building was visible from the parking lot, causing confusion to visitors.  We suggested a digital map of the complex be placed in a central location.  The map we developed shows the two entrances and the units accessible through that entrance.  The location of the two entrances on the map has taken the guess work out of where to enter the building for the unit you want to visit.  The map is a digital print, laminated with UV material and installed in a black metal frame.  Find out how we can assist you in solving a sign problem – give us a call for a free consultation.

Pacific Cafe

To celebrate our friend’s 35th year in  business, we designed and made a sign for his seafood restaurant, Pacific Cafe, located in Kentfield, California.  The sign is 12″ high X 24″ long, and is a digital print laminated to foam core.  To make the sign more authentic looking, we contour cut around the outer edge so that the square knot at the bottom of the sign would stand out.  This is a very easy, cost effective way to celebrate a special occasion, birthday, anniversary, graduation.  It’s easy to add a photo to a greeting that can be enjoyed for years to come.

Gold Rush Kiosk- Digital Printing

Digital graphics printed on vinyl then  mounted to 1/8″ thick dibond.  Grommets inserted in 2 positions for hanging from kiosk.  These are at malls throughout Northern California.
This sign has also been fabricated in a free standing “table top” version.  This made to be inserted into a metal stand as shown.