How Important Are Road Signs?

Have you ever considered how tricky it would be to drive across our nation with no road signage? Probably the most recognized street indicator in America begins in Chicago, Illinois. Historic Route 66 begins at Michigan, and Adams in Chicago and progresses through seven other states. Route 66, “the Mother Road”, probably has the largest assortment of fascinating and common road direction indicators in the nation. Among these are business signs, church signs, specific area signs and many more. The baby boomers will all remember the “Burma Shave” signs” with their catchy rhymes. Federal Government control and assistance for public highways first came about in 1916, with revisions in 1921, but it was not until The government established an even more comprehensive version of the act in 1925 when the legislature put in place its plan for national highway development.

Route 66 was a highway created by the demands of a rapidly changing America. Contrasted with the Lincoln, the Dixie, and other highways of its day. Route 66 did not follow a traditionally straighter course. Its angled course linked a myriad of predominantly rural communities in Illinois, Missouri, and Kansas to Chicago; thus letting farmers bring grain and produce to market for resale to food distributors.

The diagonal configuration of Route 66 was particularly significant to the trucking industry, which by 1930 had come to rival the railroad for preeminence in the American shipping industry. The shortened route between Chicago and the west coast followed mostly level farm lands and enjoyed a more palatable climate than northern routs, which made it especially appealing to truckers. When the state of Illinois is mentioned, most people bring to mind two matters for touring the “Land of Lincoln” .In the state of Illinois, the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum in Springfield is definitely the largest presidential library in the nation, clearly marked with road direction signs.

The Museum of Science and Field in Chicago may be the only building remaining from the 1893 Columbian Exposition held in Chicago to celebrate the 400th anniversary of Columbus’ discovery of the new world.

In Chicago, you will also see the thirty eight hundred foot prolonged Navy Pier, it is 150 feet higher than a Ferris wheel and it is a common tourist location. “The Magnificent Mile”, (Michigan Avenue), is known for “shop ’til you drop”, and Rush Street for it’s nightlife. Never forget to look for your instructions to consider the El around the Loop. While strolling in Chicago, you can experience a considerable number of the historic buildings, most of which are adorned with multiple signs advertising a great array of different businesses. A great number of them bearing box or cabinet signs or individual lighted sign letters as they stand out and are easier to read from a distance.

1st Impressions Hang on Your Door

For new business, nothing is more important than the first impression you give to clients and customers. People will return time and time again if they like the service and the results, but first impressions are crucial for getting new clients through the door. Many businesses rely on word of mouth to sustain their backlog, but they are relatively few. Most of us have to contend with the competition, need to market and to advertise. Nobody gets away with a shoddy first impression.

Business signs are a good example. Try embellishing your sign’s bland title with interesting graphics. Or you can go all-out with a full-size billboard or two. Out of sight, out of mind, as they say; you never know how many potential customers just keep on driving because they just don’t know where you are. But it’s not the billboard…it’s the message that impresses.

Of course, a sign is hardly the only method of reaching the public. Having memorable logos for your business and products goes a long way in promoting brand recognition. Such things are not limited to signs; you can put them on t-shirts and other promotional gifts that your company might give out at events. The 1st impression is largely psychological in that, usually obtained before you ever got to explain your products and services.

Look at the Nike swoosh or the Golden Arches – how many millions of people see those and instantly know what they are? Such a high level of brand recognition is probably out of reach for many business owners, but even if your logos never leave their hometown, they’ll still be of great use.

If you’re wondering just how to spread your logos around the community, don’t underestimate the potential of the internet and local inexpensive media. For some members of the younger set, if it’s not on the internet it may as well not exist. The local events newspaper gets passed around every coffeeshop in town. There are always opportunities to inject your first impression. Don’t miss out on the advantages of technology – get on that computer and make a business profile on every networking site you can name. LinkedIn, Facebook and Myspace are all good places to start. You can start with just a handful of friends and colleagues and quickly gain a huge following. If your business profile is half done on LinkedIn, what kind of first impression does that leave. Take 10 minutes and fix it!

And when someone does show up at your business, one of the things they’ll see is your business sign. Signs are important. They let casual passersby know where you are and what you do. For a retail or restaurant business, where large portions of the clientele are walk-ins, easily read signs are crucial. Would you be so quick to stop at a place with run-down, unattractive signs if you knew nothing else about the establishment? Business signs lend an air of professionalism to any sort of endeavor. Make sure your sign delivers a good first impression.

Answer the phone!

Times are hard. There is no doubt about that and when times are hard, companies begin to search for things that can bring them the success that they may be lacking. Looking for ways to cut costs and implement savings throughout the company, many organizations have turned to automated answering machines to save them time and money. And, truth be told, there are cost savings with these systems. Many companies no longer have a receptionist to answer the phones, they have replaced her with a very fancy system with lots of options and foreign languages and professional-sounding voices. But, when you think about it, wouldn’t you really just rather talk to a person?

Have you ever been talking to a friend and had them comment favorably on an automated attendant phone answering device? Has anyone you know ever bragged about how efficient they were, how valued they felt by that system or how it quickly and efficiently got them to the right person? Probably not! Everyone has a story about punching several buttons and never getting a real person on the phone, about being sent in a circle through every button on the dial and then at the end of it they had to leave a message that nobody ever answered.

So, why, then do companies continue to use these systems when everyone knows that nobody likes them? Well, company owners are no different than anybody else. They get sold a product by someone who promises that it will save the company money by eliminating the need for a receptionist. They buy into the claims of efficiency wherein a caller can choose with whom he wants to speak, push a button and be directed straight to that person. They believe that by telling a customer to push 2 for Spanish, they will capture a new section of the market. The problem with this is that it just never happens quite that way!

Take a little time during this down economy to actually track the success of your automated call-in system. Call it yourself from outside the office. See how well each option actually works. Track the number of calls that hang up before they get to the right person in your system. Ask a few customers what they think of the automated attendant system, see if they felt valued listening to a stranger tell them what button to push.

You may find that having a friendly, live person answering the phone, listening to the customer and helping them get to the right person in your company will improve your customer service immensely. Every business owner should know that it is much cheaper to keep a customer happy than it is to attract a new one. No customer stays happy pushing buttons in search of help!

Your Business Sign of the Times

Once you establish a rapport with a client, things like the business sign don’t necessarily matter as much. But, the sign in front of your business speaks volumes about who you are and how you conduct yourself in the world of commerce. Your sign is the first and perhaps most lasting impression that your customers or clients will ever have of your company. An attractive and professional sign will create a positive first impression that lasts for years and bring in a lot of business. A poorly designed or maintained sign will do just the opposite. Give a potential customer the choice of which door to walk through and he’ll choose the one with the professional sign every time.

Your sign may be the most important way you advertise and is definitely the last place you want to skimp on quality to save a few dollars. You may well be spending your advertising dollars in a number of profitable ways and be committing a lot of money in the effort to form a positive public image. As good as media advertising is and as effective as placing ads in the yellow pages or local newspaper might be you’ll find that your sign does more to help or hurt you than all of your other advertising put together. The condition of your sign speaks loudly to a potential customer. No matter what you say or how much you promise to deliver your customer knows that if you can’t take care of the sign you probably won’t take care of him either.

Think about some of the signs you’ve seen. The most effective signs are sharply colored and lettered to perfection. The message conveyed is that this company is proud of what it does and who it is. The bold statement is that it can perform what it claims. You find yourself convinced of the positive and professional attributes of this business on no other basis.

Now consider the signs that are poorly maintained or designed. A paint job that needs to be touched up or given a complete facelift speaks volumes about the lack of importance the business puts on its image. The company might be a dynamite producer of results but it won’t get far with a sign that appears to claim otherwise.

Your sign describes who you are as a business. Make sure it says what you want it to say by keeping it clean, maintained and professional. Your customers will take it from there.

ADA Signs

If you are a business owner and you need to come up with a number of signs for your establishment. It is very important for you to understand all there is to know about ADA signs. ADA, of course, stands for Americans with Disabilities Act. 

The ADA is basically a law that upholds the civil rights of persons with disability. It prohibits, under certain circumstances, discrimination based on disability. The clamor for ADA signs is based on the premise that the lack of accessibility or certain services can be considered consideration and thus, the need for appropriate signage for people with disability. 

As a general rule, almost every sign that is posted in an establishment or those considered as an architectural sign must comply with the guidelines set forth in this Act. One example would be a sign identifying a permanent room or space of the facility such as exits, stairwells, room numbers and rest rooms. Another example would be those signs that directs or informs about accessible features of the facility. 

So what are the specific guidelines that you need to know about ADA signage? Let us identify some of the rules for you. 

The ADA requires owners of establishments to have signs that have non-glare backgrounds and characters. This rule is imposed in consideration of the fact that glare and reflection are major problems for people with vision impairments, particularly for the elderly. There is, however, an exception to this rule: reflective parking and other traffic signs. 

Another important rule to remember is this: all signs must have a high dark to light contrast between characters and their respective backgrounds. The ADA Act does not explicitly prohibit you from using a particular color for your background and character; it merely defines the contrast to be used in the signage. Hence, you may opt to use a sign with very light gray letters on a deep black background but, you cannot use red letters on a black background as this will not meet the contrast criteria set forth by the ADA Act. 

The fonts of your signs must be easy to read. In other words, you have to use fonts that are readable as opposed to elaborate or decorative fonts. Tactile signs require uppercase characters in sans serif typefaces. An example of a sans serif typeface is Helvitica. Moreover, letters should be at least 5/8-inch or larger that 2 inches. They must have a minimum 3/32 inches thick for tactility. 

As an establishment owner, all these rules may be overwhelming and you might feel that your creativeness is being curtailed by the imposition of so many rules. But having these rules need not be counterproductive. You can still have stylish and attention-grabbing signs while still meeting the minimum requirements of the ADA Act. Remember, those rules have been imposed to cater to a specific audience and while they are a minority, they are still considered customers. 

There are many signage companies that now offer a wide range of signage that are creative and compliant with ADA requirements. These companies have successfully found new way to spice up their customers’ signage without breaking any ADA-imposed rules. The trick really is to understand how much leeway you have when it comes to deigning your signage. And to do this, a working knowledge of the basic ADA rules is important.

What Kind of Sign is Best for my Business

The simple answer to this question is “Always get the largest size and highest quality sign that you can possibly afford”. The problem with this philosophy is that there may be a few other factors to consider besides affordability that go into creating the perfect sign for your business.

It’s staggering how many business owners fail to plan when it comes to designing and producing their main outside identification signs. Not only do quite a number of businesses lack a concept for a strong sign design but, they also fail much to often to budget for all of the costs involved including permits.

The very first step in deciding on what style of signage you desire is to understand exactly what the local sign ordinances will allow. More and more cities, townships and counties are becoming increasingly restrictive with the rules and regulations for exterior business signage. All of these zoning offices will have various restrictions on the appropriate size requirements, the quantity of all signage as well as the maximum height for pole signs and distance from the road.

Another that you need to be aware of is that if your building is leased or if you’re located in a shopping center, landlord approval will always be necessary.

The last thing you want is to spend time and money on a certain sign design and get excite about how perfect and fantastic your new sign is going to look only to find out later in some way it is not allowed. Keep in mind that you can always apply for a sign variance as a final recourse if your sign is disallowed. A local sign board will review and possibly over rule a negative judgment only if you can prove a hardship. Examples for approving a variance would be if your building was unusually far from the road to properly view a sign under the current sign codes or if the building was too close to the road to meet the right of way requirements. Just because you want a bigger or taller sign is not an acceptable excuse.

The concluding part of this first step is to make sure you actually acquire the complete sign permit package. The permit will notate all of the proper specifications for size, height and precise location for each signage. Also, these permits will have stamped drawings notating wind-load and the correct method for all installation including electrical.

Does your sign pass the 3-second rule?

It’s amazing how little thought goes into business signs. For most local businesses, especially those with street visibility, one of the essentials, particularly for one located in a highly congested area, is your business signage. The impression your company signage has is equivalent to the logo on your business card. It should be well thought out and moreover should be characterized with the following attributes :

1. Does your business sign pass the 3 second rule?

Given all the distractions you run into (bad choice of words) when driving by any congested intersection. It doesn’t even matter if you’re driving or walking by. The next time you’re in a business infested area, Look around casually as if you’re really not looking for anything in particular. Then try to remember any of the signs that may have stood out. Most people remember the brands. You’ll notice that big yellow M shaped sign McDonald’s obviously. Do this again but reject the brand signs and see if you can recall any. You might not even remember the name but can you remember any of the signs? If you can distinctly remember a sign because of its ability to grab your brief attention, THAT is a good business sign. If you’ve ever stood in Times Square, your head is now swimming with all of the signs vying for your attention at the mere mention of it.

2. Can you process it at 50 mph?

Even if you’re standing still, as you move your head to survey the landscape, signs go though your mind at 50mpg or faster. Ever seen a bill board trying to cram so many words on it that you can barely read the message. Business signage should make a statement without a lot of text. If you do want your business name in the sign, it’s wise to have a graphic associated with it (maybe your logo). Your mind can process a graphic instantaneously providing that it’s recognizable. The last thing a driver will be doing is reading while driving. Drivers process information…they don’t read information. Let road signs be your guide. guess why every road sign is coupled with a symbolic graphic and color and a shape. Your mind processes a red octagon as “stop” and a yellow triangle as “yield” – you’re not really reading the sign so much as processing it.

3. Does a thumbnail image of the sign have any impact.

Very often, a smaller image will give you some insight you wouldn’t have otherwise. You usually can’t read the text in the thumbnail image but you should be able to draw some conclusions about the impact from the color and the discernable shapes. Thumbnailing removes the complexity from the image and shows you the overall feel of the sign. If the thumbnail is a black jumble of nothing, that’s probably what you’ll see when you hang the sign in a busy thoroughfare. Yes, the sign will be bigger and if you stare at it you’ll see it. But that’s not processing, that’s reading.

Understanding the difference between processing and reading and you’ll be able to critique your own sign and see if you could use a business sign face lift. You can’t afford to let them just walk by. That’s business!

Business Signage – Often Overlooked, Never Ignored

Business signs are your first impression. Signage in front of your business speaks volumes about who you are and how you conduct yourself in the business world. Your signage is the first and perhaps most lasting impression that your customers or clients will ever have of your company. An attractive and professional sign will create a positive first impression that lasts for years and bring in a lot of business. A poorly designed or maintained sign will do just the opposite. Give a potential customer the option of which door to walk through and he’ll choose the one with the professional sign every time.

Business Signage is often purchased, placed and forgotten. Your business signage may be the most important way you advertise and is decidedly the last place you should skimp on quality to save a few bucks. You may well be spending your advertising dollars in a number of profitable ways and committing a lot of money in the effort to form a positive public image. As good as media advertising is and as effective as placing ads in the yellow pages or local newspaper might be you’ll find that your company sign will determine whether that client walks through your door. The condition of your sign speaks loudly to a potential customer. No matter what you say or how much you promise to deliver your customer knows that if you can’t take care of the sign you probably won’t take care of him either.

Consider some of the signs you’ve seen. The most effective signs are sharply colored and lettered to perfection. The message conveyed is that this company is proud of what it does and who it is. The bold statement is that it can perform what it claims. You find yourself convinced of the positive and professional attributes of this business on no other basis.

Now remember signs that were in dis-repair. What image does the neon hotel sign conjure up when the e and the l are burnt out. A company might be a dynamite producer of results but it won’t get far with a sign that appears to claim otherwise. I’ll never forget the half-lit sign that hung over the huge General Electric plant in Schenectidy, NY. General Electric! I worked as one of their competitors. A picture of that sign made it into every presentation as an example of a company that had grown lax in its attitude.

Your sign describes who you are as a business. Make sure it says what you want it to say by keeping it clean, maintained and professional. Your customers will take it from there.