With signage, it’s not always the grand, overwhelming, spectacular signs that make the biggest impression. For example, at Pizazz Display Systems, the company follows “Warren Buffet’s observation that ‘price is what you pay, value is what you get,’” says David Pountney, marketing director.
Here’s another motto that might also apply: Don’t overcomplicate things.
Sign presentation is important, no doubt, and it can be done in a way that accentuates a display in a professional and tasteful manner. It also doesn’t have to cost an arm and a leg to do so. This is what standoffs bring to the table—dimension, visibility and cost-savings.
In addition, standoff signs are relatively easy to install and can be used as part of a more involved signage scheme.
On the Market
The purpose of a sign standoff is simple, really.
“A typical sign standoff setup will use four standoffs, one on each corner to mount the sign to a wall. Some of the more unique uses for standoffs we have seen would be to raise coffee table glass and to make multi-level image displays,” says Chris Howard, marketing coordinator, Gyford StandOff Systems.
More traditionally, they are used in office buildings, with directories, on ADA signage, donor boards, wayfinding signs, P.O.P. displays and more. They provide many possibilities for a sign to be seen easily by the viewer.
“We provide a complete solution of caps and standoffs in different finishes and sizes for the majority of applications,” Paul Bernstein, vice president, Metomic Corporation. “Standoffs allow the sign company to add a tremendous visual appeal and perceived value to something that they have created for a relatively low additional cost to the customer. The dimensional effect added to the signage only serves to increase its visibility and attractiveness to consumers.”
Standoff systems can come with a variety of elements including mounts, spacers, caps and barrels, wires and rods.
“All our product lines are compatible with each other so the possibilities are endless,” says Howard, asserting that Gyford is the originators of standoff products. “Gyford StandOff Systems also makes wire and rod gallery systems that our standoffs integrate into and a full line of extruded profile materials that may be drilled and tapped to except standoffs or can be used with custom nuts within the extrusion.”
Other features can also be included in a standoff system such as LED components.
“LED-enhanced standoffs can also be fitted to light a sign up,” says Jose Flores Jr, project manager, Erie Custom Signs. “It’s all about the look the customer wants.”
Knowing the customers’ goals and what they want in a standoff sign is critical to the design and install.
“The first thing a sign shop should do is to clearly understand what their customer wants to achieve," Pountney says. "They should then design a solution that achieves the customer’s objectives and has compelling visual impact. This can be done by using materials with different colors and textures and multi-layering or offsetting some of the panels.”
Pizazz has completed several projects for customers, including one for Denver Water in which it expanded a picture-framing job into one using standoffs to enhance the design and create a visually impactful display.
Sign makers should also keep the intended audience in mind when creating a standoff sign, reminds Howard.
“We see many sign makers using standoffs to help create an interesting shape that will catch the attention of the target audience,” he says. “For example, a beach-theme restaurant could create a sign in the shape of a surfboard and have multi-tiered waves behind it. Using different length standoffs for each level.”
Creating the design and installing the display are two critical steps in a standoff system project. Both require precision and attention to detail.
“Both the designer and the installer should pay careful consideration to both the dimensions and the weight of the sign,” says Bernstein. “Make sure that you are using the proper diameter hardware in relation to the size of the media, and the proper quantity.”
Specific to the install, users will want to make sure the hardware and display is affixed to the wall properly and securely.
“As for installation, it depends on how the customer wants to adhere them to the wall,” says Flores. “We offer two options: a traditional mount where the sign will be screwed into the wall, this of course leaves holes in the wall if the sign is ever moved. We also offer a ‘faux’ mount, this is where we attach the standoffs to the sign and we apply tape on the back of the sign for mounting, this gives the customer the option to remove the sign without worrying about holes in their wall.”
Howard explains that the hardware configuration is intended to be put in place easily and left alone without any worry. He says, “this type of hardware is really meant to set-and-forget. The important thing is to set up the installation correctly from the start, making sure the proper amount of hardware is used for the weight of the material being mounted and the proper finish is used for the installation site.”
The end result of a successful standoff sign is one that eliminates any concern for the user and shows off an appealing display to viewers.
Adding the Elements
The materials that are included in a standoff system can vary based on the nature of the project. For example, Pizazz offers standoffs in aluminum, brass and resin.
“All parts can be mixed and matched, because their thread dimensions and specifications are consistent,” says Pountney, adding that it’s important “to ensure that the standoffs used have the enduring quality required for at least the life of the display.”
Often the selection of materials is based on what is aesthetically pleasing with the theme of the display; matching the color of the hardware and caps, or using stainless steel for a sleek, modern appearance. In other situations, the environment will dictate which elements should be used.
“Our most common standoffs are aluminum or stainless steel,” says Howard. “Installers like stainless steel for outdoor uses, however we also can powder coat the aluminum versions to help protect them from the elements (because) if aluminum standoffs are installed in direct sunlight, over time the anodization will start to discolor.”
Pountney warns against using specific materials outdoors. He says, “Many customers assume that stainless steel standoffs can be used outdoors. What they do not understand is that stainless steel is made in a variety of grades and the low-end grades, which are easiest to machine, have very poor resistance to rust. Customers need to make sure—if they are using stainless steel standoffs in outdoor applications—that they are up for the task." He recommends using standoffs made from marine grade (316) stainless steel.
Another popular option is acrylics when it comes to standoff installation.
“We use a lot of acrylics and some aluminum,” Flores says. “We do some with an aluminum backer and an acrylic face, the standoffs are standard aluminum. For ADA we typically use frosted acrylic to ensure ADA compliance. Also for hotels and busy traffic areas we recommend thicker material for the face that will standoff to help prevent cracking.”
Caring for the System
Once a standoff system is designed, fabricated and installed, it’s important that the user keep it current and in good working order. This is especially important when the user wants to make a change or add other sign elements.
“Our system is easily modified and re-usable through careful installation and just as careful dismantling,” says Bernstein. “The caps are easily removed for a change in media.”
In most cases, manufacturers will offer replacement parts and hardware elements through their customer service departments. Users can easily swap out hardware as needed if parts become damaged or obsolete in a particular signage scheme.
“It’s as simple as unscrewing the standoff caps and removing the sign to have it replaced,” says Flores.
From a maintenance perspective, a standoff system requires attention to ensure that the mounts remain sturdy and the display is clean and visible. Like anything that is on display, standoff systems should be kept pristine and tidy so as not to lose their effectiveness.
“It’s important to explain that in busy traffic areas (these displays) crack with people touching or leaning on them and that it’s best to recommend a thicker material to help prevent this,” suggests Flores. “We also offer tamper-proof standoffs to help prevent theft of certain signs. The usual care and maintenance is just cleaning the signs with typical soap and water.”
Pountney recommends that maintenance be evaluated based on the materials that are used, adding that “Our advice would vary depending on the materials used and location of the display. For example, acrylic panels should be cleaned with a special acrylic cleaner—not a general purpose spray or glass cleaner as they could cause the acrylic to discolor. The standoffs themselves should only require dusting.”
Each manufacturer prides itself on the benefits of its offerings. At Gyford, for example, “the hand finish that we put on the parts will look the same,” says Howard. “We often hear from customers that used a different brand and ultimately had to replace the hardware for their entire install due to the parts not working together or finishing issues even within the same batch of parts.”
Pountney is proud of Pizazz’s all-in-one solution. He points out that “each part of a Pizazz standoff is made as one solid piece and has structural integrity. By comparison some standoff suppliers sell their standoffs in bits. The caps, barrels and lengths of threaded rod are supplied separately and customers have to spend time assembling them. They run the risk of having insecure joints come loose, and the consequences of that.”
Overall, it’s hard to argue with the value of a quality standoff system. The uncomplicated design and straight-forward installation process allows users to include visually attractive elements to a display at an affordable cost. Consider, also, the fact that standoffs can easily be changed and fit to work with signs in several different applications. This is a powerful addition to many types of displays, and a valuable asset in the signage industry.