When it comes to hanging sign systems, there is a wide variety of options on the market. Ceilings, walls, posts and even building corners can all house hanging sign systems. Brackets can be modified to create custom systems, and both exterior and interior uses are compatible with hanging sign systems.
While hanging sign systems are often used in retail applications, there are also many other appropriate markets, as well, says Stephen McMahon, business unit director of Sign Bracket Store in Carlsbad, Calif. Corporate environments, theme parks, medical buildings, museums and art galleries and even military applications all have uses for hanging sign systems, and they can be used for interior projects as well as exterior projects.
“Anywhere you see signs there are going to be hardware to hold that sign up,” McMahon says. “There are a lot of markets or areas outside of the typical retail strip mall application that our products can be used in.”
Choosing Appropriate Materials
When choosing a substrate, much of it depends on the style of the sign, McMahon says. For some applications, certain substrates may work best while others require different materials. Each application has its own unique needs.
“If someone is going to have just vinyl graphics applied, then aluminum, Dibond and PVC are quite popular, but if you’re going to have a sandblasted or carved sign, then wood and HDU are more common,” McMahon says. “A lot of what the sign is made out of is determined by what type of sign the customer is interested in, and then that will determine what substrate to use.”
A sign shop should also consider how that substrate will hang once printed, says Scott Freeman, president of Hang Ups Unlimited in Santa Monica, Calif. After printing, the sign should remain relatively flat, but the environment could affect this. Depending on the heat and humidity, some signs tend to warp after printing, which is not a function of the sign hanging system itself but because of the chosen material.
“You don’t have to worry about rigid substrates, like styrene or Sintra, curling or having problems with humidity,” Freeman says. “We have a track that frames it out and makes it look very nice, and it also keeps it from bowing when you hang it up to different points in the ceiling. Even if you have a rigid sign, if you don’t have a very rigid top on it, depending on the angles that the cables are strung, that sign could still bow.”
To determine the necessary hardware for hanging signs, Freeman recommends that sign shops consult the manufacturer’s catalogue, which shows the appropriate tracks based on the sign’s materials and usage. Often the materials are decided upon ascetics and budget, but certain types of cables may be better for specific applications.
Hanging signs can be installed on multiple surfaces, including the sides of buildings. (Photos courtesy of Sign Bracket Store)
“The first thing a sign shop has to look at is how long the sign is going to be up and how much they want to invest in it,” Freeman says. “For signage that’s going to be changed out on a regular basis, you want to make it as easy as possible, and some of the higher end systems you can change out without ladders. Instead, they have pulls that can install the signage very quickly.”
Before installing the hanging signage system, McMahon encourages sign shops to send the installer to survey the area. Doing so allows the sign shop to ensure they are using the proper hardware based on each installation area’s unique conditions. Walls and ceilings can be made out of so many different materials, and these properties can all have various weight requirements.
“The walls and ceilings are made out of so many different materials,” McMahon says. “You can have wood studs, aluminum studs, no studs, cement walls, aluminum walls or steel walls. The installer needs to determine what the appropriate hardware is at the time of installation based on what the mounting surface is and if they have unique installation requirements.”
Hanging Sign Safety
Considering the height of many hanging sign systems, installation can be dangerous, and sign shops should take the right steps to protect the installers as well as those in the area, says Dean Di Tosto, owner of Dean & Company USA in Minneapolis. Rather than relying on ladders and hydraulic lifts, Di Tosto recommends sign shops work with systems that allow them to hang these signs from the safety of the floor.
“The warehouse-type ceilings are very high, and these people are causing many accidents because they continue to try to get to those ceilings by using ladders or using hydraulic lifts with customers walking all over aisles that are crowded with merchandise,” Di Tosto says. “It’s a risky thing.”
Sign shops must also be sure to examine the weight ratings on the fasteners, Freeman says. When hanging up one side at a time, there is a point when all of the sign’s weight comes from one fastener and that one point in the ceiling, and a sign shop must be sure the system can handle the weight.
“If this is a suspended ceiling, you have to make sure you take a peek to see what is above it,” Freeman says. “The tracks typically have guy wires going above that are about every six feet. If you’re supporting the sign underneath the guy wires, that T-bar ceiling will hold a whole lot more weight than if you’re trying to suspend it in the center of that span.”
The Future Of Hanging Signs
Many sign shops are incorporating dynamic digital signage into their hanging sign systems, and Freeman expects this trend to continue to grow, he says. Often, the dynamic digital signage is installed on a wall separate from the hanging sign system, but in the future, expect to see dynamic digital signage suspended with the hanging sign system. The integration of dynamic digital signage is especially popular among P.O.P. displays, and even interactive digital platforms, such as iPads, are being incorporated into hanging sign systems.
McMahon adds that many communities are moving away from internally illuminated signs and shifting more toward externally illuminated signs, meaning there is a light fixture pointing at the sign as opposed to the typical Plexiglas-lighted monument with fluorescent tubes inside. With this trend underway, McMahon believes more sign shops will also begin looking at ways to illuminate their hanging sign systems from an external viewpoint.
“We’re hearing from our sign company customers that they’re looking for brackets and hardware that will allow them to have external lighting pointing at a sign, so that seems to be a popular trend we’re seeing develop,” McMahon says.