“Why are you trying so hard to fit in when you were born to stand out?”
Signs cannot levitate; they are not lighter than air. They require a substantial fabricated device—a sign stand—to hold them up to a level where they can be easily seen and read. Somebody is fabricating those stands, and it is often not the print shop.
Dimensional objects attached to frames can add interest.
However, fabricating sign stands in-house adds enormous extra value to a shop’s products and makes a lot of sense for a variety of reasons. It ensures that all components fit together and are compatible, and it enables the sign shop to control and guarantee all frames since the entire job is being done by a single company. And this gives the client a one-stop, no-hassle shopping experience.
The way the sign stand is designed has enormous impact on the sign’s effectiveness, and there are two basic schools of thought on signage design. One is that the sign should fit in with its environment, and be almost invisible so as not spoil the view. The other theory posits that the sign stand should contrast with its surroundings for maximum visibility. Guess what? Both are correct.
Sometimes you need to attract attention. Interpretive graphics supply important information that many visitors want to read. Hiding it serves no purpose. While signage supports must respect their environment, they can still be easy to identify. High visibility stands can be designed to contrast with their surroundings in an aesthetically pleasing manner.
Sometimes signage is best “discovered” by visitors, camouflaged and blending in with its surroundings. Parks are beautiful natural environments that should not be blighted by obviously man-made objects. These sign supports must be carefully designed with the environment in mind. Tall, straight trees mimicked by tall, straight sign stands or rough timber stands reflecting the rough timber construction of the heritage site: green posts intertwined with decorative leaves in a forest or steel pipes used to tell the story of an old factory.
There are also different theories about the design of sign stands within the two main theories. Sometimes a decorative approach is called for, and sometimes a simple utilitarian look is required.
Beautiful design detail for sign stands can enhance the importance of the sign’s message in the eyes of the beholders. Visitors are far more likely to approach an interestingly designed structure than a boring one. And the design of the stands can add interest to the entire site.
Fancy design details, however, can greatly increase the cost of the signage and could even hamper its durability in some cases. Simple, classic designs can be elegant and strong—providing excellent durability with good looks.
Park signs always look great with tall wooden structures that mimic the trees around them.
The end use of the sign stand also determines its design. Is the sign temporary or permanent? Is the information permanent or changeable?
Permanent outdoor signs need to be bulletproof tough. The stands and frames that hold the signs in place have to be of equal, if not greater, durability. Often it is these structures that provide a large measure of protection for the graphics and the design needs to take this into account. They need to be able to withstand the ravages of sun, rain, snow, wind, sand and vandals. Strong welded metal construction and permanent coatings are mandatory.
One might be tempted to think that temporary signage allows for lots of short cuts to reduce the price, but one would be wrong. Temporary signs stands need to be just as strong as permanent ones. The same sun, rain, snow, wind, sand and vandals are waiting for the temporary sign as well and it can be destroyed in a moment if it is not tough enough.
Sometimes messages need to be changed on a regular basis. The bulletin board with locking, polycarbonate-faced door is the answer for daily or weekly content changes. Longer lasting information is more appropriately delivered by using a frame with channels that allow the graphic panels to be easily slid in and out, then locked into place.
Sign panels are only part of the story that interpretive graphics are meant to tell. Their stands support them not only physically, but visually as well. Stands should be an important part of every sign shop’s repertoire.