Post and panel systems are one of the oldest and simplest signs for exterior wayfinding and building identification, yet they have evolved over the years to look modern, while remaining economically priced and easily customizable to fit the customer’s needs.
“The popularity of post and panels hasn’t drastically changed over the years, but that is because they have been and are still very popular and a widely used sign type in the industry,” says Stewart Curtis, president of Component Signage, Inc., a wholesale manufacturer of architectural signage systems in High Point, North Carolina.
The signs are simple—two posts with a panel in between—and are placed at ground level separate from a building. They typically are used for directional, walk-up entry and wayfinding applications at places like large campuses and office complexes and are popular among small businesses, where there is often frequent turnover or changes in ownership.
“These signs are best when modular in design, allowing for constant organizational growth and change,” says Bill Freeman, vice-president of architectural sales at Howard Industries, a wholesale manufacturer of signage systems in Fairview, Pennsylvania.
Typical Users of Post and Panel Signs
Typical users of the signs include homebuilders, multifamily housing units, parks, municipalities, medical facilities and restaurants that want to create a positive first impression on those driving by, entering the area or walking the property, says John Schulz, business unit manager for Sign Bracket Store, Carlsbad, California, which sells signage and bracketry products primarily to sign shops for installation in a retail space.
The signs are ideal for businesses or organizations that may lack major thoroughfare access and still want to be seen. Or there may be zoning laws or local signage codes limiting the size of a sign, especially in neighborhood areas.
“The most likely application is in-town with lower-speed driving versus thoroughfares with high-speed traffic,” Schulz says. “The appeal of the post and panel is that it prominently identifies the business, neighborhood or organization for people entering the property or approaching the building—(giving it that) charm and curb appeal.”
Post and panel signs get the business’s presence closer to the road and in front of that traffic, Curtis says. Separating the sign from the building also makes it easier to see the sign, especially if the building is far from the roadway or obstructed by objects, he says.
“Many buildings are situated parallel to the road access, which will only allow a visual line to its sign once the viewer is immediately passing by the building,” Curtis says. “A post and panel sign allows the sign to be located closer to the street and can be perpendicular so that the viewer can see the sign long before they get to the building. This drastically helps the exposure of the business.”
The tighter, more compact space makes post and panel signs ideal, since visibility is reduced, bringing the line of sight closer to the ground, says Frank Iyoob, operations manager of Ornamental Post & Panel, a wholesale custom sign manufacturer in Pineville, North Carolina.
“Eye-level post and panel signs are a better choice rather than a towering sign overhead,” Iyoob says. “A sign detached from the building puts it more out in the viewing area rather than having to look directly at buildings for identification.”
Material Preferences for Post and Panels
Post and panel signs are more affordable than signs that need a masonry base for mounting, which can drive up the cost, Curtis says. The most common material is aluminum for its durability, particularly aluminum extrusions because of the weight-to-strength ratio and pliability that eases the customization process, he says. Aluminum and steel composite panels, used for panel inserts and dimensional accents, also are durable while bearing less of a cost, he says.
“The most durable and lasting signs are made of powder-coated aluminum,” Iyoob says. “Aluminum will not rust, and a powder-coated finish will last many years.”
Signs made out of aluminum, which is lightweight and non-corrosive and has sustainable alloy attributes, can be finished with a variety of techniques, such as automotive-grade liquid paint, powder coating and anodizing, Freeman says. Advances in solvent inks in printed vinyl and ultraviolet direct-to-substrate printing also increases the durability of the signs, he says.
Other materials can be integrated into the signs to further enhance the look, such as a rust finish, Curtis says.
“CSI offers this finish on any of their signs systems, and the finish is outdoor durable and looks great for achieving an old industrial feel,” Curtis says.
The signs can get the desired feel or aesthetic appeal in other ways, such as by employing custom shapes, Curtis says. The panels do not have to be limited to a rectangle or square and can incorporate other shapes into their designs, he says. In the past, post and panel signs tended to use bulkier parts, but today the designs tend to be sleeker and more streamlined, he says.
“Extrusions also allow for customization of post and panels via radius accents, changeable panels, vandal cabinets, different post designs and countless more,” Curtis says.
The use of aluminum allows for more design features, such as a variety of post styles like square, round or round fluted, Iyoob says. The styles can be used with a variety of post bases and finials, or ornamental elements at the top, to create a more decorative look, he says. The final result can be more traditional or architectural, he says.
“We get a mixture of both styles and have not seen either going out of style,” Iyoob says. “With the use of CNC (computer numerical control) routers, the sign panels can be cut to almost any shape providing a unique look.”
Other popular styles for post and panel signs include the bent-back interpretive design, the radius and peaked top, and slopes or waves, Freeman says.
Single post systems also are popular that have manufactured bracketry and base and finial components, Schulz says. The styling can be minimalist with basic clean lines and shapes or more ornate with artistic edging and crafting, he says.
“Each metal bracket is handmade to specifications with a high quality and durable powder-coated steel finish,” Schulz says. “These systems are mainly used for wayfinding and walk-up entry to businesses and offices. It’s hard to miss your signage and message when using these bracket systems.”
The size of the signage also can vary, though it will remain smaller than a highway sign.
The variance is contingent, in part, on the amount and size of the copy, depending on the distance from the roadway or viewing area and the distance the user wants that sign to be legible, Curtis says.
Other variables that effect sign size include traffic patterns and passing vehicular speed, Freeman says.
“A sign that is intended to be read up close can be quite small in size, while signage intended to be viewed from a distance needs to be much larger,” Freeman says.
The Ordering Process
Once the decisions about the size and features of the sign are made, the order is placed.
The intricacy of the features, as well as the quantity and time of year for the order, will affect the timeframe for final delivery, Curtis says. Warmer months tend to be busier for orders, because post and panel signs typically require holes to be dug for the mounting, he says.
“Because of this, warmer months tend to have a little longer lead time, but even still with standard post and panels, CSI can turn them around in about two weeks time,” Curtis says.
For a standard post and panel sign, a selection can be made and priced out of the wholesale catalog and placed via a call or email, Curtis says.
“Ordering a sign from Component Signage is a really painless process,” Curtis says. “The integration of smart phones within the last decade has made access to files and email seamless, which allow for ease of communication and sending and receiving artwork while out in the field.”
Orders can take three days to three weeks to complete, depending on the size of the sign, the style and the quantity, Iyoob says. Black posts, which are the most common for post and panel signs, are stocked in quantity, while custom colors are available but will result in a longer timeframe, he says. Frequently, the customer provides a drawing as a basis for the project, he says.
“The biggest change in the process is the use of cell phone cameras,” Iyoob says.
“Quite often we get pictures asking if we can match a sign. The saying, ‘A picture is worth a thousand words’ is so true in this industry.’”
More and more orders are happening online, and website inquiries, online chats and email inquiries have drastically increased over the past few years, Freeman says.
“I feel the good old-fashioned phone call with a live person is still the best to avoid ordering the wrong thing,” Freeman says.
Once the order is placed, the production turnaround time can be one to two weeks or longer—the industry standard is two to six weeks, depending on project magnitude, Freeman says. Once the sign is delivered, most manufacturers now have five-year warranties, he says.
Sign Bracket Store’s business is predominantly website-driven and the lead time for in-stock items is two to three business days and approximately four weeks for custom fabrication, Schulz says.
“Sizing and styles vary, but once again it depends on the customer’s needs and application for curb and walk-up appeal,” Schulz says.