Designing your sign (Artwork)

A simple yet effective and memorable sign is a great asset. Whether you already have a logo and some basic design criteria, or you are starting with a clean sheet of paper, there are some basic "rules" to observe.

The first and best rule is to keep a project relatively simple. Squeezing as much copy as possible into a small sign is general detrimental to the overall goal. Pare down your message to its basic essentials; inform your customers or viewing public of the things about your business that you want them to remember and recall.

Once you have determined your message, the size of the sign has to be determined. Local codes, placement requirements, and cost could be any of a number of factors influencing this decision. After determining the optimum size or sizes for your application(s), you can start building a basic design or layout.

One of the most important and often overlooked design factors is realizing and using the actual real world copy space. The amount of usable area, or copy space, on a sign is usually somewhat less than its overall dimensions. Following is a graphic example using "XYZ Inc."

Immediately below is a representation of a 30"x 120" sign. The layout is simple, with only the stool and the upper text outlining as extra touches. As you will also note the actual copy area is well inside the overall sign. The outermost black line (wide) represents the sign cabinet.

This next representation is a trace, or pattern of what is really needed to make your sign. Notice the black box surrounding the copy. This box is the actual usable copy space on a plastic sign face.

trace drawing

To calculate the actual copy space, deduct 8" from the overall height, and 8" from the overall length.

Having a 30"x120" sign makes our actual usable copy space 22"x112" (which is represented by these images). For manufacturing purposes the "trace" drawing along with color information is all that is needed to create your sign. You should also note that these examples are formatted for Web presentation, i.e. they are GIF images. To create a sign from your files, the art has to be saved in a vector format. Such formats are .plt, .cdr, as well as certain .ai and .eps files to name a few. Windows Metafiles (.wmf) are also acceptable. We have to be able to actually plot the lines in the file, actually making a full size drawing (pen plot), versus printing (groups of dots).


Glossary Of Terms

Copy Space- The amount of space (height x length) in which copy can be placed for viewing. Copy is defined as text, logos, borders, or any other object to be viewable on the front a sign.

Dimensions- The terminology in denoting the size of a sign, copy space, or any general area is normally expressed with the height, or vertical dimension, first, then followed by the length, or horizontal dimension second. 48"x96" denotes a sign or area 48" high, and 96" long. Relative size of the dimensions do not change this orientation. 96"x48" would denote a sign or area 96"high, and 48" long. A third dimension is added usually to represent a depth, or width of a sign cabinet.
4x8x10 axial 48"x96"x10" denotes a 48"x 96" sign that is 10" deep.