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Need guidance for desgning Signage

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  • Need guidance for desgning Signage

    What do I want to create?

    Something very similar to the example given below.
    It will be placed at a height of 3.5 - 4 m from the ground and the building faces an open playground that's 30m wide.
    The height of the characters to be not more than 50 cm each and the preferred side thickness is around 8 cm.

    Click image for larger version

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    What do I need to know?

    The process to create such a signage in a) Metal b) Acrylic
    What format do printers/makers usually prefer for the content? What are the specific software that you would suggest for designing signage?
    I can design the 2D on Illustrator, but are the file formats compatible with the machines that cut out the sections? What formats are preferred/ compatible with the machines?
    How is the depth created in a sign like this? Let's say we want to make the "C" , how many sections will have to be cut out and how will they be joined?
    How different is the process when it comes to acrylic signage?
    Are there any specific geometries that are tricky to make? What are the other possible challenges when making signage like this?

    Please forgive me if some of the terminology I use is incorrect/inappropriate.

    Thanks in advance for all the inputs!!

    Attached Files

  • #2
    1. The letters you show are mirror polished stainless. You won't get that look in acrylic unless you get vacuform letters made of a metallic styrene, and with vacuform, you don't get the nice sharp angles to the face. Stainless is nice because you don't have to clear coat it, it doesn't oxidize and it doesn't rust. But it is expensive.

    2. Printers don't make these things. Sign fabricators do. And even they may sub the letter making out to a wholesaler then assemble and install your sign for you.
    All you need is an Illustrator file showing the letters as flat shapes, preferably at 100% the size you want them (unless it is too big for Illustrator's art board, then you can scale it, but be sure to tell the fabricator what your scale is. 50% or 25% is usual.)

    3. Letters up to 1/2" thick are most often cut out of plate stock using a water jet cutter. Over that thickness the letters are fabricated (though I have done 1/2" thick fabricated letters too.) That means the faces are cut out, then the sides are welded on. There is a very fancy metal bender machine that makes all the corners using a computer. The face is waterjet or laser cut. Then someone welds it all together. The metal is only about 1/16" thick but the letters are sturdy. I'm doing some now for a job that are 36" tall and 5" thick.
    Metal bender from Illustrator file

    4. The only thing really tricky on fabricated signage is if the design has very long sharp skinny points. That won't work so well. There is a bend limit to the metal used for the sides. Letterforms are usually not a problem. Certainly not at 50cm.

    5. The fun thing about fabricated letters (sometimes referred to as ''can letters'') is birds love them. If you intend to stand them off from the face of the building, be sure you get closed backs. Even if flush mounted, if there are mortar joints or wall seams large enough, birds will get into them and build nests. They also like to build nests in the counter spaces.

    6. Your biggest problem is...How are you going to attach these letters to your building? Most often they are anchored to walls using metal studs and an all weather epoxy, at least 3 or 4 studs per letter, more for an M or a W, meaning you have to be able to drill a lot of holes in your building facade. Some lease holders don't like that if you are renting space rather than own the building. Because they are outside and over people and what you describe is fairly large, they will have to be mechanically fastened with studs in some way, not just taped in place. Other options include rails or a sign board where you only need a minimal number of attachments and are especially handy if going into brick walls where you are only allowed to drill into the mortar. EIFS foam facades are a real pain because you run the risk of puncturing the weather seal. Your best bet is to find a fabricator/installer to do the whole job for you.

    Here's a description of letter types and types of mounts used.

    7. Don't forget to check all local sign ordinances FIRST before placing your order, then pull all necessary permits and check if you need a police detail if you are working over a public space (including a sidewalk, street, or possibly a playground.) Or have the sign shop do it for you. It will be an extra charge on top of the city fees involved.

    Again, find yourself a reputable sign shop to do this for you. Don't buy stuff at Letters-R-us and do try to do it yourself.
    Last edited by PrintDriver; 06-25-2017, 03:22 PM.


    • jyothi
      jyothi commented
      Editing a comment
      Wow!! That was a great post and answered all my doubts and more.
      Thank you so much!!

      The information on fastening the letters was especially helpful as that was something I missed out on. Ours is a solid brick wall and the building is an own one. And the info on checking the permits was also something we had overlooked. Need to get that in order too.

      Thanks once again for the thorough inputs. I shall post updates on this thread, if that is okay.

  • #3
    Glad it helped.
    Yeah, that sign ordinance thing can be a real bummer sometimes. Some towns have very tight restrictions on what you can put up on walls. We have several towns around here where on certain streets, the signs can only be made using 1700s capabilities. ie no plastic and strict limits on metal. Also around here if you have to drive a vehicle with a lift bucket onto a sidewalk or semi-block a street, you have to pay for the detail. Playgrounds I've never encountered. It's all up to the local police chief anyway.

    Post back your finished piece if you feel comfortable with doing that.


    • jyothi
      jyothi commented
      Editing a comment

  • #4
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