We are all feeling so rushed these days.
We carry our calendars on our phones in our pockets. We fill the timeslots so tightly, that often there is little pause to digest what happened in the first meeting before we start the second. Thus, at the end of the day, we know we completed everything on the calendar but, sometimes, without looking back at it, can’t remember what we actually accomplished.
Living at this fast pace, very often the things that don’t fall into our expertise areas tend to be put off. We know we have to get it done, but when we don’t know where to start, we tackle what we can do quickly. All this to say, we hear you and are here to help you if signs are on your to-do list.
Whatever your project – a relocation, an event, a construction project or a property listing – announcing it with a well-done sign will make you look like an expert and bring in more revenue. And if the process is easy, that box on the to-do list will get a quick checkmark, giving you more time for other priorities and to relax.
Look like an expert, bring in more revenue, and have more time to relax! That’s what we want to give you.
We start with some key questions for you (for this post, we’ll address exterior signs).
Where will the sign go? What’s the address? How will it be mounted?
To install an in-ground sign, we’ll ask you to mark that spot for utility locators with a white stake, which we can provide. We’ll ask you to send us a photo of the stake location for clarity.
For permanent signs, wall-mounted signs and window graphics, we’ll want to do a site survey. One of our client service reps will make an appointment with you to meet on-site and discuss the look of the sign and measure the space.
What will be the size of the sign?
There are a couple of things to consider when deciding the size of the sign. First, since we are talking about exterior signs, you have to meet zoning guidelines in many places.
Of course, few people are intimately familiar with the sign ordinance. You don’t have to be.
Here’s a basic look at the City of Wilmington ordinance for temporary signs:
Construction signs can be up to 20 square feet in residential zones, and up to 35 square feet in other zones. Real estate signs can be up to 20 square feet in size.
Given these guidelines, most real estate signs are 4 feet x 4 feet to fit into the 20-square-foot maximum, with minimal waste. Commercial construction signs are most often 4 feet x 8 feet, because that’s the standard board size before cutting, so there’s no waste and it fits within the 35-square-foot max. Of course, we also make 5 feet x 7 feet signs, but 5-foot-wide boards are more expensive because there is waste after cutting.
For more detailed City of Wilmington sign ordinance info, bookmark this page: https://library.municode.com/nc/wilmington/codes/code_of_ordinances?nodeId=PTIIITECO_CH18LADECO_ART12SIRE
Second, what is the purpose or audience for the sign? Is it to brand your location or to convey detailed information? How far away is the viewer? Are they on a high-speed road, a sidewalk or somewhere in between? These questions will guide the size of the text, and thus how much space you need for your message. A general guideline is every 1 inch of letter height provides 10 feet of readability with the best impact. For example, 3-foot-tall letters make the best impact within 30 feet.
What do you want the sign to look like?
Truly, a picture speaks a thousand words to us. We are visual people by trade, and the more you can show us to start the conversation, the faster the process will be.
Many of our clients already are working with a designer or have an idea of what they want the sign to look like (we accept chicken-scratch!). Maybe you have seen another sign around town or online that you like. Our easy-to-use Request a Quote
form includes an upload feature, so you can include photos of signs you like or a ready-to-print art file. Or you can just send a photo or file to us, using our Upload a File
Simple layouts make effective signs. Less text gets read more.
We often tell our clients, “The more info you put on your sign, the less likely it is to be read.” So, winnow the details to the bare minimum and have a clear call to action.
If you are selling property, put the acreage, zoning and use and, of course, your name and logo, but the most important information is the phone number. For construction projects, a building rendering and the name of the business are most important. But if you are the builder, this is advertising, so your name and website should be clear.
If you’re announcing an event, be careful. Often, we see ineffective signs in the community that try to tell too much in a small space. Get the viewer’s attention and give them a way to learn more. Give the name of the event, the date and a website or phone number. All the details about location, sponsors, time of day, etc. will kill your message.
If you have no idea what you need, fear not - that’s why we are here. We can talk about size, placement and key information, and we will design the sign.
We will ask you for your logo in vector format. That just means the file includes line art that will allow us to enlarge it with clarity. The file types that work best are .AI, .EPS and .PDF.
How long do you want the sign to last?
This question helps us determine the best materials for your sign. If it is for one-time use, we might recommend a banner or corrugated plastic. If you need it to last six months to a year, we might recommend one of our plastic substrates. If you want to use it multiple times, we might recommend plywood or aluminum composite. If the sign is permanent, we may recommend acrylic, aluminum or high-density polyethylene.
Most important to you - the deadline?
Of course, the answer to this one is, “Yesterday!” We hear that often. While we don’t have a time machine, we can turn signs quickly. We appreciate when our clients are honest about when they need their sign and tell us in the initial conversation.
If your deadline really is tomorrow, we often can make that happen, given there’s not much design work to be done and we are not installing the sign. For in-ground signs, the utility locators provide markings 72 hours after the locate request is called in.
We truly want to help you fulfill your need for a sign quickly, effectively and economically. Our first action is to provide you a quote within 24 hours, unless the job involves a site survey. With quote approval and a 50 percent deposit, your job will move into proofing, during which the design is finalized. Proof approval moves the job into production, and installation or client pickup is scheduled.
But the entire process begins with the five questions above. With the answers - or at least having them in your thought process - we can efficiently move you from “I need a sign” to “I look good.”
Contact us today to get started!
Sabrina Davis is president and owner of Port City Signs & Graphics. She began her career in broadcast journalism as a radio news anchor in Raleigh and Chapel Hill, while in school at UNC-Chapel Hill. After college, she was a TV news reporter in Albuquerque, NM and Raleigh/Durham, and later worked as a field producer for ABC News. She moved on to become Assistant Dean of Executive Education in the School of Journalism and Mass Communication at UNC-Chapel Hill. After master’s studies in graphic design, she launched her own commercial writing and design business, producing publications for UNC’s Kenan-Flagler Business School, UNCW’s Watson School of Education, the North Carolina Press Association, QSR Magazine and others.Experiencing the client side of printing, led to an interest in print production. With a vision to provide high-quality large format printing, Sabrina purchased Port City Signs in 2008 and introduced digital printing to the business. She is the third owner of Port City Signs & Graphics, which began in 1948. The company offers a wide variety of cutting-edge, large-format print products, from large interior prints to outdoor signs to vehicle wraps.