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The old logo is changing. Invoice headers, business cards, web pages and employee email signatures will all need to be updated. These days, those are largely digital changes, but swapping out the physical signage at your brick-and-mortar locations can prove to be the most cumbersome and costly aspect of this process. It’s daunting and you’ll need a comprehensive roll-out plan. Whether you’re set to pull the trigger on a national sign re-branding program, still in the research phase and reporting your findings, or just beginning to contemplate how you might refresh your regional business signs, the following considerations, addressed upfront, will help you organize and budget for the implementation process, and cut down on some costly surprises in the long run.  

1)   Engage a reputable sign company.  Assign high importance to finding a strong national or regional player. You need a sign company who can handle your scope of work and dedicate a single point of contact to manage details and communicate progress for all the code research, permitting, manufacturing, shipping, and installations. Make sure they’ve got positive experience with multi-location brand roll outs, well-established relationships with a network of local installers, and the “bandwidth” to handle your needs. If your project is large enough, you may consider touring facilities to get a feel for the culture where your signage will be built, and to meet the account manager with whom you will work closely with for the next few years.  

2)   Create a sign inventory.  It’s not uncommon for a company to have brand assets that number in the thousands. The key to budget control is accounting for all of them—upfront—to enable an accurate budget and scope. Know what type of signs you have, how many there are, and how they will change. Then you can budget for implementation. You’ll want to consider factors such as:  Can you save money by simply replacing faces, or will a new shape, sign type, or age & deterioration require you to replace the entire body of the sign? An Excel spreadsheet recording what models of sign exist at each location, what you will replace them with, and how much they cost can really help your cause. Initially your regional managers and GMs can help you collect pictures and basic info, but if a detailed record of your site signs does not exist you should engage a sign company to carry out a national survey of each location. You’ll eventually have to survey these signs anyway, for technical details, attachment, access and dimensions, so ordering a national survey upfront can provide enough information to request competitive sign package bids, and eliminate nasty surprises that might cost time and money down the road. 

3)  Get a vector logo.  JPGs, GIFs, TIFs and other forms of raster art cannot be enlarged to the size of a sign. Those file types go fuzzy and pixilate when enlarged. Your designer or marketing manager should be able to provide you with a vector logo in the formats of editable PFD, AI, EPS, or CDR in order to retain clarity and resolution for larger print sizes.

4)   Think about materials.  Select sign types and materials that best represent your new branding in physical form. Logos in print do not always translate directly to illuminated signage. Discuss implementation with your designer and/or sign company to be sure your brand transfers well from the 2D page to a 3D sign. Get samples!

5)  Create a sign family album.  A sign book with standard sizes grouped by sign type, based on the most common zoning code requirements, and similar to your existing sign types and sizes, will dramatically streamline the roll-out process and help you to budget for national re-branding. Your sign company should be able to comprehensively lay out your sign family album and provide it in a pdf format to share within your corporation.

6)  Consider retrofitting to LED. It may be an added expense right now, but LED illumination saves money quickly by lowering the energy and maintenance costs of existing signage. Plus, during re-branding, you “kill two birds with one stone” because a tech is already planning to travel to site, survey the signs, and eventually open them up. Ask your sign company for a case-by-case opinion, as LED is not always the best option. Some LED manufacturers offer “plug & play” options for existing fixtures, which only require re-lamping, not a full retrofit.

7)  Ignorance is no excuse for the law.  Have your sign company research the current local sign code for each location. Codes can change over the life of an existing sign, and in most cases they become more restrictive. Sometimes a sign was installed prior to the municipality growing up around it; there simply was no code at the time of installation. A large existing sign that was “grandfathered in” from before code existed, or was revised, can legally receive new faces. But if the head is altered, replaced, or removed (even to change the face!) you can sometimes be forced to bring it in to compliance by replacing the large sign with one that is significantly smaller. It’s rare but it happens. Be sure to know the current allowable sign code in your area and do not make assumptions. Sign codes are often convoluted, presented as a series of mathematic calculations, based on multiple factors, with the pertinent information located in several different sections of the ordinance; and every single municipality’s code is different. It is best rely on research and advice from your sign company, a zoning expert, or a lawyer with sign code experience.

8)  Gather key documents.  You will need to search out and provide your sign company with some or all of the following information in order for them to obtain sign permits:

• Existing sign drawings with dimensions. • Foundation Drawings, if replacing the entire cabinet/head on a pole, or a monument sign cabinet.
• Site Plan with lot dimensions and a Right of Way line
• Building Elevation drawings with dimensions, or tenant width
• Photos showing each sign close up, and from far enough away to see the wall or pole it’s attached to.
• Landlord sign criteria and contact information, or landlord design approval.

9)  Know the lay of the land.  What lies directly beneath your signs? Stairs, grass, landscaping, trees, parking lots, sidewalks, awnings, parking meters, utilities, and hillsides all require different installation and estimating considerations. Understand that some of these can impact the installation cost and timeline as well, so you should discuss site conditions with your sign company. Weather too, can be a factor. For instance, a service truck can only access a freestanding sign in a yard if the ground is dry or frozen solid. Ideally, site conditions and access would be part of an initial national survey.   

10)  Be realistic about scheduling.  Inquire about lead times for code research, permitting, quotes, production, shipping, and installation, and leave enough breathing room for unforeseen hurdles or corporate red tape. Depending on the scope of your re-brand and the local permitting authority’s lead time, you could be looking at 6 weeks to 6 months from initiation to completion of any given location. Talk timelines upfront!

And Don’t Panic!  Before all of this starts to feel overwhelming…

The truth of the matter is that if you have just two key factors covered, a good sign company with brand roll-out experience, and an accurate site sign inventory, then the rest will take care of itself in due process.

So get steps 1 & 2 under control, let your sign company do their job, and keep the rest of the steps in your back pocket because they will come up along the way. Forewarned is forearmed!

Written By: Jennifer Bender
National Accts & Marketing
614-444-3333 x216