Understanding Signs
By: Tony Ozelis
Part 1
Your Basic Choices

On the surface, designing your fascia signs may seem like a very small issue but may actually be one of the most important decisions that you will make early on when first starting your business.

Just the mention of what constitutes “the perfect sign” to a group of builders, architects and blade sign photographdesigners and you’ll more than likely set off a whole host of disagreements, heated discussions and general mayhem (for some reason, architects always resort to mayhem).

Now, unfortunately for some business owners, you won’t have much of a choice when it comes to choosing your sign’s overall design and/or construction. That’s because either you're restricted by a franchise agreement, or your landlord or the local municipality has imposed restrictions on what types, sizes, materials and colors are acceptable to them (and if it’s all three, we really feel for you).

Although standardized signage looks pretty on paper, the truth is that it’s usually a huge disadvantage to most tenants. Unless you’re the anchor store with anchor store-sized signage, chances are that your sign is going to blend in with every other sign in your shopping center defeating the main purpose of a sign in the first place, which is to get you noticed.

Stand back a few hundred feet or, better yet, drive by the location at normal traffic speeds and that sucker may be nothing but a passing red blur to most drivers (this is known as “Driver Reaction Time” and will be covered in a future article).

As we said, pretty on the plan but really impractical in use…

But those of you that have a choice are only limited by their local sign codes and your imaginations. Your building sign does necessarily have to be a garden-variety light box bolted to your storefront and your freestanding sign (if you are lucky enough to have one) does not have to be a similar box or “lollypop” mounted on top of a steel pole. It can be the very statement that you need to create your identity and get your message across to the masses.

For the purposes of this section, we are going to pretty much focus on outdoor illuminated signs, the most popular form for a retailer or restaurant to install on their storefronts.

Starting with the most basic of terms, there are two very common forms of illuminated signs in use today; Internally Illuminated and Externally Illuminated.

The differences should be pretty obvious. An Internally Illuminated Sign is a sign that has its characters, letters, figures or designs illuminated from the inside of its structure or housing.

The Externally Illuminated Sign is a sign made readable in the absence of daylight by devices external to the sign, where light is either projected or reflected upon it.

As you will see, both types have their applications, advantages and their benefits; it all depends upon your particular situation and budget.

Next: Externally Illuminated Signs

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About the Author: Tony Ozelis is a real estate development consultant and frequent contributor to LocationIsland.com.  Mr. Ozelis' 23 year career has primarily been focused on restaurant and retail development throughout the United States where he has served as a Director of Real Estate for companies such as Pizza Hut, Inc., Boston Chicken, 7-Eleven and Wendy's International.

With well over 700 successful projects completed to date; he has been at the forefront of incorporating new technologies into corporate real estate development and regularly teaches on subjects such as; Strategic Market Development Planning, Contract Negotiations and incorporating Green Technologies into site design.

Mr. Ozelis is a member of both the International Council of Shopping Centers (ICSC) and the United States Green Building Council (USGBC).

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