Sign & Digital Graphics

January '17

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Helping Your Designers be Beer Give your designers some fabrication time Since 1985, Ma Charboneau has owned and operated Charboneau Signs in Loveland, Colorado. He is a consultant and designer for monument, channel leer and pylon sign projects. His book, "e Pre-Sale Sign Survey Field Guide - e how-to guide on sign surveys for the pro- fessional sign salesperson" can be ordered on his website: or by emailing him at Admin@ B Y M A T T C H A R B O N E A U Designing Award-Winning Signs Sign designers must be intimately familiar with fabrication and installation strengths and limitations. They must understand the difficulties that exist when building a sign from scratch and then installing it. Aluminum and steel are the materials used most often in the electric sign world. Does your designer under- stand the difference between .040 aluminum and .080 aluminum and the affect that material thickness has on shearing and braking? How about the efforts that must be put forth to change the color of a trim cap to some other color that is not one of the standard trim caps available? Does your designer really comprehend how difficult it is to build a channel letter with a 1" stroke width and a 5" deep return? How about the challenges of reaching the back of a sign face when the cabinet is 12" wide by 8' long? Back in the Golden Days… My early days in an electric sign shop included about 30 days of hands on shop time, working side by side with the channel letter benders, the cabinet builders, painters and installers. When I started out, I learned how to nest the letter faces onto a sheet of acrylic, how to spin tape and how to cut them out by hand with a jig saw, and I learned the steps required to finish them by hand to fit the patterns provided. This taught me a valuable lesson on how difficult serif fonts can be to work with, and how much extra time it takes to bend the returns to follow those serif edges. I learned how to build cabinet frames, saddles and pipe guides, how to shear and break aluminum and the planning steps and calculations involved to build a cabinet with an overall finished size of exactly 48". I figured out why faces and backs are best cut from one sheet of material. I learned how and why race- ways must provide enough wrench room to get your hand inside to tighten the anchor bolts, and how steel behind the wall creates all sorts of problems. All of these lessons provided me with a strong understanding as to why certain constraints must be acknowledged and planned for prior to creating a design. It also gave me great conviction when it came time to defend my design as to why I made the cabinet 24" wide instead of 18". Help Your Designer Be a Better Designer "We can't build a channel letter with only a ½" stroke width, so the sign design cannot be built with- out a substantial change to the size of the letter strokes. The client has already approved this, so now we have a problem." This is one statement that should never be heard in or around a sign shop. Regardless of the project, whether it's a channel letter set or a monument sign, it's the sign designer's job to make sure the design is buildable. But what is the best way for a designer to fully grasp the challenges of fabrication and instal- lation? How can you possibly put your designers through a crash course that will educate them quickly and effectively in a way that sticks in their brain like a sword in a stone? RUNNING THE BUSINESS 68 • January 2017 • S I G N & D I G I T A L G R A P H I C S

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