An outdoor sign is a critical marketing tool for any retail business. It tells potential customers who you are and what you offer. It also provides them with an overall sense of your business, including whether your products are high end or inexpensive and whether your approach is traditional or unconventional. An outdoor sign should look professional and should be designed to grab the attention of potential customers.
Check Zoning Laws
Before you even start to make your own outdoor business sign, check local zoning laws and restrictions. Many communities have some form of sign ordinance. A sign ordinance can serve several purposes, including the management of visual clutter and the enhancement of community identity. For example, bright neon colors would likely be banned in a historic district that wants to preserve its colonial heritage.
Start at City Hall
Start at city hall or your community's administrative office. Gather information about licensing, applications and fees as well as specifications as to where you can hang an outdoor sign and what kind of hardware you require to comply with local codes.
Designing a DIY Storefront Sign
Begin designing your outdoor sign. For inspiration, look online for signage used by businesses similar to yours. Social media sites such as Pinterest and Instagram give you the opportunity to scan a number of pictures in a short amount of time.
The Right Shape and Size
Choose a shape and a size appropriate to your business. For example, if you sell sporting equipment, you might create a sign in the shape of a ball.
A sign ordinance will dictate how large your sign can be. Plan on making your sign as big as is allowable but also keep with the message you want to communicate to customers. An upscale bistro shouldn't have an overly large sign, and neither should a jewelry store that deals in small, elegant merchandise.
Choosing a Font
Select a font that matches the tone of your business. Comic Sans MS, for example, has an informal feel, while a script font generally indicates that you provide fancier offerings. Font styles and colors should be bright and easily readable, particularly from a distance. You can include a logo if you'd like. Keep it simple and readily identifiable.
Consider Trademark Protection
If you have a unique name and logo that you want to be protected by a registered trademark, complete the necessary paperwork with the United States Patent and Trademark Office. Unless it's a foreign-based business, you do not need to hire an attorney to navigate the process.
Making a DIY Business Sign
The materials you use for your DIY business sign depend not only on the look you want but the location and positioning of the sign as well. Consider whether the sign will have direct exposure to the elements or whether it will be afforded at least some protection from an awning or an architectural feature of the building.
Draft a Pattern
To make your own outdoor business sign, create a full-sized pattern for your sign. You can use design software or even a word processing program to create professional-looking letters and shapes. It's worth the money to have a printing business make a large-enough template for you rather than printing and piecing together elements made on a home printer.
Working With Lumber and Paint
Purchase 1/2-inch to 3/4-inch exterior plywood for your signboard material at a lumber yard or building materials store. Paint the sign with an outdoor, weather-resistant paint. You can find suitable products at a well-equipped hardware store or at an art supply store.
Work indoors away from wind, rain and airborne particles. Seal your sign with a commercial-grade outdoor sealant after the paint is fully dry.
Display Your Sign
Mount your DIY storefront sign using hardware that is strong enough to support it and that is suitable for outdoor use. Abide by the local sign ordinance and also use common sense. Hanging a sign by lengths of chain, for example, is impractical and even potentially dangerous in a windy location. Position the sign where it will be most visible to the greatest number of customers.
Denise Dayton, M.S., M.Ed. is a freelance writer specializing in careers, education and technology. In addition to writing for corporate clients, she has published articles in Library Journal and The Searcher.