Your signs are nice but I found a place that can make them cheaper. – Prospective Client
Dear Prospective Client,
There are times when it is good business to choose the cheapest sign. Political posters, for example, get tossed right after an election, and it would be overkill to pay for hand-carving on a label for your fire extinguisher. When a cheaper sign gives you the best value for money, by all means, go with a cheaper sign!
But there are times when wise investment gives you the best value for money. Think of a car purchase: a Ford Ka will cost a lot less than a Rolls Royce. But if you run a prestigious limo service, a fleet of second-hand Kas won’t bring in new customers. It may even turn off your old ones. And signs – like limousines – can earn back the initial investment many times over. Even residential signs can increase a property value far beyond the price of the sign itself. Just like luxury cars, handcrafted signs are all about that all-important first impression.
The vast majority of cars do not need to be Rolls’s. Most folks get around just fine in much humbler vehicles. And the vast majority of signs do not need to be hand carved, either. But in those applications where a fine handcrafted product will improve your ‘brand’, your message, and your return-on-investment – the cheapest option is not the best.
If you’ve decided that you really do want a handcrafted sign but price is a concern, take a careful look at the cost drivers:
All else being equal, a large sign will cost more than a small sign. But how big is big enough? When we design a sign, we use various formulas to determine reading distance, speed of traffic and other important factors (I plan to write a separate blog post about that). We’ve also been doing this for the past thirteen years, and during that time we’ve accrued a good many awards for our sign designs. We can help you figure out the right size for your sign. There is no sense paying extra for a sign that is too big. Much worse, however, is the mistake of ‘saving money’ on a sign that ends up too small.
Number of Sides
Most signs are one-sided. But sometimes a two-sided sign is installed perpendicular to the road so traffic can read it from both directions. At Danthonia we charge about 50% extra for the second side. This can be a good investment, since it often increases viewer readability by 100%.
Sometimes, a highly ornate design is what’s needed (for a five-star Art-Nouveau-inspired ballroom entrance). Other times a clean and simple design is the way to go (Don’t Park Here). Obviously, the sign’s complexity – or lack thereof – affects the price. Many of our clients come to us because they’re after something ‘a bit special’, but that doesn’t mean we aren’t able to make simple signs either. The simpler ones cost less. But we’ll never undercut that flimsy plastic election sign in your front yard.
This is an important consideration when comparing sign prices. Many signs look great when they are new, but the paints, hardware and substrates used will determine how your sign holds up to the elements. When looking at price, compare apples to apples. Carefully evaluate materials when choosing who will make your sign. Vinyl letters will fade and peel, long before painted ones. The longer your sign looks great, the better your return-on-investment.
We once had a client who took our sign design to another shop. They made the sign out of a lightweight HDU, which was the wrong material for such a large panel. Not long after the sign was installed, it came down again in a strong wind (luckily no-one was injured), and our phone was ringing once again.
True hand-carved and hand-painted signage is an art form. Although there has been a resurgence of interest in the craft, shops making quality handcrafted signs are still an elite circle. Most of these modern-day craftspeople have a backlog of work and waiting lists of up to several months. If you need a sign in time for a birthday, grand opening or any other deadline, there is always the risk it will not get to you on time. At our shop, we use a team approach. Often, various crew members will be working on different components of the same sign, at the same time, almost like mechanics at a car race pit stop. Our normal turn around is a 21 day delivery. For a modest rush fee we can promise a 15 day delivery. Dependable delivery adds value to your purchase. Our quoted prices include free delivery to any address in the USA or Australia.
As you can see, not all signs are created equal. Cheapest is not always best. Our shop excels on those projects where fine design, a long-lasting handcrafted product and fast, dependable turnaround are important enough to invest in. If these factors are not crucial for your sign, go to somebody cheaper!