How to get your signage done properly the first time

  • In Association with New Zealand Sign and Display Association
  • March 12, 2018
How to get your signage done properly the first time

You’ve seen them everywhere, and perhaps had a chuckle: bad shop signs. Whether it’s a rogue apostrophe, a series of letters that crowd closer together as the edge of the sign approaches or an unfortunate spelling error, there’s so many ways to end up with a shoddy sign that reflects poorly upon your business. So, where do all these unprofessional signs come from, and how can retailers get it right?

“Anybody can go out and buy a computer and printer and call themselves a signmaker, and it can be quite a costly exercise for people to get things put right after they’ve gone wrong,” says Ross Probert.

Probert is an advisory board member at the New Zealand Sign and Display Association, an accreditation organisation for the signwriting industry.

He says the best way to avoid unwanted complications is to select a signmaker who belongs to the NZSDA. Retailers can access a list of signmakers through the NZSDA’s website, where there’s a ‘Find a signmaker’ tab on the homepage.

Those who hire a member can expect to deal with a signmaker who can do a professional job, and carry out every aspect of what’s needed.

Christchurch master signmaker Dean Johnstone of Dream It says retailers should understand that an accredited signmaker isn’t just on-site to create beautiful artwork, but can use their years of professional judgement to make a real difference in the strategic effect of your signage.

“It’s alright putting up a nice-looking sign, but if it doesn’t work, then it’s not worth the paint it’s made with.”

An accredited signmaker has learned the fundamentals of typography, spacing of letters and logo design, and can be trusted to come up with a sign that reflects well on your business, Johnstone says.

“Without that incredible base of knowledge, you can make bad mistakes and your message with five words in it then turns into one.”

Retailers can get the best out of their signmaker by helping the signmaker to understand the brand of the shop that’s having signage designed for it before work begins.

“An accredited signmaker knows how to manipulate the signage in a way that says instantly what’s best for your business,” Johnstone says.

Modern signmakers do much more than simply creating outdoor signage, Probert says. They can make custom murals and wallpaper to achieve a unique look, and neon lighting is currently increasingly popular.

“When people get a shop done, it’s not just about putting in some nice shelving – it’s about creating an impact,” Probert says. “We can provide a complete solution.”

To get the best out of your signmaker, Probert recommends getting them involved in the design of the sign, not just its fabrication.

“A lot of signmakers are very clever, artistic people, and they can come up with fantastic designs and artwork,” he says. “Don’t undestimate how talented these signmakers are.”

Asked about current trends in sign-writing, Probert says he’s noticed old-fashioned hand lettering is coming back into fashion. Gold leafing is another vintage signmaking trend that’s seen a recent renaissance.

“There’s a lot of people going back to that kind of thing, it’s something we’re quite excited about,” says Probert.

Those with a particularly tight margin for error may wish to access an even higher level of expertise by hiring a master signmaker. Accredited master signmakers must go through a rigorous exam process to prove that they’re able to meet an exceptionally high level of quality. They must undergo an interview with an NZSDA-approved auditor, and demonstrate that they’ve mastered every necessary skill.

There are 15 master signmakers in New Zealand. Probert says anyone hiring them can expect they will be confident and “completely competent.”

 Even non-master NZSDA members must earn the right to be part of the organisation, and the NZSDA stands behind the quality of their work.

“We’d rather have fewer people than hundreds of not-so-good people,” Probert says.

For further details to find an NZSDA Sign Maker call 0800 0800 52 or go to our website

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