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Vital signs: your guide to outdoor signage

One of the items most synonymous with the Real Estate industry is the good old fashioned For Sale sign. Plenty of effort is given to the words, imagery and marketing techniques used on the signs, but do you know your options for what the signs are made of, how they are created and even the legal issues about where they are placed? Sold Magazine spoke to Jo Falla at Laguna Signs to gain a better understanding of one area of Real Estate that we rely heavily on but spend little time learning about.

Let’s look at what signage is right for the job. Things to keep in mind when ordering signage are how long you need the sign to last, where it will be located and whether you will need a large or small quantity. Firstly, it’s a good idea to know about the different printing methods.

What sort of signage is right for the job?

Screen printing is ideal for For Sale, For Lease, For Rent signs which are ideally printed on corflute, vinyl, or alubond. The inks used are suitable for outdoor usage and have great intensity of colour, which should last up to 12 months in the harsh Australian sun. Screenprinting is ideal for quantities of 50 or more.

Digital printing is perfect for one-off photographic signs, stickers, banners or vehicle wraps. The new UV stable digital printers use solvent based inks and are UV stable, weatherproof (no need to laminate) and ideal for indoor or outdoor applications. The one-off costs are higher than screen printing, but every bit as good with color, and allow so much more flexibility –ideal for one-off or small runs.

Computer cut vinyl is used traditionally for shop fronts, windows, and vehicles and has replaced the hand drawn lettering of old. There is an excellent choice of colours, and it is available in one year, five year and seven year product ranges with fluorescent, metallic and reflective varieties available.

Next, it’s handy to understand what the signs are actually made of. Materials commonly used in Real Estate signs are as follows:

Corflute – corrugated plastic which comes in white, (other colour are available, but not UV stable) with several thicknesses and strengths. It is usually 3mm, 3.5mm or 5mm with differing grams per square metre – giving varying strengths. Product is made both in Australia and imported with several standards of qualities. It is UV treated and ideal for most cheap signage.

Vinyl – used for Sold, Under Contract, sales rep stickers etc. It is different to those used for either digital printing or computer cut vinyl. The life spans all vary as, does the thickness, pliability and lasting abilities. Prices vary quite dramatically.

Alubond – is a relatively new product. It is an aluminium composite with a vinyl coating, light and strong and provides a great finish. It comes in many grades and thicknesses, and is gradually replacing the old Weathertex (timber) signs. It doesn’t need painting or sanding, and is used for one-off signage, and for those offices wanting to stand out from the crowd, it can replace corflute and can be screen printed on.

Lastly, don’t let yourself get baffled by printing or design industry terminology. If you don’t understand – ask! The following terms are frequently used when you order signage:

Horizontal or vertical flute – the flute should be printed with the lines horizontal for maximum strength. Vertical is often used for use in frames and spikes but only when requested.

Landscape or portrait – think picture of landscape (horizontal) or person (vertical).

Square metres – the measurement used when measuring digital printing

Handy tip – Size is always quoted with the horizontal measurement first

PMS – the acronym for Pantone Matching System – which allows different printers to identify a colour and replicate it exactly.

You get what you pay for

We asked Jo about the pricing of signs and whether cheaper signs are available. Her lengthy response was well worth repeating because it gives insight into Laguna Signs’ absolute focus on quality and customer service – which is often lacking in service businesses these days.

Jo responded, We are often asked – Can you give me cheaper signs? Yes, we can give you cheaper signs. We can buy cheaper imported corflute – we have always preferred to buy the Australian made product even though it is a little dearer. It’s whiter, it’s easier and quicker obtain – there’s always stock, and it’s cut straighter so we don’t lose as many sheets when printing.

We can also buy cheaper ink – but the cheaper ink does tend to fade a little quicker in the hot Australian sun, some inks need curing and if not cured for long enough the ink can come off the signs. We could use a coarser mesh screen – we use 100T screens which means we get more coverage of ink on the signs, which costs a little more – the signs we print are always a little brighter and crisper than others.

Maybe we shouldn’t discard the ‘seconds’ that we print – we only give you the perfect signs – none with spots or scratches or that aren’t cut squarely. That would save a few more dollars. Plus if you don’t care about the quality we could save heaps by not bothering to hand cut and check every sign before packing them. We could get cheaper labour – we always pay well over the award wages and treat our staff with the utmost respect because we think it’s vital to give you quick and efficient service, same day proofing and despatch within a week. We could save a few dollars by not having specially made cartons to despatch your signs in – they might arrive a little damaged on the corners and be difficult to store.”

So the short version is that you get what you pay for and if you are asking for a cheaper product, you need to be prepared for some short cuts on quality and service.

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