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Exterior Signs

Choosing an Exterior Sign for Your Business

How to Choose an Exterior Sign

Size, color, proportion, design, materials, lighting, and mounting methods are some of the key factors to consider when choosing your exterior sign. Thinking beyond the basics will save you time initially and will give you best ROI (Return on Investment). What does that mean, to think beyond the basics?

Sign maintenance and how your sign will handle the weather are primary considerations. You may also need to consider other factors – like vandalism. What if a graffiti artist decided to use your sign as his canvas? How easy would it be to return it to good-as-new condition?

Of course, your immediate concern is the sign’s 24/7 visual appeal. Remember, your sign won’t exist in a vacuum. Other signs, traffic, and lighting conditions are just a few of the things competing for your prospects’ attention. And what if your logo changes next year? Signage professionals take all of these possibilities into account when they design your exterior signs. From updating old neon signs to weighing the way consumers view LEDs, vinyl graphics, and wayfinding signs, you have a lot to consider. Visit How to Choose a Company Sign, Office Sign or Building Sign to learn more.

Channel Letter, aka 3-Dimensional Letter Signs

Professional, effective

Channel letter signs are high-profile, professional-looking and easy to read. Sometimes called 3-D or three dimensional letter signs, many retail businesses, restaurants, medical and professional offices and institutions utilize channel letter signs, incorporating their logos in the sign to reinforce their brand image.

Channel letters are internally illuminated, easy to read in the day or night and upscale in appearance. They allow for creativity in presenting the business brand to effectively draw the attention of potential customers.


The two primary categories of channel letters are face lit and halo lit. Face lit channel letters are those letters in which the light from within the letter comes through the front face. Signs that have individual colored letters visible at night are face-lit. Halo lit or reverse lit letters are those letters in which the characters are dark at night but have a glow that forms an outline, or halo, effect.

Why choose one over the other?

Sometimes, it’s simply a matter of taste. In other cases, municipal codes dictate sign type or illumination methods. Some municipalities allow halo lit, but not face lit, letters because the light source for halo lit letters is directed back to the building rather than outward, leading some to believe this is less obtrusive on surrounding businesses and homes. Also, the lumen rating (measure of light) for halo lit is less than for face lit lettering.

Direct or raceway Mount?

Channel letter components and specifications are details you can’t afford to overlook if you want a high-quality sign that will properly identify your business for many years to come. It’s sometimes difficult to spot critical differences between well-crafted letters and flimsy ones – until it’s too late. Working with a sign company that makes a UL-approved product and has a host of references is the best way to make sure you’ll get a good sign.

To ensure your letters are properly constructed, your sign company should identify specifications of the letters. Key areas to inspect in the work order:

  • Letter backs should be .063 aluminum, ACM or Dibond (not 040 aluminum)
  • In most cases the side (known as “returns”) of the letters should be no less than .040 aluminum. Rarely, thinner material is specified, for example, if letters are required to bend.
  • Trim cap should typically be 1” Jewelite or Wagner

Light source products are not created equal

The primary brands of LED’s are GE Gelcore and Sloan. There are also several lesser known brands that are equally as effective however, every product carries different warranties, and ultimately, those can affect the long-term investment in your sign.

Cabinet Signs

Generally provide quick ROI

Whether recessed or tiered, illuminated or two-sided, cabinet signs can promote your business and can be customized to convey the look and image you want. A standard cabinet sign is generally quite economical, offering a quick return on investment. (ROI) A variety of materials can be used in cabinet signs, and cabinet signs can be designed to be wall-mounted, or installed to be used as free-standing signs.

A cabinet sign is a good option for a new business with a limited budget. While cabinet signs offer a low-cost alternative to other signage, when done well they can effectively brand your business.


The starting point for an internally illuminated cabinet sign is a high quality aluminum extrusion cabinet with a durable polycarbonate face with vinyl graphics. You can step up the appearance of a cabinet sign by utilizing an aluminum face with routed graphics, backed with plexi. Another upgrade many businesses select is the addition of dimensional, push-thru graphics with raised acrylic lettering that will illuminate.

Illumination and energy use

The standard illumination for sign cabinets is fluorescent lamps. More energy-efficient T5s and T12s are increasingly popular lighting options. A greener alternative that does add cost but will ensure less service work is a cabinet illuminated with LEDs. Discuss the options with your Metro Sign & Awning sales representative.

Commercial Awnings or Canopies

Canopies and awnings can enhance your business in many ways

A canopy or custom awning can be an incredibly versatile, highly visible part of your business exterior. Awnings aren’t just decorative: awnings are signs too! Consider what canvas awnings, vinyl shades, canopies with your logo, or other creative, functional signage can do for your business. An awning can enhance service at a drive-thru window, make patio seating more comfortable, provide protection from the elements and improve your curbside appeal.


Awnings offer many different design styles and fabric choices. Popular frame styles include shedroof, waterfall and dome awnings. A professional awning fabricator will help you determine the best options for you to consider, based on structural considerations and where and how the awing or canopy will be used.

Frame construction:

Frames are typically galvanized steel or aluminum. There is the option of requesting the frames to be painted for an upcharge. Most often the frame is painted the same color of the fabric so that it is more subtle.

Material matters and lighting:

The best material for the job depends upon the look and type of awning, as well as how and where it will be used. A cloth/fabric looking awning (such as the Sunbrella brand of fabric from Glen Raven) wears well, as do Statler fabrics and other fine materials. A back-lit awning necessitate an eradicable material. (Cooley is a respected brand.) Some vinyl fabrics have a sheen to them; the treatment is most cost effective when applying vinyl graphics. Ask for a product swatch card that will show the various color choices within each material family.

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