A Spectrum of Monument Signs

Three award-winning sign companies mark businesses and commercial districts with both custom and recognizable entrance signs.
Don Bell Signs created a monument sign that included a custom, scaled-down cutout of a nearby vintage steamboat.

Who among us doesn’t use our phones to find places? We listen for that disembodied voice to tell us, “Your destination is in 100 feet, on the right,” and, “You have arrived at your destination.” That’s all well and good, but to double-check Siri or whomever, we all still look for a prominent entrance sign to our destination – proof we are in the right place. We recently spoke to three companies that have won Signs of the Times sign contests for their monument signs, to find out more about their design, fabrication and installation practices.

A VINTAGE TAKE 

When it was time for a new and eye-catching sign for the entrance to Florida’s Historic Cocoa Village, Don Bell Signs (DBS; Port Orange, FL) was eager to create something special. Along with the two-part custom display spanning 22 ft. 4 in., the monument called for a custom, scaled-down cutout of a vintage steamboat docked only a mile away. “The result is an attractive one-of-a-kind display that invokes nostalgic feelings for days gone by in this popular historical area,” said Mandy Moore, marketing director for DBS.

The Village was founded in 1860 by local fishermen and has remained as the downtown center for the city of Cocoa since its conception. The historic area saw the city’s first commercial building erected around 1881 and then was nearly devastated by the “Great Freeze” of 1894-95 (according to mainstreethistory.com).Today, the area has evolved rapidly from a small plaza to a popular entertainment area for residents and tourists alike. 

“This effort called for a high level of collaboration between fabricator and customer to facilitate the precise fitment of the arch onto the pre-engineered masonry and stonework columns to create the perfect fit,” Moore said. DBS, in working with the customer, analyzed the design intent drawings and value-engineered them; that is, taking an existing drawing and suggesting alternate fabrication methods that save the client money while achieving the same goal, she added.

Don Bell Signs created a monument sign that included a custom, scaled-down cutout of a nearby vintage steamboat.
Don Bell Signs created a monument sign that included a custom, scaled-down cutout of a nearby vintage steamboat.

The installation details were planned in two separate phases. “The first was to pour the concrete and install the bracing that would secure the paddle boat,” Moore said. “The second phase was to install the paddle boat and the archway.” Delegating and dividing the installation kept the project unrushed, to allow the best possible outcome. DBS worked closely with the GC that was pouring the concrete, as well as fabricating the pillars on which the shop’s install team would attach the archway. The concrete had to be poured first with steel stanchions in place. Once the concrete was set and dry, the boat was sleeved over the stanchions and secured in place. “Same with the sign,” Moore said. She credits great communication among the contractors for the accuracy. 

For the arch itself, the signface cabinet featured flat-cut scrollwork and letters attached to stand-offs, finished in historical colors and carefully mounted between two pre-engineered masonry and stonework columns, and also a flat-cut aluminum sheet and tube finished with Matthews Paint’s acrylic polyurethane. DBS used their MultiCam 3000 router, SAi’s FlexiSign and EnRoute software, RAS metal break form, Accurshear metal shear, JIH-24 D cut-off saw and Roland SOLJET vinyl digital printer/cutter for the fabrication. Everything was mechanically anchored into pre-engineered masonry columns. 

The vintage steamboat required considerable time to create precise tool paths for its routing. The construction materials and process used were similar to the arch, also requiring the flat-cut aluminum sheet, tube and pipe with a Matthews Paint finish. However, this attachment necessitated a different anchor from the arch, Moore said, so it was core-drilled and chemically anchored into the concrete base. Chemical anchoring is a technique for fastening to concrete and similar substrates that provides more flexibility than mechanical anchoring. A resin is applied into the concrete hole prior to the placement of the stud. The chemical naturally fills in the gaps in the hole, making it airtight and waterproof.

As for trends in monument signs, “We are beginning to see more requests for sustainable signage materials such as solar illumination for signs,” Moore said. “Clients want a durable product while minimizing their carbon footprint.” With monument signs of the near future, she sees the industry moving into a more environmentally friendly place.

FOLLOW THAT SIGN

For a well-established childcare center, a sign that is noticeable to both children and adults can draw in future students and create an atmosphere filled with fond memories for alumni. When New Horizon Academy (headquartered in Plymouth, MN), opened a new location in Broomfield, CO, they needed a new monument sign. The company reached out to YESCO (Denver) to replicate the existing design. 

New Horizon Academy has specialized in childcare for over 45 years. Originally founded by Sue Dunkley, the family-owned company has flourished across multiple states for decades. Dunkley’s first student and son, Chad Dunkley, remains at the company as the CEO.

Brian Shumard-Crippin, the designer charged with replicating the New Horizon logo, has spent over 22 years in the sign industry, with the last 13 at YESCO. And his experience showed on this project; he was able to recreate the iconic sign from sight. “Fortunately, I recognized the fonts and I did an overlay in Illustrator to confirm the match,” he said. “Thanks to our field survey technician, we were able to catch every detail to match the existing monuments.” 

Each side of the New Horizon Academy sign made by YESCO (Denver) has a separate layout.
Each side of the New Horizon Academy sign made by YESCO (Denver) has a separate layout.

To create the components for the new, duplicate sign, YESCO’s fabrication team flat-cut layers of aluminum using their MultiCam 3000 router, powered by SAi’s EnRoute software, and then pin-mounted the cut aluminum to a faux-Corten background. Then they applied push-through acrylic copy with digitally printed graphics on translucent, high-density 3M vinyl. GE Tetra MAX LEDs with a 100W self-contained, damp-rated 24-V power supply were installed to provide the backlighting for the New Horizon Academy logo and copy. 

The distinctive sign measures 11 ft. 4.75 in. x 1 ft. 6 in. x 5 ft. 11 in., and each side of the sign offers a separate layout. “Notice that even the formed trapezoidal concrete base is sloped from street-side to parking lot-side and [is also] chamfered at each corner,” Shumard-Crippin said. 

In the future, Shumard-Crippin predicts the sign industry taking a vastly different turn, with technological, futuristic-inspired designs taking the sign world by storm. “I think we’ll continue to see an increase in tech-inspired sculptural designs,” he said. “At least I hope we do.”

BULLSEYE

With more than 1,800 locations, the majority of them operating in the US, Target stores showcase a memorable logo used in clever marketing campaigns featuring its adorable Miniature Bull Terrier, Bullseye, emblazoned on huge exterior storefront-wall signs and, of course, topping the monument signs that designate entrances to the multi-tenant centers that Target stores often dominate. With so many locations, this kind of work is available for sign companies all over the nation.

However, translating the iconic logo to a sign is not as easy as it sounds – the rigid standards for the logo set by the company must be upheld. When the Bristol Place (Santa Ana, CA) Target was constructed, a new monument sign was needed at the end of the street to alert potential customers to the nascent location. Absolute Sign (Los Alamitos, CA) took on the tasks of permitting, building and installing the multi-tenant monument sign for the megastore.

For Absolute Sign CEO Tish Scialampo, the project was even more challenging because the sign had been designed by an architect, and not someone with more experience with how novel materials work (or don’t work) in signage applications. After 30 years in the industry, Scialampo knows exactly what she likes to see. “The Nichiha product [a fiber-cement siding used to achieve a smooth finish] called out by the architect is not really designed for signage and I would definitely [have gone] a different route,” she said. “It looks nice though.” 

Absolute Sign (Los Alamitos, CA) completed the permitting, building and installing of this multi-tenant monument sign for Target.
Absolute Sign (Los Alamitos, CA) completed the permitting, building and installing of this multi-tenant monument sign for Target.

Absolute Sign cut the Nichiha product on a panel saw and the faces of the sign on the shop’s Computerized Cutters router, guided by SAi Flexi software. The project consisted of two freestanding monument signs and two sets of channel letters, lit by GOQ LED modules. The monuments measure 15 x 8 ft. and 7 ft. x 4 ft. 9 in., respectively. Scialampo said with proper maintenance, the signs can last for many years.

The installation process only took a day, but as often is the case when everything seems routine, accidents can happen. “We did hit water in one of the footings while auguring, so that slowed that process down a bit,” Scialampo said. The lesson here, of course, is to check carefully with local authorities before digging, but even so, the water rupture proved to be only a brief delay. Shortly thereafter, the newest Target location featured its pair of entrance signs. 

Whether a monument sign is unique to one location, a copy of an existing sign or two, or literally one of thousands like it, each one serves that vital purpose of landmarking a business: “You have arrived at your destination.”

Tags