Malleable Materials

Three signshops find flexibility in rigid substrates.
Anchor Sign & Awning (Cincinnati) created a more contemporary sign for local Tostados Grill out of channel letters attached to a new metal awning. Photo by Jeff Russ.

Rigid substrates. Is there any other industry term that literally states its inability to move, bend or flex? Two words, very little wiggle room for interpretation. And yet, when called upon to manipulate such materials, signshops are asked to bend to their clients’ will, and make stubborn substrates conform to the vision. Whether secured to a wall, an awning or an overhang; 3D, flat, or a combination of both, the rigid is made flexible under the sure hands of these three veteran shops who were tasked with the creation, fabrication and installation of some very tough stuff.

TOP O’ THE AWNING

Anchor Sign & Awning (Cincinnati) owner Scott Woosley still prefers to conduct business old school. Leading with his belief that “a sign on your building or vehicle is still the best value for marketing,” he’s able to drum up business simply by making cold calls. “Yep, the oldest method of marketing is still valid in 2020,” he said. “[Tostados Grill] was a new client who simply said to my partner and sales manager Kyle [Woosley], ‘Show me what you got.’”

The Woosleys were thrilled to be granted full artistic license on the Tostados project. “The customer had a difficult-to-read logo and a variety of deteriorated signage on the building,” Scott Woosley said. Offering a more contemporary, clean look to the client in their bid, Anchor’s design included fabricating the new Tostados sign out of channel letters attached to a new metal awning. Because the new awning and sign would face the street, the restaurant would become more appealing to local vehicle and foot traffic, plus passersby.

Anchor Sign & Awning (Cincinnati) created a more contemporary sign for local Tostados Grill out of channel letters attached to a new metal awning.
Anchor Sign & Awning (Cincinnati) created a more contemporary sign for local Tostados Grill out of channel letters attached to a new metal awning.

Due to delays caused by permit hiccups, the Anchor team made adjustments to the channel letter support to accommodate a newly accepted set of wind-load criteria during the engineering process. The design team used CorelDRAW and Photoshop to create the restaurant-sign designs. The awning’s frame was made out of 1-in. square tubing, while the skin consisted of prefinished steel made by Metal Panel Systems, and the channel letters were supplied by Sign Source USA. 

Since the frame was steel and rather large, Scott Woosley said that the Anchor team used a Vulcan Omnipro 220 MIG welder, a band saw and a grinder to do most of the work getting the frame to size. For paint, they chose a direct-to-metal acrylic polymer paint from Cincinnati Color Company. Subcontractors selected the rest of the materials.

Scott Woosley foresees more metal awnings in Anchor’s future, citing a trend toward metal over fabric and the wealth of metal systems available to fabricators nowadays. 

NOT YOUR STANDARD REMIX

Like a lot of projects, the client requesting the REMIX Audio Bar sign was a repeat for ArtMan Productions (Santa Fe, NM). Having completed satisfactory work for the client before, ArtMan was undeterred by design challenges for what they considered an interesting project.

For starters, the client’s business is in a unique niche, wherein the owner of Remix, “Takes an existing electronic music culture lifestyle and remixes it in a way she says no one has done before,” Creative Director Peter Tengler said. “She wanted a sign to echo her vision, and, after reviewing the layout we created, gave us free reign with regard to materials and execution of her concept.” Tengler said that the client provided the logo image and branding, but that ArtMan was responsible for the rest of the entire project – from concept to installation. They slightly altered the image using Adobe Photoshop and Illustrator, and then got to work on creating the client-approved sign.

Since ArtMan’s concept called for combining multiple circular layers of laser-cut translucent acrylic from Gemini; colored plexiglass from Port Plastics; and printed, 3M Air-Release vinyl applied to the back side of the outward-facing layers, extreme precision was required to perfectly align and space all the layers, giving the sign its desired look, Tengler said. ArtMan laser-cut the acrylic and plexiglass both off-site and in-house. The vinyl was printed in-house on a Roland VersaCAMM 540 wide-format printer and common hand tools were used for assembly. 

ArtMan Productions (Santa Fe, NM) combined multiple circular layers of laser-cut translucent acrylic to make a sign that echoed the vision of music/culture/lifestyle shop REMIX Audio Bar in their hometown.
ArtMan Productions (Santa Fe, NM) combined multiple circular layers of laser-cut translucent acrylic to make a sign that echoed the vision of music/culture/lifestyle shop REMIX Audio Bar in their hometown.

ArtMan made sure it opted for the right rigid substrates. “Most of our production utilizes rigid substrates,” Tengler said. “Choosing the type of rigid substrate is determined by many factors [such as] structural integrity, durability, design and aesthetic considerations, and the overall budget for each individual project.” In the future, Tengler expects to see more signs created like Remix’s, as the trend for rigid substrates tends to be leaning toward aluminum composite materials with digital print and/or plotted-vinyl applications, popular because of their economy, weight and reasonable durability.

Another favored material Tengler sees in the Southwest is raw steel left to rust or that has been powder-coated because it fits aesthetically into a rugged environment, has contemporary appeal, withstands harsh weather conditions and has almost unlimited durability.

METAL LOGO A GO-GO

Just about every business has a logo. But what good is a logo if no one sees it? It’s an easy way for people to identify you and your business, after all.

And the visible-logo-making business just happens to be the business in which Metal Logos (Omaha, NE), thrives, as they custom-make client logos into signage through a blend of technology and craft. It was this mix of automation and hands-on skill that spurred leaders at Oscar W. Larson Co., who provide full-service petroleum and fluid-handling equipment, to inquire about a logo-signage project for all nine of Larson’s locations throughout the Midwest.

The client asked for a unique and classy way to display their logo, mission statement and various locations throughout Michigan, Ohio, Indiana and Kentucky. Although the Larson project required several types of materials, CEO Shawn Dubbs said the Metal Logos team didn’t mind. “These types of projects are very fun for us to work on and design,” he said.

As it typically does, Metal Logos suggested a design that is similar to the image the client desires. “We do this [for the client] by showing photos of our existing project gallery,” Dubbs said. “Then [we suggest the client] ask to have it bid out so they have several options in material costs to have the project produced at a budget they are comfortable with.” 

To that end, Metal Logos was tasked with matching the PMS-painted blue letters on Larson’s mission statement to the CMYK that would be printed on the sign’s acrylic elements. “We needed to match the blue colors in flatbed printing and painted dimensional letters, which required a lot of samples,” Dubbs said. 

Metal Logos (Omaha, NE) was tasked with creating signage for all nine locations of the Oscar W. Larson Co. throughout Michigan, Ohio, Indiana and Kentucky.
Metal Logos (Omaha, NE) was tasked with creating signage for all nine locations of the Oscar W. Larson Co. throughout Michigan, Ohio, Indiana and Kentucky.

After the design was finalized and the colors matched to the client’s satisfaction, the Larson’s marketing designer sought more depth on the mission statement lettering. So, Metal Logos added more dimensionality to the acrylic via flatbed printing with stand-offs.

Substrates used on the logo signage throughout the multiple projects include ¼-in. natural satin aluminum for the main lettering and the state cutouts. The images on the states were router-engraved and then paint-filled with cool gray PMS 10C. The see-through sheets stating Larson’s mission, values and services are painted in PMS 293 and mounted onto ⅜-in. clear acrylic sheets with fired edges. The main text was flatbed-printed PMS 203 on the face of ⅜-in. clear acrylic. The star and circle shapes were crafted out of ⅛-in. aluminum and then painted PMS 293. Metal Logos used a CNC, waterjet and flatbed printer for fabrication and Matthews Paint for all painted elements.

Dubbs doesn’t see the demand for rigid substrates declining any time soon. “[We] believe that the individually mounted logo made out of rigid substrates is coming back to the forefront of most high-end build outs,” he said.

Anchor Sign & Awning (Cincinnati) created a more contemporary sign for local Tostados Grill out of channel letters attached to a new metal awning.

Anchor Sign & Awning (Cincinnati) created a more contemporary sign for local Tostados Grill out of channel letters attached to a new metal awning.

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