A monument is steeped in gravitas. Its name alone conjures images of grandeur, so it follows that, be it an industrial park, hospital, condo complex or humble burg, monument signs are a proud investment that strives to grab the eye. While many sign companies craft impressive monument signage, these three caught our attention.
Schlosser Signs Inc. (Denver) began subcontracting sign installations in 1999. After three years, Schlosser opened its first manufacturing facility; a second was established in downtown Loveland (CO) in 2013; and in 2014 it added a Denver flagship. Schlosser utilizes two CNC routers. Its machining is handled by Timesavers (Maple Grove, MN); its channel letter production is assisted with an Accu-Bend from Computerized Cutters. Rose Schlosser, business development, said that local stone – mirroring the area’s landscape and buildings – is utilized in much of the company’s monument sign fabrication. “We work with a lot of sandstone,” said Schlosser. “Landscape is taken into consideration with illumination and height, for example. If local stone can be used, it is.”
As a rule, monument signs are traditionally permitted to be closer to the road than pylon signs. (Local sign code typically dictates maximum height, set back and square foot allowance.) The closeness to foot traffic and passersby creates that aforementioned sense of import. “They create an entrance and sense of arrival to a property,” Schlosser said. “If using stone or brick, they feel like a part of the facility and can provide continuity.”
Chance Preuit, Schlosser Sign’s production manager, ran down the materials and processes involved in creating some recent monument projects. “Within all cabinetry is the frame or structure,” Preuit said, “which consists of various sizes of aluminum square and/or rectangular tubing, welded together. From there the framing is skinned with .090 or .125 aluminum sheeting.” This sheeting – usually routed – is home to materials used to produce tenant names and/or logos.
Internal illumination helps prevent vandalism, and maintenance programs presented with the initial sign contract set customer expectations from the start, according to Schlosser.
Varying thicknesses and colors of acrylic, vinyl, wood, sign foam, brick and stone are attached to aluminum sheeting, then painted (Preuit prefers Akzo Nobel products), sometimes with specialized finishing to create faux wood or stone looks.
HARNESSING MULTIPLE DISCIPLINES
Located in north-central Minnesota, Bemidji is nestled hard against Lake Bemidji and is home to Ross Lewis Sign Co. This full-service, eight-person signshop founded in 1989 knows how to match the proper substrates to the building and landscaping elements surrounding a sign.
Owner Ross Lewis’ shop uses materials including routed Dibond [an aluminum composite]. “Sometimes even MDO with a sheet metal skin to cover the edges,” said Lewis. “LEDs are used for all lighting whether direct or indirect. Bases are constructed of brick, foam, synthetic rock or field stone.” All of these hinge on building construction, customer taste and potential vandalism.
A recent project was the Bemidji Technology Park entry monument. The initial design, done locally by Bob Lindberg of Paul Bunyan Communications, incorporated a large tree trunk (yep, that sounds about right). Ross Lewis Sign’s Ron Schrader then handled the final design and production drawings. In addition, Signs By Benchmark (Watertown, SD) fabricated the birch log and brick base, while Quality Manufacturing Inc. (St. Paul, MN) was responsible for the cabinet construction. Signs By Benchmark’s fabricated log incorporates within its neon-like profile, an accent row of white, ColorLINE lighting from SloanLED.
Lewis recalled challenges regarding the fabrication, among them: “Trying to convince the customer that the tenant copy was too small,” he said. The sign’s face, said Lewis, “was routed, with a white acrylic backer for lighting purposes.” The face was primed, then covered with a first surface 3M printed and laminated graphic. Ross Lewis Sign prefers 3M vinyl unless a specialty color is required. “We’ve found that over the years [3M vinyl] has the best longevity,” Lewis said. The lighting behind the copy is illuminated via white LEDs.
“When we design our signs,” Lewis said, “we are not thinking how to make the cheapest sign for our customers. We use only the highest quality materials we can get and back them up with our warranties. When customers balk on a price, we do our best to educate them as to what they are getting for that price. I’ve asked more than a few customers what part of the quality materials they would like to give up to get a cheaper price. None have ever taken me up on the offer.”
LARGE AND IN CHARGE
L&H Companies, a 26-year-old, 80-person-strong entity, claims Reading, PA, as its home base and counts monuments among regular projects for its clients in education, healthcare and other industries. On these projects, Heinly said, “We examine all zoning information on allowances and if our recommendation exceeds what is allowable, we present variance options to the customer. We also take into consideration other signage in the area as well as determining the viewing time before a decision has to be made to enter a property safely.”
Most recently, L&H completed work on a complete sign package for Tower Health, working closely with sign designer Cloud Gehshan Associates (Philadelphia). As with any project of this size, L&H constructed prototypes that may be retooled and utilized for other jobs. “I would highly recommend that all companies go through that prototype process both in house and then direct with the client,” Heinly said. “So many nuances and better practices are established or discovered. Those that make the process and the end results so much stronger.”
The Tower Health project involved a lot of unique shapes with multiple angles in addition to lighting effects that required utilizing the company’s Flow Mach waterjet cutting system. It boasts three-dimensional cutting accuracy at speeds up to 400 in./min., and can create a host of shapes and fonts on material up to 4 in. thick. The company also employed its EFI VUTEk digital printer to produce “vibrant colors superior in hue when compared to washed-out colors from standard digital printers,” said Heinly.
Heinly suggested that monument signs should be inviting and not imposing, embracing the buildings’ architectural contours. His advice? “Design a monument sign around your brand. No matter what kind of monument sign, it needs to make a statement about your brand since it’s the [first] time a customer will see your company. It’s important to think about how you want to represent your brand to the public.” In the case of Tower Health, L&H employed different materials. “I think pre-cast concrete adds a level of class to the sign,” Heinly said, adding, “durability as well, especially when we employ it as a base component.” In addition, L&H, too, offers a maintenance contract, including the one to two times a year it will “touch-up, clean, wax and check illumination” on its signs.
Finally, Heinly stressed the importance of interaction between teams. With regard to the Tower Health monument, sometimes the seemingly simple ideas can have a huge impact. “We had great interaction on this project which enabled us to do various difficult components such as no visible fasteners. We tried to eliminate visibility of almost any fasteners in the beginning which included the light towers.” Also, and perhaps most importantly, Heinly said, always make these and other applicable decisions from the field. It is this point of view – not the one in the signshop – that should guide decision-making.
And it’s just those decisions that can lead to an attractive monument sign with oversized impact.
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