L + H Signs Sees Growth, Innovation in 3-D-Sign Market

Reading, PA shop's marketign manager outlines design, production process

In business since 1992, L+H Signs (Reading, PA) manufactures stadium, building and architectural signage in a 63,000-sq.-ft. facility. Its portfolio includes a comprehensive sign package for the Lehigh Valley Iron Pigs, the Triple-A affiliate of the Philadelphia Phillies, as well as a striking monument sign for the Philadelphia Zoo.
According to Bob McClennan, the company’s marketing director, the company’s designers prefer CorelDRAW for 2-D work because its vector programming is most compatible with L+H’s plotters and routers. When developing a 3-D design, they use SolidWorks. In this process, L+H’s designers incorporate a material cut list and component-numbering system that allows each drawing to be merged with a purchase order during the engineering process. McClennan noted that this procedure helps jobs flow more efficiently because the shop manager isn’t left to figure out what’s needed for a job, send an order to the purchasing department, and then await delivery.
During a site survey, McClennan noted that L+H will factor the site’s geographical specifics and data about the building’s age, materials and condition into a project’s development plan.
“One has to be careful not to overuse common materials or design methods just because they’re readily available or trendy,” he said. “It’s easy for a sign to become too busy and less effective. A well-built, but poorly designed, sign is still a poor sign.”
For large signs, such as the Philadelphia Zoo monument or its program for Columbus, OH’s Nationwide Children’s Hospital, for which it fabricated illuminated monument signs, McClennan said prototyping is common.
“Lettering depth can make or break a sign,” he said. “It’s our responsibility to tell the customer that a poorly specified letter – for instance, one that is 6 in. tall and 4 in. deep, will be difficult to read. Helping the customer comprehend an effective scale of letter heights and depths is essential.”
McClennan continued, “Scale and depth were especially important on the Philadelphia Zoo sign. The client wanted the sign to look as though it had been machined from a solid block of metal. We MIG-welded the main body of the sign, and built the welded-steel base with a hydraulic roller. Every detail – depth, finish, size, typeface – required close attention to flawlessly simulate a single, welded piece.“
McClennan cited the shop’s new hydraulic roller as a production boon, because it shapes a larger surface and enables more consistent curvature on rounded forms.
If the shop or its client has concerns about the legibility or effectiveness of a dimensional sign, L+H will perform a flag test, which involves replicating the sign’s graphics on a large-format banner and, with a crane truck or lift, putting the sign in various positions on a building or cabinet face to determine which placement will provide optimal readability.
He noted a prime, value-engineering example: a healthcare client wanted a company’s architectural signage to feature a proprietary, translucent surface material. The lead time required to source the substrate didn’t meet the customer’s deadline requirements. Instead, L+H replicated the translucent effect with a laminate film sandwiched in between layers of different acrylic types.
“The client met their deadline and got their desired effect – all while saving more than $100,000,” McClennan said.