By David Waring

For brick-and-mortar businesses, people need a sign to tell them what you do. Something physical that’s planted on-or-nearby your establishment.  But, some communities have a ton of zoning restrictions when it come to signage. That’s why you’ll need to do a smattering of research before you even start designing your storefront sign.

Take a trip to your city’s planning office. Ask about what that community has on the books and what types (and the costs are) are allowed for any permits you may need. This initial step is at the top of this piece for a reason — it’s paramount before proceeding any further.

Another consideration is for those who are leasing space.

Related Reading: For more information on potential restrictions related to zoning or your commercial lease, click here.

Read the contract you signed or pick the brain of the owner of the property. They may have something in the agreement which could cramp your panache. Gathering all of that info off-the-top reduces headaches and saves money.

The Local Business Environment

Look around you. What do the signs look like that other businesses are using? A great example of this are for places in a historical district.

It’s simply bad taste to erect a sign that doesn’t mesh with the local flavor.

Same aesthetic holds true for the architectural style of the building you occupy. Pay attention to things like the shape of the windows, the street-view, colors — all that stuff.

A store’s sign is simply its billboard. It’s there night-and-day, whether you’re in the shop or home with your family after-hours. What we’re saying here is pay attention to the client’s short attention span and lighting options. So, KISS it. Keep it simple. We’re not using the final “S” in KISS.

You’re not stupid. You’ve proved it. You’re reading this article.

Some Design Ideas

Ever see a really creative piece of signage? It has what we like to call “stickiness.” Potential clients are left with something in-erasable in their minds. And there are a variety of memorable ways to announce your presence. Let’s take a look at a few choices:

Fabric signage. Of the lot, these are generally the least expensive. A quote for one depends on its size. But expect to pay in the range of $3-to-$9 per square foot. The materials used are nylon, vinyl and plastic.

The punched metal signboard.  A big advantage is that Mother Nature is not going to rough-up these “billboards” that much. Starting under $100, take into account how much it will cost to affix it to your building.

Metal sign band.  These fairly durable types of signs will set you back, but not so much that you’ll go broke. For instance, one that’s 4’ X 8’ runs around $400 and that could include simple installation.

Metal “logo-like” signs attached above the store.  Nice feature of this type of signage  is that they can be backlit. The price will not be the cheapest (beginning at a couple of hundred bucks), however they are perfect for outside, strip shopping centers.

A painted plywood sign. They’re not terribly expensive — depending on their size and the artwork. A drawback is that they age with weather.

Emblazoned on glass.  Very classy. One drawback is that this low-to-high cost option might not shout-out to street traffic.

Awning signage.  We like these because they are “green” — kind to the environment. Here’s what the American Society of Heating and Air Conditioner Engineers says about awnings: You could experience up to a 25% percent saving in your energy bills.

“If you build it, he will come” worked just fine in the movie “Field of Dreams.” In the real world, he-or-she will not come unless you give them a sign.

David Waring is a cofounder of Fit Small Business, a  website that helps businesses grow through detailed articles and advice. @fitsmallbiz