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Designing Award-Winning Signs: Finding Your Font


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"Regional Supply has released a new article for sign makers and sign manufacturers by Matt Charboneau on choosing fonts for award-winning signs. Mr. Charboneau is the owner and operator of Charboneau Signs.

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Designing Award-Winning Signs: Finding Your Font

  1. 1. Designing Award-Winning Signs:Finding Your FontWritten By: Matt Charboneau
  2. 2. Sign makers need to go beyond the traditional font selection processfollowed by traditional graphic design, marketing, and advertisingfirms; they must also take into consideration the constructability of afont while choosing the best font for a project.
  3. 3. With the thousands of fonts atour disposal today, its important forsign-makers to pay special attentionto stroke width and serif sizein the selection process.
  4. 4. Go Beyond Traditional Graphic DesignIts an impossible number to know for sure, but its estimated that the numberof available fonts is in excess of 250,000.With such a high level of variety and selection, the sign designer is oftenpresented with fonts that have been chosen by print media designers for thesimple reason of “looking cool” with no regard for the constructability of thetypeface.Stroke width and serif size are often ignored by print media designers becausethey have no real effect on the final product they give to theircustomer—unless, of course, it’s a sign design.
  5. 5. A critical step in choosing a fontis to calculate and identify the narroweststrokes of the letter, and provide the fabricatora stroke width thatʼs just wide enoughto get their fingers, tools and lightingcomponents in.
  6. 6. Letter StrokeThe best way to really understand these challenges is through hands-onexperience by helping to build a couple of channel letters. In this way, thedesigner will have a better understanding of what it takes to build a channelletter, and how adding just a quarter of an inch to a letter stroke can make adifference in how fast it’s fabricated.In most cases the sign designer must manually adjust the letter stroke in orderto provide adequate space within the stroke for fingers and tools. One of theeasiest and fastest methods of widening a stroke is to add a uniform outline tothe entire letter. “Fattening” the letter can sometimes ruin the appearance ofthe font so much that the letter loses its signature appearance.
  7. 7. There are two main steps to adjust the letter stroke in order toprovide adequate space within the stroke for fingers and tools.Step 1: The process of manually widening the stroke is done through nodeediting. First, convert your letter to curves, then, use your node editing tools tomove each node the appropriate distance to provide a wider stroke, or a largerserif.Step 2: For this example, imagine you are working in Coreldraw. Select both ofthe nodes you want to move and then give the nodes an attribute. Thatattribute is set by using the Shape Tool. Then select the Straight Line attributeso that you can move it to where you want it to be without affecting the othernodes in the letter. As you are working in scale and have marked the desiredstroke width by placing a red line box behind the stroke, now bring the strokelines out so they line up directly over the rectangle you have drawn. In this wayyou now know that the stroke is at the appropriate width for fabricating achannel letter.
  8. 8. If you are designing a neon channel letter,the minimum stroke clearance needed is much widerthan what is required for a LED illumination, both ofwhich are dictated by Underwriters Laboratory (UL).
  9. 9. Neon Channel Letters Require Wider StrokeThe best way to remember this is to actually watch the fabricators assemble atraditional neon letter and an LED letter.Watch how the narrow stroke poses challenges in assembly of the tubesupports and the wiring of the double-backs and boots, as well as fitting thatpiece of 15mm glass tubing inside there, too. It gets crowded pretty quickly andit is wise to be familiar with UL Standard 48 for channel letters.All in all, there has to be enough “wrench room” to assemble the letter, withadequate clearances for fingers, calk guns, illumination and wiring.
  10. 10. Since sign-makers have to be aware of font size while selecting theideal font for a project, the most important thing to remember whenselecting a font for a channel letter sign, or when being presented alogo design that needs to be created as a channel letter sign, is tocheck the width of the narrowest stroke, and verify that the serifsare of proper size for your fabrication capabilities. This onefrequently overlooked step should become a regular item that youverify on every job you design.
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