Church signs: expert advice, from selection to operation

church signsHow important is the main sign at a church?

A: Critically important. In most cases, it is the best marketing tool the church has — after its reputation and word-of-mouth.

What is the first thing a church should do when considering a new church sign?

A: They need to figure out what they want and why they want it. Everyone already in the church knows what’s going on, so your sign gives you the opportunity for more outreach, or to evangelize, or to communicate any type of message. And it will do it 24/7. But if you want to say more than just the time of services, you’re going to need more space for the message. Four lines with 18 to 21 characters on a line will allow you to express a complete thought.

New Picture (33)After a church determines what it wants from a sign, what’s next?

A: The physical attributes of the location will determine the best sign. The traffic, the speed limit, the number of lanes — all have to be considered.  A hill or a curve in the road could be significant.

What about zoning laws?

A: That is important. It’s critical to learn what the local zoning regulations are before you invest in a sign. There will probably be minimum setbacks and perhaps height restrictions. There might even be some cosmetic requirements, but it’s imperative to know what the limitations are. Ask for help from your supplier or architect.

Is a double-sided sign necessary?

A: Almost always, yes. You can’t have a sign that’s parallel to the street and expect people driving by to be able to read it. They will only have a couple of seconds to see it as they approach, depending on the speed limit; and once they’re even with the sign, the readability stops. People need five to seven seconds minimum to read a sign, so unless you’re on a one-way street, you’re going to need a double-sided sign.

Should the sign be electronic, or is a manual sign OK?

A: Both will work for basic messaging. Most seem to be going electronic these days because that’s when the sign turns into a powerful marketing tool. Many commercial businesses have seen their activity jump anywhere from 15 percent to 150 percent directly traceable to a new LED sign.

What are the advantages of an LED sign?

A: It is easier and safer to change the message, and it’s a great way to create a landmark in your community with fresh and dynamic messages, plus advertising local events. Know the demographics of your target audience. It might help your church appeal to younger people, because it’s 21st-Century technology and shows you are more up-to-date.

Are all LED signs basically the same?

A: Are all cars basically the same? Not exactly. They have four wheels and an engine, but everything else is determined by what fits for the driver.
With LED signs, there are two basic factors that determine the right one for an organization: pitch (resolution) and matrix (size). The pitch determines the resolution; how clear the image will be; the lower the pitch, the clearer the image. Typically, LED signs viewed at a long distance can use a higher pitch (example: 25mm) and signs viewed closer will need a lower pitch (example: 10mm). The matrix determines how big the sign will be. Factors that determine size are the type of messages and how far away it needs to be viewed. An expert vendor will work with a client to determine the best fit for the location as it can be tricky.

And a high-resolution sign will be more expensive?

A: Yes, if you compare two LED signs with the same physical dimensions. The higher-resolution sign will cost more. A lower and tighter pitch (better resolution) is typically driven by the client’s type of business. Sometimes, making sure a picture is clear and understood is very important.

What about electronic signs with pictures on them? Are they very expensive?

New Picture (31)A: When compared to electronic signs that only do text, certainly, they will cost more. They can display text, graphics, animations and pictures. Pretty much anything you can do on a computer screen you can do on an LED sign.

First, you have to check if the zoning allows them. Then, there are some technical questions regarding the brightness of the lights and the density of pixels on the screen that all relate to the readability of the sign under various conditions.

Will a church need a technician to operate an animated sign?

A: Not at all. Someone is going to have to program the message, but talk with your vendor. Good signs will come equipped with good content management systems that have plenty of preprogrammed art, so you don’t have to be a creative genius to operate one. Some systems even come with access to professional designers who can create the content for you. Furthermore, many of these systems allow you to program your sign from a remote location.

What’s the most common regret among church sign buyers?

A: They wish they had bought a full-color or a larger sign. At the time of purchase, there might have been budgetary considerations or other compromises made. But if they had to do it over, they would choose a bigger, better sign.

They also wish they hadn’t performed the installation themselves. Some vendors state how easy installing your sign can be, but be careful of the liability or voiding your warranty, and make sure you consider all the costs involved before moving forward.

— Reporting by Steve Kane


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