Designing Award-Winning Signs: Tenant Panel Design

Don't short-cut this important element

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Don’t fall into the trap of designing monument signs without showing some hypothetical business logos (or at least the business names) on the tenant panels in the illustration – not doing so lessens the design and cripples the impact of the illustration.

Doing it right is easy and fast, if you do it right!
Sure, it’s faster to put the words “future tenant” or “tenant name here” on the drawing, but doing that will actually hurt the impact value for the clients first look at the design. With a little bit of up front prep work, you can provide yourself a resource file of some of the most popular main-stream logos that you can quickly drop into your design. 

Am I being picky? Yes, I am, completely, but for very good reasons that can make the difference between a complete and well planned design or a design that some clients may see as being thrown-together.

Provide illustrations that represent the finished sign
Always provide a design package that’s visually as complete as possible. If you expect the client to fill in the blanks, be prepared for your salesperson to fight harder than they have to in order to get the sale. Even though you’ve created the illustration from scratch with an original idea, leaving out details like tenant logos will give the drawing the same sterile look as a cookie cutter design.

(Illustration A), As shown here, the monument sign illustration is at the development stage where tenant panels are in place and the main sign face is awaiting the anchor stores logo.  At this point, your sign design is bare bones basic and trying to sell this to a client may be rather challenging. The first question out of the customer’s mouth may be “what goes in all the white spaces?” The key is to provide the details and visual graphics completely enough so that the customer doesn’t have to visualize anything, they can simply look at it and know what they are getting.

Who should be listed as a tenant if there are no tenants…yet
Researching city records on who the actual future tenants might be is really out of the question. Sometimes shopping centers are built before all of the spaces are filled, and changes sometimes occur to the tenant list – many times.  The solution is to gather a bit of information about the new facility so that you can put in place names or logos that would most likely be found there. A Medical Center would feature Doctors Names and Clinic names, a local shopping mall may have a Dry Cleaner, a Restaurant or Fast Food Chain Store, an Office Park may contain Law Firms and Legal Services.  Knowing the type of goods or services that the property will provide is key to knowing the types of hypothetical businesses to show on the tenant panels. But, whatever you do, avoid the old stand-by method of putting “Tenant Name Here”, it’s almost worse than leaving them blank. (Illustration C)

Be careful and plan ahead for the use of color logos
The use of black and white logos allows for the architectural features of the sign to stand out, and dominate the design, however it’s never very popular with tenants.  However, by adding color logos, you can open up a sea of visually confusing colors and shapes that can actually hurt the signs readability. It can end up looking like all of the logos merge together into one large, busy, colorful shape. Color logos must be used carefully, so you don’t crowd the images whereby losing the impact that each logo should provide. (illustration D)

Building your tenant logo master file
First off, start with searching for logos on the web and gathering them into a design file. I like to visit a website called “Best Brands of the world.com”.  You can enter the name of the national chain logo you are looking for (such as Arbys’, H&R Block, Taco Bell, etc) and you will be provided vector type logos that you can download for free.  They typically are relatively small in file size, and are available in a variety of formats such as black and white, greyscale and full color.  For most applications, a black and white logo will be the one you’ll download the most.

It’s a good investment of your time to go on a logo hunting expedition in order to build your tenant logo library. As shown with my library, I have collected logos from a variety of business’. Each one is shown in color, however I convert them to black and white prior to using them. (Illustration B)

Reverse weed, or black text on white
When designing a monument sign with tenant panels, the decision must be made as to the color of the background of the panels.  White is easy, but it may not be the most complimentary to the sign’s design. When making decisions as to whether or not to have a dark background or a white background, the choice of how the logos will be rendered becomes absolutely critical.  A uniform dark background can make full color logo placement impossible.  Logo colors will clash not only with each other, but with the sign itself.  Logos with brown text or black borders will look terrible on a dark duranodic bronze panel. White is usually a safer bet if the client insists on color logos. If not, any dark color will work splendidly as a black and white logo can be reverse weeded from the panel face, making the logo (or text) appear white in color.

The upfront design consideration for logos vs text
If the customer wants you to design a sign that utilizes the tenants’ logos, then remember to design your panels with the same proportions as a business card; slightly longer than it is tall.  Most logos do not render well on the typical “text only” long and narrow tenant panel. You must design your monument sign tenant panel section to fit the way the tenants’ logo or name will be presented. (Illustration E) Finding out from the salesperson what the landlords wants and wishes are for their tenant list before you design will help to eliminate confusion and costly redraws.  The landlord may dictate who gets their logo on the sign, and who doesn’t, based on rental agreements.  In illustration E, there were two anchor tenants, and 8 other tenants. The logical choice would be a sign design such as this one.

In conclusion, your illustration should reflect the necessary planning in layout and material sizes, while at the same time provide visual answers as to what the tenant panels will look like, how they are arranged, and what size and shape they are. Knowing what types of logo’s or names are going to be listed on the sign will help you design a monument sign tenant panel that the Landlord, and the tenants, will all approve of.  Don’t short cut the illustration…. add in the logos and names.

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Matt Charboneau

Since 1985, Matt Charboneau has owned and operated Charboneau Signs in Loveland, Colorado. He is a consultant and designer for monument, channel letter and pylon sign projects. His book, "The Pre-Sale Sign Survey Field Guide - The how-to guide on sign surveys for the professional sign salesperson" can be ordered on his website: www.CharboneauSigns.com or by emailing him at Matt@charboneausigns.com.

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