It used to be the case that, if you had something to advertise or promote, you got a sign writer with a piece of plywood and a bucket of paint, and let loose his creativity. Durability, security and professional clean approaches were, if not impossible, hard to achieve.
Today, technology has produced a number of different ways in which rigid signs can be manufactured with a superb level of professionalism, with lifetimes that extend into decades, and durability that ensures protection against vandalism, damage caused by fire and theft.
Most rigid signs are made from a PVC based material or acrylic. Alternatives to these two common materials are Foamex, Coroplast and Alumalite.
Rigid signs made from acrylic are amongst the most durable of all. Acrylic signs may be either transparent or opaque, with opaque signs being laminated to protect them against weathering and vandalism, and transparent acrylic rigid signs having the writing or images printed on the back, so that the entire depth of the sign acts as a protection layer, adding years to the length of life expected.
PVC based rigid signs are usually fixed to a backboard of some kind, and may be illuminated from behind or from the edges, as in shop signs and displays within the shops themselves. The lighting used within these rigid signs is designed to emit almost no heat at all, often using a form of lighting known as Cold Cathode Tubing.
Foamex is another form of PVC and is extremely cheap to manufacture, and very lightweight and portable. Although rigid signs require longevity and stability, Foamex is known to have at least a one year outdoor lifespan, with these being multiplied by ten if used indoors.
Some rigid signs are not designed for a lengthy use, and cost is the most essential factor aside from professional appearance. Examples of these include temporary retail notices, hazard signs near temporary building works, and estate agent signs. The best solution in these cases is Coroplast, which is a form of plastic which has a corrugated interior for structural integrity, and a thin plastic sheet affixed to either side. These signs can often be printed on both sides.
Another method of constructing rigid signs is a method known as Alumalite, which has a strong plastic core with a sheet of aluminium fixed to the front and back. The vinyl lettering or graphics are then attached to the aluminium, and finally a laminate coat is added for protection against weathering and vandalism.
In most cases rigid signs can be fixed permanently using screws, rivets or nails, and can be fixed without the need for expertise. In almost all cases, however, the graphic design involved will be carried out by the sign makers themselves, often calculated in as part of the overall cost, which also includes proofing, where clients receive draft copies for analysis and discussion before the final rigid signs are produced.
Certainly, the range of technologies and the processes involved in the design, manufacture and protection of rigid signs has developed rapidly over recent years, and it is essential for any company to consider carefully the type of sign which will work best for them, and give continued high quality service at best value for money.