Updated: Dec 10, 2020
Have you ever wondered what goes on behind the scenes? How exactly are signs made? Well, there is actually a lot more than meets the eye during the production of signage. There are four main stages, but those stages are quit complex. Let's take a look at what all is involved from top to bottom....
The first step is to recognize and identify what specific message is trying to be portrayed and to what audience. Duh, this is a no-brainer you say? Yeah, yeah, I know, but stick with me. So this is where the planning and design process takes off. When designing happens, the main goal is to effectively communicate the intended message while portraying it through some combination of pictures and words. In other words, visual communications. During this stage, the designer and client may have numerous consultations. The use of signage will be discussed to help identify what type of substrate, size, colors, fonts, graphics, verbiage, etc. will be used. Often times, at this point, the designer will run with everything that has been discussed and come up with a design to best accomplish what was sought after. Revisions are made based on the customer's requests. This step has no definite time frame. At times, this step can be very short and sweet and to the point. Other times, this process may take days, weeks, or even months depending on the intricacies of the specific project. Once the artwork is approved though, this step is complete and ready for production.
Production is where all of the planning from the design stage starts to materialize. During this step, the materials that will be needed to complete the project are gathered. There are several different directions to go with this though. Single color vinyl will be die cut using a machine called a vinyl cutter. Pretty straight forward, right? Digital vinyl and/or substrates will be printed using a large format printer. After printing has taken place, the material will need to rest for a duration of time to allow the inks to gas out. The out-gassing is the process of allowing the ink to cure. This can take anywhere from 24 to 36 hours or more depending on the amount of ink coverage. Once the ink has cured, the vinyl is ready for lamination if the job includes it. Not all materials and signs will require this step of being laminated. Banners, for instance, will not be laminated. The need for lamination is a case by case basis. Next, the printed and laminated material will be contour cut. This can be done either by hand or with the use of a cutter. A similar process is gone through as mentioned with the single color vinyl die cutting. After the vinyl is cut, it's time to weed. Weeding is the process of removing the unwanted and excess vinyl. The portion that remains is the actual cut design. The only thing left to do then is to prepare the vinyl to be transferred to the actual substrate. The specialized tape responsible for this may be called pre-mask, transfer tape, or application tape. Regardless of what it may be called, they all do the same job.
We are moving right along and the project is really starting to take shape! Now that we have all of our materials ready, we can begin the fabrication process. Fabrication is the process of assembling all of the pieces and parts to create the actual sign, banner, shirt, etc. At this point, the vinyl will be either stuck or heated to the substrate. Banners will be hemmed and grommeted if so requested. Detail is key here. Quality control is a priority and perfection is the goal. Once everything is assembled, the full process may be complete at this point and no further work will be done.
However, there is an exception. Some jobs will go through installation. This stage is performed in the field and on location of the customer's business. If a vehicle is being wrapped though, the vehicle will be dropped off by the client. To prevent any outdoor elements from contaminating the job, the vehicle will be placed in a climate controlled bay to ensure that the utmost quality is attained. Depending on the type and size of install or wrap, this process may take anywhere from 30 minutes to a week or more to complete. After the install is complete, the entirety of the job is finished!
While it may seem simple from the outside, there is a lot more that goes into producing signage behind the scenes. A simple idea goes through a number of processes to bring it to life. When it's all said and done though, the results should speak volumes and most importantly the customer should be happy with their product! Comment below to let us know if this was helpful or ask us anything else you would like to know about creating signs. We love to hear from our community! We would be more than happy to walk through this process together with you on your next signage project. Contact Impact Signs today and we'll get started bringing your great ideas to fruition!