How Long Does it Take to Make a Custom Sign?
First of all, what does the term “average sign project” mean? If “sign projects” range the gamut from the “I’ll Work for Food” marker-on-cardboard signs to the mega-digital signs at New York’s Time Square, then where does the average sign project fall?
Instead of focusing on what’s average, let’s consider the usual sign project stages. That should help answer the question,”What’s the average sign project lead time?”
Stages That Determine a Sign Project’s Lead Time:
Conceptual Stage: Customers realize there is a problem and some type of sign project needs to be contemplated. This stage involves various meetings that consider current challenges and possible resolutions with help from our sales staff, another sign consultant, a collaboration of professionals, or independently by our clients. Depending on the type of project, importance, motivation, budget, and other factors, this stage could range from a few weeks to many years.
Preliminary Design Stage: Customers take a closer look at what could work to produce the most effective results within the existing conditions of code, budget, audience, viewing zone, desired ambiance, surrounding architecture, etc., etc. In this stage, customers may want to see prototypes to help nail down decisions. This stage typically ranges from several weeks to several months depending on the scale of the project, level of design, and whether or not prototypes are used.
Final Design Stage: Once preliminary designs are approved, the project moves into final design, where working drawings are produced for sign manufacture and installation. This stage usually moves fairly quickly, again depending on the project scale, usually ranging from a few days to several weeks.
Permitting Stage: Depending on the locality, permits can take time, and it needs to be factored into sign lead-time estimates. We generally allow for 1-2 weeks for localities to approve permits, varying slightly by locality. Usually the more dense the population the longer the permitting will take. So obtaining sign permits in Northern Virginia (Fairfax, Arlington, Prince William, Stafford, etc) generally takes longer than say Chesterfield, Hopewell, Colonial Heights, etc.
In rare instances we find out that an Overlay District or some other special circumstance overrides the sign ordinance that we weren’t informed about when we initially called for code research. This requires us to go back to the customer with new drawings for approval and then back to the locality for approval. Relationships with localities go a long way and often help expedite the permit process. Our good, established relationships create great channels of communication and can make any required revisions go much faster.
Manufacture Stage: Unless a permit waiver is signed, which can allow production to start in advance of receiving a permit, manufacture can’t proceed until permits are approved. Once it’s a go with the locality, production can be scheduled. Since there are jobs in production ahead of the new project, it may be several weeks until its slot comes up in the production schedule. Most small electric sign projects, like a set of custom channel letters, take about 3-4 weeks; larger projects take at least 4-8 weeks or longer. Signs for large projects are sometimes done in phases that may last more than a year.
Delivery and Installation Stage: Holiday Signs does an excellent job in coordinating manufacture and installation of projects. Arrangements are made for deliveries and installations quickly after sign production is complete. Things that can delay installation range from weather to construction delays on the project itself where areas are not yet ready for signage, etc. Typically, installations do not take as long as other project phases, ranging from a few hours to a few weeks on bigger jobs. Projects involving masonry bases, concrete foundations or multiple facets take longer to coordinate than say installing a simple set of channel letters.
Summing it up, a typical sign project at Holiday Signs can take from several weeks to several years to move from concept to reality. We hope you will allow us the opportunity to find solutions for your upcoming signage problems!
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