The use of signs to call attention to or designate a business, forms an important portion of publicity. There are two classes of signs- permanent signs, as a firm name placed over a door or on a building, and temporary signs, as one noting the fact that a place has changed hands.
There are three primary requisites of a good sign. First, a sign should not be overcrowded with words, but should be as concise and comprehensive as the nature of the case will allow. Many signs are stultified by this fact alone, as people have neither the time nor the inclination to stop to read a sign having too much matter upon it. Second, the letters themselves should not be crowded. Third, the letters used should be of such a character as to be easily read by anyone.
The sign bearing the firm name or an equivalent is of primary importance and calls for a suitable location and easily read lettering. A common form of this sign is a board sign over an entrance, the lettering being in Roman caps, the letters gilded or silvered and having an iridescent background, made by sifting on sand or ground glass while the paint is fresh. Projecting signs extending perpendicularly from a building and extending over the sidewalk are very effective. Such signs usually bear letters in relief and often are illuminated.
Signs are illuminated in various ways. A simple and at the same time effective way is by having a row of electric lights so disposed along the upper edge of a sign as to illuminate the entire sign by means of a box reflector. The most common and probably the most effective illuminated sign is the sign bearing electric lights- either continuous or intermittent- upon the face of the letters. A sign projected several inches from the face of a building and having small holes bored close together around the outline of the letters may be illuminated by means of incandescent lights between it and the building.
A form of sign in common use in windows is made by lettering in gold or silver the wording or design on the inside of the glass, the design being well backed with varnish to insure permanency. Metal letters make very serviceable signs. These may be classified into two divisions, those fixed outside a window or sign, and those fixed inside, or concave and convex. Solid copper and brass letters have been much used for outside application and are of good appearance, but possess the drawback of requiring daily cleaning. Concave letters are generally of stamped copper with the inside face gilded and fixed against the inside of the window. It is usual to outline in black the letters on the window a trifle larger than metal. When the paint dries the lip of the metal letter is cemented over the painted one on the window, the face side then showing a black outline with a concave gilded letter White enamel letters are very serviceable and require little attention, being fixed to the outside of the glass.
Large wooden letters are often braced from the tops of buildings so as to stand out in relief against the sky. They are of simple construction and often eight to ten feet in height, though appearing much smaller from the ground. They stand perpendicularly from the edge of the roof and are braced and wired to stand the most violent storm. A thin sheet metal letter is often used displayed upon a screen for a relief sign. Large signs, readable a great distance away, are fastened to a large gas pipe frame and are a very striking form of advertisement.
Included in this class are all signs designed to be used for a limited time. They are made in almost endless variety, both in the window to call attention to or aid in the display, or, inside the store to emphasize the policy of the firm or to call attention to the goods. These may be made distinctive and the best advertising, as already mentioned under window dressing. Price tickets are used by all the popular stores and by many catering only to the exclusive.
Outside temporary signs, usually used in noting closing-out sales, removals, auctions, etc., are usually of stout cotton cloth stretched across the entire front of the store, though enameled oil cloth or even Manila pattern paper is used.
A form of temporary sign only within the reach of the largest dealers and then only at certain times, is obtained by the use of dead-wall space, during building operations, the cost of such displays amounting to several thousand dollars per sign.
In having a sign made the merchant should secure the best possible materials to economize in wear and repairs, a competent workman to produce an artistic sign, and should study to have his sign characteristic of his business and in keeping with it. So made and displayed with judgment a sign will be found one of the best means of securing publicity.