Signs of success Featured

9:52am EDT July 22, 2002

When the new corporate home of Schumaker Homes and Schumaker Real Estate opened on Wise Avenue in April, the Schumaker family unveiled more than just a new building.

The Schumakers also decided to completely change and update their companies’ signage. New signs were designed for the inside and outside of their 24,000-square-foot corporate offices, and for the two model homes that sit on the same lot.

The trick was to find signs that would draw enough attention, yet not detract from the warm feel of the model homes or the tasteful landscape.

“It’s very professional, it’s very corporate, but it also has a comfortable feel to it,” says Mary Schumaker Becker, director of sales and marketing, of the new signage.

The Schumakers chose to keep the signs simple. A new message, (“Make yourself comfortable”), with the company logo (Paul Schumaker’s signature), and a pair of slippers. All of the company’s marketing collateral was changed at the same time for consistency.

“Signage is very visual,” Becker says. “You have to be selective with the information you want to convey to your market. It needs to be concise. It needs to be clear. I think our signage does that — it gets the message out.”

While Schumaker Homes retained an out-of-state ad agency to design its new logo (the company now uses Canton’s Innis Maggiore Group), Becker turned to Rick Akers, owner of Akers Signs, for help with implementation.

“You really want to look at the landscaping and the architecture of the building,” says Akers. “You wouldn’t want to put a steel sign in front of a cedar shake building. We really try to take the scenery into consideration.”

Akers offers these tips in choosing and implementing new signage.

1. If you’re building new construction, don’t forget to budget accordingly for identification. While the Schumaker signage project cost well into the tens of thousands of dollars, most signage, when planned for accordingly, should cost about 1 to 2 percent of your total construction budget, Akers says. Basic building-front identification can cost a little as $700 to $800.

The mistake many companies make is they fail to include signage in their initial construction budgets, Akers says. If signage is not included, signs can end up in a parking lot, because the proper island or setback is not included in the architectural plans.

2. Set up a concept design meeting with your sign company. In discussing ideas for a new logo or image, or even updating your current campaign, Akers suggests starting by conveying the emotions you want to relay. Do you want your message to be festive or relaxed? Bright or understated?

Then, discuss what colors you want to incorporate. Also, “understand that it’s not a free service,” Akers says. While an ad agency will often charge more for a logo design, a sign company still must charge a fee for the design work it does.

Once the image has been decided, materials must be considered. Akers uses wood, aluminum, polyurethane and some recycled products. Becker chose plaster for Schumaker Homes’ signage, because of the high volume of traffic in the area, and to keep the colors vibrant, she says.

3. Conduct a feasibility study. Most times, the sign company will do this for you (Akers does), but understand that there are often city or township zoning regulations that must be taken into consideration, including minimum and maximum height requirements, setback requirements and overall size restrictions.

4. Next, choose signs that fit the sign company’s expertise and abilities, any zoning requirements and your company’s image and budget. Then, agree on a project completion date, make sure the right work permits have been obtained and wait for your new image to be unveiled.

“We always ask our customers, ‘What drew your attention?’” Becker says. “It’s amazing how many people will say they were driving by. Obviously, the homes are catching their attention, but signage has a big impact on that as well.” How to reach: Schumaker Homes, (330) 478-4500; Akers Signs, (330) 499-1990 or www.envirosigns.com

Connie Swenson (cswenson@sbnnet.com) is editor of SBN.