Signage Sam: Graphic Designer or Sign Designer?

Signage Sam, answering questions about signs and designs

Signage Sam: Graphic Designer or Sign Designer?

Signage Sam helps Colleen from Perth decide between a graphic designer and a sign designer.

Hi Sam,

I have a dilemma. I have used a graphic designer to design my logo and stationery. I am happy with the result and I now need some illuminated signs for business. 

Shall I risk having my graphic designer design the signs, or should I try to find a sign maker who can hopefully interpret what my graphic designer has developed and build the signs based upon that? 

There seems to be some disconnect here. There are plenty of graphic designers and plenty of sign shops, but relatively no companies who do both.

I would appreciate your advice on this dilemma.

– Colleen, Perth, WA


Dear Colleen,

Let me tell you a little about the first sign company I worked. I can’t say which one it was, but that’s not important. The interesting part is how it functioned.

We didn’t use computers (believe it or not, it’s true). We had sign salesmen, fabricators, installers and a sign designer who did just that – design signs. It’s fair to say that the company I worked for was the market leader and the company marketed itself as specialists, which they were. 

The sign designer was trained not only in design but in sign manufacturing techniques, the use of various materials, paints, plastics, metals, electrical and installation methods. The sign designer played a key role in the organisation because this person was an expert. The sign designer was essentially the driving force that helped to achieve a positive result for both the company and the client.

Today, sophisticated computer programmes have resulted in hundreds of ‘designers’ who have a degree in graphic design. But they do not necessarily offer the full creative process from design to manufacture to installation. 

This ‘process’ calls for an expertise which cannot be achieved with a tertiary degree alone. Experienced sign people who have done the ‘hard yards’ learned through trial and error, made mistakes and realised success are the people you want to engage. These creative people are the ones whose expertise you should make use of. Such individuals will have a broad and varied history of working experience behind them. This history gives you plenty of information to assess them by and gives you what you need, not what someone else thinks you want.

You don’t need to feel stuck between choosing either a graphic designer or sign maker!

My advice to you would be to take the work of your graphic designer to a number of sign companies and meet with the key people, including the sign designer. Show them what you have, ask about their experience and go from there.

What if they don’t have a signage designer? Choose another sign shop.

Remember: buying a sign is an integrated process. It’s a relationship between you, the client, the designer and your audience. Quality signage is an investment which has a direct impact on your clients. For this reason, trust the reputation of your business only to professionals.

All the best,


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