Shade structures can be surprisingly affordable. There are so many options, you’re sure to find a system that nicely fits your budget. Of course “affordable” can mean different things to different buyers. Everyone wants to get the best deal possible, but often schools and non-profits, even businesses, have strict limitations. And you undoubtedly have to demonstrate cost-effectiveness to someone – a spouse, boss, Board of Directors, City Council, even voters.
Blinded by the light? Just a bit too toasty sitting outside? Adding an awning can make your penthouse patio the perfect outdoor room. And today’s awning designs can turn your patio into a place you may even want to use year round.
One of the first things you should do when considering a new awning is investigate what building codes or other policies exist that govern such structures. Rules vary from place to place, but every state has its own set of regulations. A city awning will likely have to conform to more extensive requirements, because most municipalities including New York City often add their own layer of specifications.
So you’re in the market for shade structures . You face a tremendous range of choices, because these days shade structures offer far more than the basic square canopy you may be envisioning. In fact, there are so many options available in terms of materials you can drive yourself nuts and spend a lot of time researching all of them.
Sometimes you need a change. If you have an architectural canopy , you rely on it to perform certain practical functions, such as protecting people from sun or rain. But you also rely on it to be a handsome addition to your building’s exterior and a multi-faceted marketing tool. So how long have you had that canopy?
How strong your canopy needs to be depends how you’ll use it, and how long. A canopy for seasonal shade won’t require the same strength or durability as a permanent structure that must withstand all weather, year round. Fortunately you’ll find fabrics in architecture to exactly match your needs.
Signs and awnings tell a story. It could be an overall message that identifies your business or, in the case of most interior signs, promotes something specific such as an event or product. But let’s concentrate on the big picture here – outdoor signs and awnings.
The essentials of good design are the same for both, resulting in visual impact that increases your visibility and establishes a sense of identity.
What’s your message?
A sign is a communications tool. Your awning is also a sign even though it can serve a practical purpose, too, such as protecting people from the elements. Optimizing your signs and awnings requires thoughtful attention to the graphic design, not just the functional design.
What do you want to say? Your goal is to attract people’s attention so you can inform or direct them. They may be walking by, or they may be driving or riding on a bike or the bus. How fast they’re moving determines how much time they’ll have to grasp your message.
Even mediocre signs and awnings can help people find you. But well-designed ones will attract new customers by showcasing your business or building. It’s that extra marketing benefit you want to capture.
More isn’t necessarily better.
The larger signs and awnings are, the more you can do with them. But realistically there are limitations to what looks good and works well. What sort of text or graphics you should use depends on your type of business, and it could be different for your sign and your awning.
You want signs and awnings to be eye-catching, not eye-watering, so follow these guidelines:
- They should look consistent and coordinated with all your other signage and marketing materials.
- Make them easy to read from a distance. The “seven word rule” says people cannot take in a message longer than that. Distance dictates lettering size, and the rule of thumb is at least three inches in height from 100 feet away.
- A picture’s worth a thousand words, right? Using graphics – your logo or even a photo – can give energize your signs and awnings. You want them to stand out, but they should also look appropriate and compatible with their surroundings. Don’t use more than one key graphic element, because people can’t focus on several things at once. They tend to look away instead, which is counter-productive. Keep the number of colors to a minimum, too.
- Don’t use all caps, as they’re harder to read and are often the visual equivalent of shouting. Bolder font is more readable, though, because it provides stronger contrast.
Light them up.
You may not be open for business 24 hours a day 7 days a week, but certainly you want people to see your signs and awnings all the time. Why pass up an opportunity to highlight who and what and where you are? That means you need lighting to make sure your signs and awnings are fully visible at all hours, even when it’s dusky or dark or the weather’s bad.
There are lots of lighting options, depending on the size and location of your sign or awning. You’ll want to consider:
- Whether it’s best to light from the front or the back.
- Whether there are any building codes or other regulations that restrict lighting.
- How much light you’ll actually need.
Major business signs and permanent awnings are a longer-term investment. They’ll need to last for several years and keep looking smart the entire time, so get the best you can. Working with a experienced expert will ensure your signs and awnings are properly designed, constructed and installed to reflect the quality and professionalism of your business.
Photo Credit: David Boyle via Flickr
There’s nothing like an awning to make a restaurant look great. It doesn’t matter if you’re a “seafood shack” down by the water or a grandly elegant dining room. A restaurant awning can be a subtle addition to your exterior or it can boldly stand out, but the right one will set you apart and help grow your business.
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