Selecting a new sign
for your business can be a challenge if you’re unfamiliar with the terminology and the many types of signs available. Here’s a quick guide to understanding Channels, Cabinets, Returns, Plex, Halo and some other common sign buzz words.
Channel letters are sometimes called dimensional letters, and refer to letters or shapes that have depth. Channels have sides (returns) and a face that’s often illuminated. Or in the case of this example, they can be Reverse Channels, which means the back of the letter is open as opposed to the face. This is also a good example of Halo Illumination, which has a translucent backing that allows the internal LEDs to shine behind the letters onto the supporting surface. In this example we routed design elements into the faces to create both face and halo illuminated channel effects.
Often called box signs, these are self-contained metal cabinets with either internal fluorescent or LED lighting. Depending on the size and location requirements of this sign type, the translucent face can either be made from a type of shatter-proof plastic called polycarbonate (often called poly), a lighter weight and less expensive acrylic (sometimes called plex) or a translucent fabric referred to as flex face. There are other sign face materials available, and some terms are interchangeable depending on who you want to argue with, but for simplicity sake, these two are the most common. Due to the ever-increasing cost of all metals, this sign type can often cost more than intricate channel letter signs due to the amount of metal involved. The good news is these signs are quite robust, and can be easily updated with cost-saving LEDs, repainted, and have a new face installed for often far less than the cost of purchasing a new sign. You should consider the environmental impact imposed by these signs. If you decide to replace one of these, please make sure it is responsibly scrapped. We more often recommend contour routed shapes and channels that are not only more attractive in capturing your logo and brand imagery, but usually require far less material to fabricate.
There are times where a cabinet sign is not only necessary, but can be even more attractive than channel letters or illuminated plastic faces. We use the term “push-thru acrylic” to describe the process of negative routing the graphic elements from the sign face, and having positive translucent acrylic elements pushed-thru. The result is illuminated letters that extrude through the solid sign face, or ones that sit slightly below the surface, depending on the particular design.
These are just a few common sign types we design at Electremedia, and some of the confusing terms we often throw at our customers. Hopefully this helps clarify some of the terminology you’ll encounter when selecting a new sign for your business.