Here`s why you should choose a custom printed sign instead

Letter board signs have been around for a long time. They’re a popular choice, but not necessarily the best one.

Changeable letter signs, also known as reader boards, line signs, or roadside signs, act as changeable message boards where business owners switch out each letter one-by-one by hand. Usually, the letters are printed on flexible plastic cards that slide into place along a track, but in the case of magnetic signs, the letters adhere to the board with magnets. A labour intensive and a lengthy process, these signs require careful planning in advance to avoid being stuck outside in inclement weather where the wind is likely to sweep away a crucial number or letter.

When you consider the maintenance and labour costs associated with changeable letter signs, a custom printed sign is easier and more affordable. Unless you need to update your sales message daily, these changeable message signs just don’t compare with the ability to leverage your brand identify in selling your product or service. A custom printed sign, one that showcases your brand image and your logo, will resonate with your customers far better than a generic one.

Letter board signs may look simple, but they’re more work than most people have time to deal with. Here are a few big things to consider, as well as some insights that those other sign shops won’t warn you about.

But first, a history lesson.

During the early 20th century, car sales were booming. People were changing the way they commuted, therefore, marketers and business owners also had to find a new way to reach potential customers.

Product image
Theaters were one of the first businesses to plaster sales messages on large display boards with removeable letters. This convenient, changeable sign would quickly inform drivers about what show was playing that night. And the sign worked! So well that this style of sign first received the name: Marquee board.

News of its success spread like wildfire. Soon every church, motel, gas station and convenience store had a marquee board too. These signs were easy to use and gave businesses flexibility. But the real advantage was how affordable it was to advertise compared to buying a custom sign.

Back then a custom sign was painstaking hand-painted by a signwriter. Signwriters were artists who learned and developed their craft through apprenticeship and years of training. That kind of skill cost money, and a custom painted sign of was often out of reach for small business owners. Changeable letter signs were an affordable alternative, so they flourished.

Letter boards remained popular until the 1980’s when computer generated vinyl printing technology arrived. What was once a convenient and customizable advertising tool had quickly become cheap and dated. Now that digital printing is affordable, more and more small businesses have moved away from the old-fashioned letter board or marquee style signs to take advantage of more customized, attractive, affordable, and easy to install digitally printed signs.

Key issues to consider

At first glance, a changeable message sign may seem like the ideal way to promote your business. It offers so much flexibility, who wouldn’t want that? But what you’re not seeing when you read those sales messages and witty jokes is the time and money put into organizing, storing, and maintaining these signs. Here are a few key things to consider:


You’ve probably heard the phrase “a picture is worth a thousand words”. It was originally coined by an advertising executive who discovered ads with images lead to higher sales. And scientists agree with him. Studies have shown that subjects consistently recall pictures better than words or phrases. But if you want to add an image to a letter board sign, you’re out of luck.

What you gain in message flexibility with these text-only signs, you end up losing in aesthetic and functionality. Overall, the system is very limiting. The letters are all the same size, which means you have to get extra creative with your message

Product image
You only have a few brash, fluorescent colours to choose from, and the wrong mix of contrasting colours can be hard on the eyes. Often there are only six rows, holding about ten to 20 characters each, including spaces, and the sign doesn’t provide much space between lines, which makes it hard for viewers to read and retain your message.


Changeable letter board signs are an investment. You will need between 200-400 letters and numbers, and you will be responsible for organizing, coordinating and maintaining them. If you have more than one set of letters, you must ensure each letter is sorted with its correct font family. Mismatched fonts are very noticeable when viewed from a distance, and this may reflect poorly on your business.

You can expect to add letter management, cleaning and storing supplies to your list of duties. You will also need to find sufficient storage space to store letters when not in use —a box or filing cabinet won’t work as well as you might think.


These signs require a lot of work. In addition to crafting the right message, you’re responsible for installing it too. You must choose the right mix of colours and fonts, analyze and adjust the spacing, and place each one correctly and carefully to ensure it stays put — all while enduring the elements.

If you’re not setting up the sign yourself, you must ensure your staff are competent, detail oriented, and trained well. It’s very common to see letters and numbers installed backwards, upside down, in mixed fonts and colours. The potential for error is high, and inconsistencies can negatively impact your brand’s image.


Letter board signs look neat and tidy when they’re new, but overtime they lose their luster. Most people don’t realize just how high maintenance these signs really are, which is why they’re a poor choice for busy small business owners. While in use, and before being stored away, each letter must be inspected to ensure it is clean and complete. Broken and damaged letters are distracting and make it hard for customers to read your message. If your sign is in disrepair, it may give off the wrong impression about the quality of your product or service. You’ll have to be on top of replacing broken, faded and missing letters — a time consuming and costly endeavour.

The horizontal tracks that hold the letters must also be cleaned and inspected regularly, otherwise the letters may not fit or stay put. These tracks become brittle with sun exposure, and can break easily from high winds or improper letter installation. The board itself must be cleaned regularly to avoid looking old and dirty, and even with regularly cleaning, the background color will fade due to UV damage.


There’s just something about these signs that invites mischief. Wise guys are often tempted to play with your sign’s message. They may think they’re just having a bit of harmless fun when they play a game of word scramble or rearrange your sales message to spell something funny or inappropriate. But the truth is the resulting message could potentially hurt your brand’s image.

Why choose custom printed?

Potential customers judge everything about your business — from the quality of your products to the cleanliness of your storefront — so you can bet they’re going to judge you by the sign you put up.

When choosing a sign for your business, you have to consider more than just the message. You’ll want to choose a sign that’s clean, presentable, and professional. Something that reflects your brand’s identify. A cheap, generic, multi-purpose letter board doesn’t fit the bill, but a custom-printed sign featuring your brand’s colours and logo will.

The Sign Guru difference

Bright, vivid, full-color artwork catches the eye and has statistically proven to make advertisements more noticeable. It’s attention grabbing. Exactly what you want your signage to be. Our high-pigment inks and high-resolution digital printer produce rich, vibrant images with increased colour density, transforming your ideas into high impact signage that is brilliant and appealing to the eye. Don’t bore your customer. Dazzle them with something bold and beautiful.

Product image
Ours signs are:

  • Affordable
  • Compact
  • Mobile and portable
  • Highly visible
  • Clean and professional
  • Easy to update
  • Offer more value per square foot than our competitors

When designing your sign, it’s important to consider visibility, readability and legibility, along with your brand’s look and feel. Our team of experienced designers take care of everything from choosing the right file formats to increasing your sign’s visual appeal – we can even rebuild your logo. You provide the message. We’ll take care of everything else.

Locally owned and operated, Sign Guru gives you the competitive edge you need to grow your business. We pride ourselves on being a one-stop shop. We handle all aspects of the design, production and installation. From transporting and installing the equipment, to performing safety assessments and obtaining city permits – we take care of it all so you can focus on what’s important.

If you’re in the market for a sign, don’t be fooled into using a letter board that’s more work than it’s worth. Instead, let us show you how a custom-printed sign will help boost your business.

* source

Contact Darrell, the Sign Guru, for a quote today.