Make an Impactful First Impression with Channel Lettering

Channel letter signs are a type of three-dimensional signage which is often illuminated that helps to identify your business or organization in a professional and upscale way. These types of signs are very common in malls and shopping centers and come in a variety of configurations. Channel letters are custom designed and manufactured to suit the needs of the customer.

How are Channel Letters Manufactured?

Channel letters are often made up of multiple pieces that comprise the entire sign. The most common type of channel letters are face-illuminated channel letters. These are fabricated cans made using a combination of CNC machining, CNC bending, and hand assembly & fabrication. The backs and returns are typically made of prefinished aluminum and paired with acrylic faces with a plastic trim cap that secures the faces to the cans. This is similar in style to a shoe box, where the face would be the lid and the can would be the main part of the box. Then the two sides of each letter are secured together with screws around the perimeter of the face.

Efficient LED Illumination

LED Illumination is what is used in channel letters and has been commonplace since shortly after the turn of the century. It has almost entirely replaced its neon predecessor except in specialty and retro style applications. LED illumination is more advantageous in a number of different ways. LEDs are much more energy efficient which translates into long term cost saving on utilities. They are also more tolerant of cold weather and will illuminate the same brightness year round unlike gas discharge tubes like neon. They are low voltage systems and are not susceptible to the same faults that high voltage systems like neon are. LEDs are much more robust and not as fragile as their neon predecessor.

Raceway vs Flush Mount

A raceway is a fabricated box, or wireway, that goes behind the channel letters. The letters mount to this and the raceway mounts to the facade of the building. We typically paint our raceways to closely match the paint color of the facade so they do not detract from the letters themselves. Raceways often simplify installation, especially in cases where the back side of the wall is inaccessible or on a parapet style wall. They also simplify service as well since the raceways contain the power supplies for the LEDs which makes a power supply replacement much easier.

Flush mount letters are just that…flush mounted to the wall. There is no raceway behind the letters and each letter component gets mounted to the facade individually. The power supplies are remote mounted, typically behind the facade. The advantage of flush mount letters is that they can and oftentimes do have a cleaner appearance depending on the overall sign design. Flush mount letters may also go by other terms such as: Individually mounted channel letters or remote mount channel letters.

You may wish to check with your landlord (if leasing), to ensure that they do not have any sign criteria that stipulate which type of mounting system is to be used. Likewise some permitting jurisdictions may also have restrictions, so it is also important to check with local zoning requirements.

Other Styles of Channel Letters

While face illuminated channel letters are the most ubiquitous, there are some other types of channel letters as well. Reverse Illuminated Channel Letters are a type of letter where the can is mounted in reverse and spaced away from the wall. The illumination is cast out the back of the letter and the light is diffused across the facade. When the letter is in front of this wall wash it creates a subtle halo effect; hence, one of the other names these letters go by, which is halo illuminated channel letters or backlit channel letters. Due to the lighting and mounting requirements, these cannot be mounted to raceways.

Combination-Lit or Front/Back Lit Channel Letters are a hybrid between the front illuminated channel letters and Halo illuminated letters. They have a conventional face that lights as well as cast light out the back. This is more of a specialty style letter that gives that extra pop. Because of the extra work and materials involved in their fabrication, they are on the upper end of the price scale, but are a great choice for that one of a kind impression.

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Frequently Asked Questions

Some landlords will have specific requirements on the type of signs that they will permit on their property for their tenants. This is often done to maintain uniformity across all tenants and improve curb appeal for the shopping center. Many shopping centers will require channel letters over box signs. Some may require channel letters to be raceway mounted while others may desire flush mount channel letters without a raceway. 

Many landlords include this in their lease documents.  Please check there first. If you don’t find the requirements there, ask your landlord if they have a sign criteria document. If not, it may be good to take photos of your neighboring tenants signs as that will give us a better idea of what your landlord will allow. Provide this information to your Kenney Signs representative when you contact us as this will help streamline the process of guiding you in your sign purchase. It is also common practice to send the sign design to the landlord for approval before we proceed with the permit process and manufacturing.

In most areas permits are a common requirement for this type of sign. Kenney Signs can help apply for the required permits within our service area. Some jurisdictions will handle all the permits and inspections. Others may require inspections via a third party inspector. Your friendly Kenney Signs representative can guide you through this process once they know more about your location.

Yes, that is typically part of the process with this type of sign. We not only design and manufacture the sign, but also install the sign as well (within our service area). It is often best if we are able to handle the entire process turnkey.

This can vary depending on the specifics of a job. With this type of sign, we need to create and get an initial customer approval on a design in order to estimate it. Generally the process goes in this order:

  • Initial consultation with customer
  • Preliminary design for customer approval
  • Customer approval of initial design (in some cases, landlord pre-approval as well)
  • Estimation of sign
  • Customer approval of estimate, design sign-off, and deposit
  • Request property owner affidavit. (Landlord for tenants)
  • Permit application and approval process
  • Sign goes into production
  • Sign completion and scheduling of installation
  • Installation
  • Final inspections
  • Final Balance due including any extras such as permit fees

Yes, our signs are UL listed and Kenney Signs is a UL certified shop. This is an important requirement for these types of signs as they will require permits and inspections. Electrical inspectors look for proper certification during their inspections.

There are a number of standard colors available for the different components of a channel letters sign. This is something your designer will help you select when consulting with you. They will be able to determine what will work best for your requirements and not overwhelm you with all the potential options. In some cases, custom colors can be created by alternate processes.

Yes, it is possible to incorporate digitally printed graphics into a channel letter sign design. Your designer will help you determine what is needed and what will be most effective.

Maybe or maybe not. Logos can vary greatly in complexity. Please send a copy of your logo to your designer for review. They will help determine if it is suitable for sign use and more specifically for channel letter construction. We will be able to make recommendations which may include modifications to the logo or by placing the logo into a channel case alongside more targeted text.

Yes and no. Sometimes we work with reputable national chains to install signs manufactured by a corporate supplier. More recently, we have encountered customers that have purchased signs through online marketplaces. Oftentimes, we will need to decline installation of these signs as the build quality and serviceability is substandard. Many times they are not properly certified (i.e. UL Listed). As an installer, it is our reputation and license on the line when it comes time for inspections, and many of those signs are unable to pass inspection. So, installation of third-party signs would be determined on a case-by-case basis.