ImageFirst News

Seeing Is Believing: 3 Benefits of Prototypes

Tuesday, March 26, 2019

Prototypes are key to sign design. 

They allow us to create a form out of a concept so that everyone who is involved in the process can give feedback, then necessary adjustments can be made before the final version is produced.

We’re wrapping up the prototype phase for a 106”(h) x 176”(w) x 7”(d) logo sign, that installs on glass, for a large stadium renovation which inspired us to share 3 benefits of prototyping.

1. Evaluating design and materials.

Design and specified materials may look really cool on paper or online, but may not always work in the ‘built world’ for the specific application you need them for. This is why testing is important.

In our case, illuminated “laser fiber” wire was specified to achieve an illuminated yellow line of color to fill the double-sided logo for a sign. The laser fiber is essentially a long string of clear wire that illuminates. To achieve the look the wire would need to be wrapped back and forth across the interior/middle of the sign. By wrapping the fiber back and forth the lines would not run straight which was not the design intent.

Through this process, we also learned that the fiber could not be obstructed or “kinked” because the illumination would be degraded. It was just too many chances to take for the life of this sign.

Version 1 Prototype size is 24”(h) x 24”(w) x 7”(w) aluminum box with routed logos on both sides that easily opened up for modifications.


The final solution.

To achieve the illuminated lines, we’re using laser etched acrylic that is edge illuminated to achieve the lined look with clear acrylic (opaqueness still being determined) over the top to protect the laser etch lines and help with illumination. During this process, it was also determined that a single faced sign (logo only on one side) would be more effective due to frosted glass at the install site and to avoid having the logo reversed. Lastly, by using RGB LEDs the perfect yellow, PMS116C, can be achieved.

Version 2 Prototype, also 24”x24”x7” has a single faced routed design, etched acrylic, and edge illumination using RGB LEDs from Principal LED.


By testing the design and materials it is allowing us to move forward to production with a clear plan.


2. Efficient pricing. Always respect the budget!

It’s no surprise that creating an effective prototype with approved design and materials makes the pricing super efficient.

Correct materials can all be ordered in accurate quantities because we KNOW they will work. Production time is reduced because of the clear methods achieved during the prototype process.

The final solution:

We actually saved the university 11% using our prototyped design rather than the original design. However, we have not put this into final production yet. This sign is to be installed mid-summer.

Overall, the cost of prototyping (for the manufacturer especially) far outweighs the costs associated with large-scale mistakes and client dissatisfaction.

3. Happy Customers.

In the end, clients just want their sign to look fantastic, pay a fair price, and be low maintenance. Involving the client on the prototyping process helps achieve buy-in on the design and materials, appreciation of the vendor’s expertise, and no surprises during production or delivery.

The final solution:

To be continued…

*We’ll update with photos of the final product once installed. Stay tuned.


Have a question about prototyping or signage in general? Shoot us an email

Have a specific question for the designer on this project? Email Nick Nelson.

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