Creating the perfect illuminated yacht sign, nameplates, lettering and logos

With thanks to YACHTSIGN

Whether a new build or a brokerage-bought yacht, the nameplate, lettering and logos that make up the yacht sign becomes an important addition to the yacht itself, and a way for the owner to express their individuality and style.

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Yacht sign design: The yacht's name in lights

With creativity and budget the only limitations to yacht sign design, if you can dream it, it’s often possible!

According to Andrew Cohen of YACHTSIGN, today’s new standard in professional yachting is having a custom-made yacht sign.

In new-build design, the owner and his or her representatives will typically work closely with the yacht designer or builder to design the sign that best translates their vision, while changing the name of a pre-owned yacht will usually see the owner working directly with a professional sign maker to design and manufacture.

Andrew said it best when he explained, “A yacht sign is the single, most identifiable feature of most yachts; it’s the thoughtful, personal mark of the owner and it’s got to be perfect. To the ownership, its jewellery.” 

Selecting a yacht name confirms your creativity, while enhancing the yacht sign expresses your personality; yacht lettering, logos and name boards can be created out of acrylic, teak or stainless steel materials, in a limitless number of styles and scripts, as unique as handwriting itself. LED lighting can then be added in simple single-color, or multi-colour to backlight the letters.

The importance of lighting and typography in yacht signage

Dynamic yacht-sign lighting

Working with experienced, A/V managers and lighting specialists, it is possible to add dynamic, or multi-coloured “smart” lighting that allows the yacht name and logo to perform spectacular lighting movements or ‘shows’.

Numerous themes and colour combinations can be integrated and controlled by the owner via an app on a smartphone or tablet. Signs can also be further enhanced with select, higher-quality deck-lighting systems and certain types of underwater lighting.

In previous projects, YACHTSIGN has used multi-coloured dynamic lighting to enhance nameplates, shown here on board M/Y Capricorn, whose sign plays on her name by enhancing the sign of the zodiac with tiny lights that blink like the stars.

Capricorn yacht sign

Custom yacht-sign lettering

With an infinite number of fonts and scripts available, the sky’s the limit when it comes to creating beautiful yacht name boards.

Andrew said, “Most designs begin life based as an existing font; this is merely the starting point. The letter shapes are then converted into vector art which is then fully customised depending a number of factors, with input including the owner’s ideas and requests, but also including our experience and guidance, resulting in an improvement from the original.”

His recommendations? “Avoid boring fonts like Times New Roman for goodness sake! Nicer, unique typefaces usually cost the same as those pre-installed on your laptop.”

Today’s signs can be created from something as personal as the owner's handwriting and fonts are selected for specific purpose. In the past, YACHTSIGN has reported receiving texted images of hand-sketches on cocktail napkins with the yacht name penned by the owner’s wife, along with a request, challenge or instruction not to deviate from the submission.  

In another previous project, YACHTSIGN worked with M/Y MiMu's owner and his wife to create a font, which centered on overlapping letters to form the shape of a heart. The nameplate uses dual-dynamic lighting which lights up the heart with a heartbeat. Charter guests are known to take a number of photographs, trying to capture themselves stood in front of the sign whilst the heart is illuminated.

Mi Mu Yacht sign

Ordering your yacht sign: Five things to bear in mind

Andrew passed on his advice to consider when creating a new superyacht sign. 

1. Plan ahead

The sign is amongst the most recognisable elements of a yacht; the name board becomes the yacht’s identity. With endless options to choose from and so many decisions to be made, this is not an item that should be rushed, nor put off to last. If you want to get it done right, be sure to plan for some time to review design suggestions, letter styles, and material options with a specialist that you can trust. 

2. Work with the professionals

Yacht signs are a personal item and something most owners will want to be greatly involved in, and quickly become attached to. They should therefore work with a company that can quickly answer questions and follow up on ideas.

As with most things, poor design and cheap materials quickly become broken letters with bad lighting; all or in part. A broken sign is one of the first things noticed at night, and there is little crew can do aboard to fix this. That’s why working with a trusted company that can provide prompt, fast and uncomplicated customer service is essential.

3. Choose quality lighting and materials

Unfortunately, there is still absolutely no regulation when it comes to manufacturing yacht signs and illuminated lettering. This allows for inexperienced companies to produce products sub-par grades of steel, or unsealed LEDs that should never be used on yachts, or near water. These products don’t perform well in the harsh conditions of a marine environment and can quickly become a safety hazard or one with ill-intended effects. Therefore, always make sure to select marine-grade products that were specifically planned and sealed for use in the harsh marine environment.

4. Consider any limitations

Many lighted signs use light-emitting diodes (LEDs), which are highly sensitive electronics that don’t do well when exposed to saltwater, salt-spray or moisture. Proper waterproofing technology ensures all electronic parts are completely encapsulated to protect the light system from corrosion and shorting out.

5. Look at the bottom price

The cost of owning a yacht sign goes way beyond the purchase price. A higher quality sign with a strong warranty costs more, but only at the point of purchase. Correctly, carefully manufactured signs can last for a decade, and, in many cases can be moved to the ‘next’ yacht where necessary.

A yacht sign should add value and set apart the yacht from others who don’t invest in a well-made sign. Once you have your letters, you can afford for these to not work; but no yacht owner wants to pay to fix them when they don’t. Having to repeatedly dismount letters for repair or replacement adds to the bill in terms of crew hours, technician-labour and equipment costs for man-lifts or scaffolding and shipping costs.


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