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Designing Memorial Plaques That Endure

May 22, 2024 Plaques

When someone special passes away, we search for ways to honor their memory and ensure their legacy lives on. A well-crafted memorial plaque is a timeless tribute – but what makes a plaque truly special?

Consider two very different examples.

In a quiet park, a bronze plaque on a bench reads, “In loving memory of John Smith, who found joy in nature’s beauty.” The understated design and heartfelt sentiment capture John’s spirit.

In contrast, at a university’s science center, a large glass plaque with colorful photos and text celebrates the groundbreaking research of Dr. Jane Doe. The striking visuals and detailed descriptions showcase Jane’s impressive achievements.

Both are equally precious to their acquaintances, but every detail of the memorial plaque shapes the story it wants to tell future generations. In this guide, we’ll walk you through the process of designing a plaque – so you can create a fitting tribute to your loved one that stands the test of time.

Memorial plaques for various settings: From parks to offices

A memorial plaque is a beautiful way to honor someone’s life, and the plaque’s placement matters a lot.

It’s best to decide on the plaque’s location before thinking about design, as the location impacts choices like size and material. Some locations where memorial plaques can be placed include:

  • Schools/educational buildings: In schools, university campuses, and other educational institutions, memorial plaques are reminders of those who made a mark on the institution’s history. For example, a teacher or professor who dedicated decades to the school or a visionary leader, donor, or alumni who shaped the educational landscape.
Bronze memorial plaque at a high school
  • Office buildings: Offices, especially those of startups or businesses founded by remarkable individuals, can become a place of remembrance. A memorial plaque on the wall pays tribute to the entrepreneurial spirit that laid the foundation for the company’s success.
  • Government buildings: The contributions of public service officials can be commemorated in government buildings, symbolizing their dedication to their communities.
  • Community locations: Placing a memorial plaque in a local park or community center celebrates the people who made these spaces special.
  • Park benches: A memorial plaque fixed on a bench overlooking a serene landscape can be a fond memory of those who enjoyed nature.
  • Crematorium: Even in the solemn setting of a crematorium, memorial plaques offer solace and remembrance to grieving families. 

Designing a lasting memorial plaque

Once you have chosen a location that truly reflects the essence of the person, it’s time to consider the design. What material will be used for the plaque? Where will it be placed? 

Choosing the perfect material and size for permanence and beauty

The choice of material for a memorial plaque is important because you want it to look good and withstand seasonal challenges. Outdoor plaques need to maintain their overall aesthetic and not be easily weathered. There are a range of plaque finishes and options that can help in this.

Some commonly used materials include:

  • Cast bronze: Cast bronze plaques offer a classic and timeless appearance, making them a popular choice for memorializing individuals or events. Bronze is a durable material, well-suited for outdoor placement, as it can withstand harsh weather conditions. Its traditional look evokes a sense of legacy and permanence, making it a fitting choice for honoring significant figures or commemorating historical moments.
Bronze memorial plaque with color photo
  • Etched bronze: Etched bronze plaques offer a modern look while maintaining bronze’s durability and sophistication. This technique allows for intricate designs and detailed text, suitable for conveying a lot of information in a limited space. They offer versatility, including logos, intricate patterns, or even portraits alongside text.
  • Etched stainless steel: Etched stainless steel plaques offer a sleek and contemporary look, ideal for modern architectural settings. The etching process allows precise reproduction of halftone or color photographs. Stainless steel is highly resistant to corrosion, therefore is suitable for outdoor use in areas with high humidity or salty air.
  • Glass: While generally not suitable for outdoor use due to susceptibility to damage from weathering, glass plaques can create a stunning focal point indoors. They provide a unique and architectural look, adding elegance to spaces like office lobbies, halls, or reception areas.
Glass memorial plaque in an educational building

When choosing the material, consider the plaque’s size in relation to its intended space, so your tribute stands out. 

Choosing which font to use is crucial; the aim is to ensure the inscription remains clear and legible for years to come. Classic fonts such as Times New Roman and Garamond and sans-serif selections like Arial and Helvetica are celebrated for their clear legibility and are popular options for memorial inscriptions. These fonts embody the timeless dignity that a memorial plaque should convey.

Dedicating the plaque: Choosing the right words

The inscription on a memorial plaque is a narrative of the individual’s identity and essence. Choosing the right words for a memorial plaque can be difficult and overwhelming. Here are some tips: 

  • A heartfelt introduction such as “In Loving Memory,” followed by the departed’s full name, adds a tender start to the tribute. 
  • Include the dates of their life. If the plaque is in a professional setting, you may prefer to include the dates they worked there as well.
  • The plaque’s placement can be a tribute to their contribution or passion – “A visionary leader who inspired all” or “He found serenity amid these trees.”

Reflect on meaningful aspects of the person’s life or the joy they brought to others. Creating a memorial is about capturing the spirit of someone, and sometimes, simple sentiments speak the loudest.

Adding a personal touch with photos

Adding a photograph to a memorial plaque can change a simple tribute into a deep connection with the individual being honored. This is particularly true for public figures. To tailor this personal touch, several photorealistic options are available.

Your choice between a portrait or a landscape image can tell a story. A formal portrait can be more appropriate for a prominent public figure, while a scenic backdrop might be used to illustrate the person’s connection to a special place.

Some photo options include:

  • Bas relief portraits: These three-dimensional sculptures provide a raised portrait of the deceased, creating a timeless and classic appearance. The relief process begins with a skilled artist sculpting a clay model before pouring molten bronze into the mold, ensuring the memorial will last for generations.
Bas relief bronze portrait
  • Photo relief portraits: By combining the sculptural depth of bas relief with photographic precision, photo relief portraits convey texture and life. Highly resistant to weathering, this technique captures fine details that will last.Photo relief plaque
  • Etched photos: For a plaque with exquisite detail, etched photos offer a precise, high-resolution alternative. Through an etching process on materials like bronze or stainless steel, even the finest details are preserved against the elements, ensuring a durable and lifelike image.Etched stainless steel photo memorial plaque
  • UV-printed full-color photos: ​​Unlike traditional methods, UV printing allows for unlimited color options, ensuring that the plaque accurately reflects the intended design or image. These plaques are suitable for both indoor and outdoor use, as the UV printing process provides durability and resistance to fading from sunlight exposure.
UV-printed full color photos for durable and lasting memorial plaques

The creation of a memorial plaque is a heartfelt process that you want to be as perfect as possible. It’s always best to reach out to memorial design professionals who offer compassionate support and expertise in choosing the right material for your plaque.

Begin the journey to a timeless memorial with Impact Signs

Choosing the right memorial plaque is a deeply personal and significant step in honoring a loved one’s memory. It’s essential to find a company that recognizes the emotional significance of this process and offers clear, patient, and compassionate guidance. Impact Signs is committed to serving you with an understanding that echoes your need for a special and enduring tribute.

Contact Impact Signs today to begin crafting a memorial plaque with care, dignity, and respect. Join the many who have entrusted us to celebrate a life well-lived!

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