3 keys to great signage

The modern world is more high tech and fast paced than ever before. People live entire lives on the internet itself. Mobile phones have replaced televisions and newspapers. Advertisement and marketing has also followed the customer to the online world. However, it is getting harder and harder to capture and retain people’s attention. And yet, a study conducted by FedEx revealed that the old school signage and in store graphics is still just as effective.

This result was seen for over half the 500 small stores across the US. Similar results have been seen by other surveys too. Sapna Budev, the director of Strategic Initiatives of the International Sign Association has commented on the findings of a survey conducted by Best Buy, which found that 17 % of its customers ended up entering a store and buying something without even intending to do so, because they saw a sign which they could link to a brand or an overall marketing strategy.

Honestly though, we have all been guilty of buying something without even meaning to, simply because we liked the signage.

The Best Buy study, went on to show that 64% of all millennial small business owners of the age group 18-34, greatly value creativity in signage and graphics. Baby Boomers belonging to the age group 55 and above, placed greater value on simplistic designs. According to Sapna however, regardless of your design sensibilities and age group, there are certain design principles that any business owner can follow while designing signage to make the best out of their investment.

An Appealing Color Scheme: Color obviously plays a huge part in in any design. People associate a certain image to brands based solely on their colour scheme. This image turns into the brand’s identity with time.Think of a well-known brand that has held on to their colour scheme for a very long time – Ferrari Red, Facebook Blue, John Deere Green. Their colour schemes lend them an unmistakable identity. According to Sapna, as much as 80 percent of people recognize a trademark based on its colour.

The identity however also makes the choice of colour extremely important. A trendy colour will lend a trendy image. Trends however, tend to change with time. When that happens the same colour that was a favorite a year ago, could become a nuisance the next year. Therefore the choice should be made with a long term view. Don’t be baited by new and modern colours, instead go for more primary shades that will stay fresh forever.

Readability: A sign has to first and foremost, convey a message. If that message cannot be read, then the entire purpose of the sign is defeated. Readability can be achieved by cleverly using contrasting colours, for the sign background and the text. Any sign or banner will invariably have a background of a certain colour with some text on it in another colour. If these two colours are similar then readability will be highly compromised. Think of the contrast of black on yellow, like that on road signs. This can also affect the retention of the advertisement in the mind of the reader. Designers can also use various tricks to make even similar colours work.

They can add shadows, outlines, textures, gradients and foreground lettering to make the text stand out. This can also help when there is a lot of text to be read, as it increases the speed at which the customer can read the text.

The Size of the Font: This should be a no brainer, really. There will always be a little to a great distance between the reader and the message. Remember those vision testing charts at the optometrist. The farther a person is from the text, the lesser its readability. Here Suman provides a handy thumb rule that says that for every 10 feet between the reader and the sign, the text should gain an inch in height. That means that a 10 inch letter height will be visible from 100 feet away.

Visibility though, also depends on the font used. A more decorative font with a lot of flourishes, although more beautiful and necessary for certain styles, will be difficult to decipher if it’s far away too. Use those fonts only on cards that the reader can hold up to their eye level and truly notice the beauty. If greater visibility is what you are after, then use a more solid font that can be seen from miles away.

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