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February 5, 2015

What Makes a Sign Effective?

What Makes a Sign Effective?

This is a very simple question many people in business ask themselves quite often. The challenge in answering it is because it can be very complicated. So, rather than heading down an endless path of research and opinions let’s stick to the basic truths. It really comes down to a few basic principals and aesthetics people are attracted to.

Before we get there lets identify the type of sign we’re referring to because that’s a big topic in itself. A good example is a brick and mortar business with a sign branding your company. Hospitals, churches and office buildings fall into this category. Technically this same theory would apply to any service business that uses vehicles for there signage as well. That reference would be a plumber, HVAC, or public transportation company.

Start by thinking about these points – branding, content, visibility and making a point. Some of this should go without saying. Branding your name, logo and or symbol is always a must for an effective sign. The question is how are you doing it or in what way is it being displayed. Another consideration is the logo itself. Does it reflect your brand correctly and in a manner that’s forward thinking? More often than not what is believed to be an effective logo is simply not doing its job.

So, if your logo is in question you should start there and work your way down the list. Please note that applying an outline or beveled edge via photoshop is almost never a good idea for a revised logo. Just remember you cannot send a duck to eagle school. If your logo stinks you should start over and if someone says they are an expert in photoshop you should probably run away – fast.

Keep your content clean, to the point and on a side note possibly a call to action. Eliminate everything that goes without saying from your sign – outside of the name. However, an exception would possibly be if the name of the business does not identify clearly what your business does.

Your typography is critical in terms of the content. Yes, there are tens of thousands of really cool fonts available today but that does not mean using them is a good idea. To the contrary finding someone to create your sign that picked out there favorite font in 1991 and has used it on every sign they’ve made since then is not smart either. An often overlooked point of typography is not just fonts and letter size but also the spacing and empty space. All great art for example uses the empty space to create a masterpiece – signs are no different.

This all leads to visibility. Simply stated and literally can you read the sign? Being artsy fartsy has its place for sure in the design world and pushing the envelope is always a good thing. However, when it comes to your sign remember all things in moderation. If you cannot see it, regardless of how much you happen to like it, no one else is seeing it either. As usual there is a flip side to this statement is well. Bigger is not always better. That goes for the copy size and font thickness.

Highway road signs were designed with particular fonts many years ago for a reason – they work. The space between and within each character is important in distinguishing every element of those individual characters. Which brings up the blank space again within the letters but in a different way. A giant letter with incorrect blank space around the perimeter is just as bad as an un visible font selection. So bear in mind a visible sign always has a proper balance of fonts and space.

The last point is just that. Does your sign make an effective point? Are people confused by it in a negative way? These are questions that need answering for sure. This is not a Superbowl commercial where the worst commercial wins as equally as the best. Your sign needs to be a winner in every way and better than your competitors. If your seafood restaurant has an awful sign and your expectation is compete with the big boys you’re going to be in for a disappointment – visually for sure. Typically people want to do business with someone that in the least looks successful.

So, ask yourself what your signage needs to say and in what way does it need to represent your brand. Does it fit your business? Does it show your brand effectively? Is the content well planned? Can people clearly read it? Do people understand the point you’re trying to make? If these points are not thought out, and clearly align with where you’d like to head then you need to re think your signage ideas. If your business is not attracting the type of clientele you prefer or worse yet no clientele at all consider your sign as a possible solution to change it.

What Makes a Sign Effective?