Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Considerations for Effective Signage

by John Berry, Extension Educator, Lehigh County

"Clarity is an ingredient that leads to greater success in business, and otherwise."
        -- Unknown

Careful consideration of our signs can yield significant results.  Add up all the vertical space available at your business for signage.  Now calculate what that space is worth if you could rent it as a billboard.  Get the idea?  Signs are important and often neglected.  Investment in excellent signage is typically not a huge cost.  However, excellent signage can yield great returns.  From a retail food study, we know roughly 37% of first-time shoppers stop in because they saw a roadside sign.

Signs serve three primary purposes:
  • Communication in a highly mobile society
  • Affect purchasing decisions
  • Brand the business and leverage advertising

15 Tips for effective signage

  1. Keep signs visible and legible.  Place it to be seen.  An attractive and well-designed sign will only be effective if it is placed in a location that optimizes its visibility to passers-by.  Your message competes in a complex environment. A passerby must be able to differentiate your sign from its surrounding environment.Your goal should be to make the sign unavoidable to the passing viewer.
  2. Save the details for the sale.  Don't attempt to sell them with information on an outside sign - save that information until they are in your business.
  3. Keep it simple. The proper design of your sign is critical to its effectiveness.  Crowding the sign with too many words or lines of text makes it impossible to read from a distance.  Use as few words as possible so your signage is legible.  Fewer words are better; and three to five words are optimal for quick readability.
  4. Grab attention.  There should be something about the sign that will reach out and command attention.  Ideally, the first read should be a large pictorial graphic or your company logo, but it can also be large dominating text.
  5. Your sign is your handshake.  Your sign is your handshake with the buying public, and first impressions are lasting impressions.  Your sign must project the image you want the public to have of you.  People will judge the inside of your business by how it looks on the outside.
  6. Use new technologies.  The addition of a time and temperature display or an Electronic Variable Message Center can make your business a landmark in your community.  With today's technology, signs are becoming more effective at delivering their owner's messages while also becoming more cost effective.  The new electronic message centers allow you to change the message on your sign as easily as you change your mind.
  7. Appeal to impulse buyers.  Many owners mistakenly thing of a sign as merely a device that identifies the business.  What they fail to realize is that 55% of all retail sales are a result of impulse buys.  People see, shop, and buy.  If a sign is ineffective, it can actually cost the business owner more in lost sales than the entire cost of a good sign.
  8. Aesthetics and suitability. Your sign must be attractive and appropriate for your type of business.
  9. Avoid obstructions.  Make certain the sign can be viewed without obstruction from any source.  Drive past your business from all directions to help determine the most visible location for your sign.
  10. Use pictures or graphics.  It should have an attractive pictorial graphic or company logo that clearly grabs a viewer's attention first.
    Great use of a sign. Graphics, clear message and lots of white space.

  11. Make it memorable.  It should make your products or services, and your location, easy to remember.
  12. Make it enticing.  Your sign should make a potential customer want to stop and see what's inside the business.
  13. Consider colors carefully.  Too many colors take away from the quick readability of the sign.  Again, stay simple.  Make sure colors are contrasting. Yellow on white is not readable, whereas black on white is very readable.  If you have several colors in a graphic, stay away from multicolored lines of text or words (with will compete with the colors in your graphic). Black text is better. 
    1. According to the Outdoor Advertising Association of America (OAAA), "research demonstrates that high color contrast can improve outdoor advertising recall by 38%."
    2. Best color combinations:
      1. Black on yellow
      2. Black on white
      3. Yellow on black
      4. White on black
      5. Blue on white
  14. Consistent visual image.  Ideally, the design and the colors of your building should reinforce the design and colors of your sign (or vice versa).  Color is probably the easiest and most cost-effective device for this coordination of design for business identification.
  15. Avoid clutter. "White space" is the surface area of a sign's face that is left uncovered by either text or graphics.  The proper amount of white space is just as important for quick readability as are graphics, text, and colors.  30% to 40% of the sign's face area should be left as white space for optimal readability.
    Example of a professionally done sign with 
    minimal elements, and a call to action.

 Letter size and readability

Reading Distance Letter Height
100 ft. 1-3/4" to 2" or above
200 ft. 3-1/2" and above
400 ft. 7" and above
600 ft. 10-1/2" and above
800 ft. 14" and above
1000 ft. 17" and above
1300 ft. 22" and above

In Summary

Your sign will do many things for your business, from creating the initial impression to providing the message to new and potential customers about your products and services.  A sign does this through a combination of light, size, text, construction, placement, and more.  Keep these design tips in mind as you design an effective sign for both outside and inside your business.

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