For many businesses, signage forms a key part of the strategy for customer acquisition, sales, branding and other messaging.
From the main sign above the front door to window graphics, A-boards, POS displays and exhibition stands, commercial signage can take many forms – and ensuring they are all produced to a high standard can reflect very positively on your brand.
So what makes a good or bad commercial sign? Here are five great tips to help you make sure your signage is top quality…
1. Keep the design simple
Sometimes, when designing something to be shown to the public there is a tendency to want to include many different elements (let’s add a picture, our slogan, a testimonial, and our Twitter handle!).
When designing anything, less is generally more. Signage in particular often needs to be readable from a distance, and an excess of clutter can make it difficult to discern any one element.
Therefore, a good starting point is to identify the minimum elements you absolutely have to include, and try to only work with those, making sure each is as clear and distinct as possible. Always bear in mind the person who might see your sign from the other end of the street – is it likely to make sense to them?
It is also important to ensure that the elements you do use work harmoniously together to create a coherent design, without mismatching colors, font styles or concepts.
2. Maintain brand consistency
Your signage can reflect very positively on your business if it seems congruent with your wider branding. A strong and consistent style can elevate the public’s perception of your business, giving you a clear visual identity and voice.
Ideally, the logos, colors, and typefaces found on your signage should be consistent with those found on your website, social media accounts, advertisements and anything else that carries your business branding.
Different fonts and colors naturally give different impressions about your company, and having a mismatched array of design elements in different places can make it seem as though your identity is somewhat haphazard and ill-defined.
A large part of branding is creating something visually recognizable that people can associate with your business, in the same way, that the Nike ‘swoosh’ emblem or the iconic Apple logo is instantly identifiable as evoking their respective brands. However, your branding must first be established through repetition and consistency – because using different fonts and colors on every sign is unlikely to create a memorable effect.
3. Consider the context
When producing any design intended for public display, it’s important to bear in mind the context in which the sign will eventually be seen. Is it for indoor use or outdoor? How closely will the viewer likely be standing – and what color is the background behind it?
Not only do you need to consider the immediate, physical context of where the sign will be mounted or displayed, but also to compare your branding with that of your competitors. Does your business stand out with a different identity, or do you look like a copycat? If both you and your nearest competitor have a blue sign with white text written in all capitals, it might be hard for the public to tell you apart or to identify which is better.
Even if the business next door operates in a completely different industry, having your sign a similar color to theirs can cause confusion, imply affiliation or lessen the visual impact of your premises.
4. Make good use of contrast
As mentioned previously, readability from a distance is of paramount importance for many signs – and a common cause of illegibility is a design with low levels of contrast.
If text is too similar in color to the background, it can become hard to discern (a fact that will be apparent to anybody who’s ever struggled to read movie subtitles when white text has been used over a lightly-colored image). It’s important to use colors that are very different in tone to create the necessary contrast and render the text readable, especially on external signs which might be seen from a long way away or under poor lighting conditions.
This principle also applies to the considerations around context mentioned in the previous point – it can be a good idea to make sure the color of your sign has good contrast with the backing wall or its surroundings (as a green sign mounted on a green surface might be somewhat hard to see).
5. Work with professionals
As with any design task intended for physical printing, you must remember that certain image resolutions, color settings, and file types might be preferred by your sign manufacturer – and the earlier you can discuss the project with them the more useful advice they can give you about the technical requirements.
It’s also very important to work out ahead of time how the sign will be constructed, which materials will be used, and so on (as this may affect your design choices and how the project is best put together). Will the lettering be made out of plastic, stainless steel, or something else? Will there be the illumination, and where would the LEDs go?
By working with professional sign makers with experience in completing these kinds of projects, you can ensure your sign is designed in the right way from the beginning and gets put together properly by the experts. After all, a great design that ends up badly constructed and made of cheap materials won’t do you any favors – so you should always consult the professionals.
Ultimately, when commercial signage is designed well it can positively influence how customers perceive your brand and set you apart from your competitors. Signs can help establish a definitive ‘look’ and ‘feel’ for your company before anybody even enters your building, and it’s a good idea to get them right.
Keeping your designs clear and readable and maintaining consistency with your wider branding can give your business a strong visual identity, helping customers to associate your name with certain qualities and values right from their first impression.