More Than Just a Pretty Facade—The Right Signage for Your Business

Successful signage involves more than creating an attractive arrangement of logos and slogans. It is also a blending of complex elements such as marketing, demographics, an understanding of visual acuity and conspicuity. Complicating the task is the fact that the reader is usually moving, and the sign must be seen, read and understood in an instant.

No matter how good your product or service is, if your sign does not make people stop and shop, you will not be able to compete. In our visually competitive and media-rich world, an investment in professional sign design is worthwhile. Trained designers understand how to get the consumer’s attention. Most importantly, they know how to get the consumer to respond.

Elements of Good Signage
How well a sign works for your business depends in large part on how easy it is for people driving by to see and read it. Following is a step-by-step guide for making sure your sign can be seen and read in time for potential customers to react and stop at your business.

Before displaying any new outdoor sign, you should always do a preliminary check of the location to see whether approaching drivers can see your sign in time to read it, react to it, and stop safely. This depends on the speed of traffic and the number of lanes in each direction.

The table below shows what researchers learned about how far a car at different speeds will travel from the time a driver first sees the sign until the car safely comes to a stop. This assumes the sign is mounted perpendicular to the roadway and includes the amount of distance needed to read a typical sign and make a decision to stop.

chart

If the sign is mounted on the front of the building parallel to the roadway, research shows it needs to be at least 70% larger than the sign mounted perpendicular to the roadway, or it cannot be read in time. Note that if a sign has unfamiliar words or lots of words, it will also take longer to read.

The figures in the table can help determine whether your prospective business site will be visible to customers. For example, if the speed of traffic in front of the site is 30 mph, and the street has two lanes in each direction so that a lane change is needed, your customers will need to be able to see and read your sign from 410 feet away. If your customers would not be able to see your business sign from that distance, you should consider another location.

Size of type
Experts recommend designing signs with letters a minimum of one-inch tall for every twenty-five feet of distance. This makes them readable for all legal drivers. For example, the smallest letters on a sign would be 16.4 inches in height if it were to be read from 410 feet away (assuming 30 mph traffic moving in two lanes in each direction). Note that if your sign is using fancy lettering that is more difficult to read, the minimum letter size must be increased significantly.

To figure out the smallest possible size your sign can be and still be readable at 410 feet, figure each letter in the message will take up one square—that would be 16.4 square inches, or 1.37 square feet, for each letter. That allows for space between lines and words. If the sign read, Lydia’s Beauty Supply, its 18 letters would need a minimum of 25 square feet just for the words. For optimum clarity, an additional 40% of empty or white space would be needed, for a total of 35 square feet. That would be the absolute minimum size for a perpendicularly mounted sign with no graphics and very plain, easy to read lettering.

Most businesses are not going to be well served by a small, plain sign with no graphics. The lettering style, the ability of graphics and logos to be easily recognized, whether or not the words on the sign are familiar and easy to read, the lighting methods used, and even the colors used all impact people’s ability to see and read a sign.


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