7 Tips to Design a Signage that stands out from the crowd

Stop signs. Warning signs. McDonald’s signs. What do the world’s most iconic signs all have in common? They’re carefully designed to demand attention.

These signs are all iconic for a reason, sharing simple design qualities that the untrained eye might miss. From its shape to its colour, the font to the materials used, everything is done in the service of catching the wandering eye while retaining an evocative but straightforward message – all to be gleaned within a second of attention to compel the crowd to action.

None of this can happen if your sign blends into the background or comes across as bland and uninspired. But we’re here to solve those issues. Consider these few tips to create that next eye-catching, attention-grabbing, awe-inspiring sign and lead a few curious ​​onlookers through your doors!

1. Choosing the perfect location

I’m sorry to say that your sign can’t just be placed anywhere you please. Designing a standout sign first starts from considering the location your sign will do its work. Will it be placed in a high-traffic locale like over a highway or in the middle of a busy shopping mall? Your sign should utilise bold, defiant elements that grab attention from far away. Will it be in a quiet walkway or a place where people might walk close by? Play with big fonts to draw a crowd in and following up with small fonts below that tease people to take a closer look. Placing your sign in a dark place or requiring it to attract customers at night? Then maybe a neon sign or bright lighting to make your sign seen from a mile away.

Height, size, lighting, colors, materials. You’re just getting started with your sign but having the location clues you (or your signage expert) in the possibilities and ideas that will make your sign work best.

2. Consider size and scale

From the size of the overall signage to the size of the fonts – these all come into play after choosing the right location. Will people look at it from afar or will they come up close? Getting a large sign and font makes obvious sense as you want to make sure your sign is optimised for visibility while adding smaller elements can be done in a deliberate attempt to get people to come close. Regardless, most signs deal with the larger side of things, and you should add three centimeters of letter height for every one metre of viewing distance from the crowd. This means that a sign that needs to be seen from 100 metre away will require your letters to be around 90 centimeters tall to create proper visual impact.

3. Avoid fancy fonts when designing signage

No, we’re not asking you to use Times New Romans or Comic Sans – but that cursive font that you’ve been secretly eyeing for your design? Nope, that probably won’t work. It’s not because we’re being a prude or anything but fancy fonts can often look intelligible from afar, making it hard to read and decipher – and grab someone’s attention.

The purpose of a signage is to convey a clear message, thus fonts that are crisp, clean, and powerful lends itself best to this medium.  Indeed, simplicity does go a long way (metaphorically and visually), and a clear design often stands out in a space of visual clutter and mess. Utilise display fonts for headlines and body copy fonts for body text. Avoid using more than two fonts in one design as you want to minimise clutter. If you want a good font to start things along, consider designer favourites like Garamond, Helvetica, and Arial (yes, you heard us right).

4. Keep it simple

Simplicity is the golden rule. In fact, it is easier to add things than to take elements out from a successful sign design, and pros are ruthless when they take out unnecessary elements to reduce clutter. Why? The simpler your sign, the easier it will be for an audience to understand the intent and message of the sign.

The first few seconds a prospective customer sees your sign can communicate many different thoughts and ideas, and the worst thing that can happen is confusing them. You want them to get the right message. Don’t be wary of utilising white space, which helps draw attention and focus towards the most important parts of your sign’s design. Optimal readability allows for around 30-40% of white space in any great sign design.

5. Use great graphics

An image speaks a thousand words but you can use it to convey a specific feeling, emotion or idea. The same can be said for signs, and adding a suitable graphic to your design can draw attention and make your sign stand out. Nothing too fancy (your sign isn’t meant to be complicated artwork); a simple logo or headshot is enough to give your sign that extra oomph. What’s important is choosing a graphic that complements your message and colour design. Make sure to use a high-resolution image for your sign – a blurry and pixelated image is the last thing you would want your customer to see.

6. Utilising clever contrast

Contrast is the simple concept of using opposing visual cues to make your sign striking, visible, and easy to read, even from far off. Be bold and deliberate in your usage of colours or lighting. They say fortune favours the bold, but so too does an aggressive and bold sign.

If we’re talking about colours, then high-contrast combinations like black on yellow or red on white automatically draw attention and improve readability. Match dark tests on a pale or neutral background colour (or vice versa) to maximise its effect. Lighting also becomes an easy area to utilise a different kind of contrast: dark and light – especially when the location your sign is placed in can get really dim.

7. Work with a professional when designing signage for your business

These points make perfect sense for a designer but can easily overwhelm someone not trained in the craft. Years of experience and industry knowledge can allow professionals to create a fitting sign for your business. Connect with a professional sign design team – like the one at Big Image Group – to help you with the designing process, saving yourself valuable time, resources and effort while getting valuable insight along the way. Contact us and our experts would be keen to get you started!

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