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Signage as Marketing The right sign for your business
Creating successful signage involves more than an attractive arrangement of logos, pictures and slogans. It requires the understanding and blending of complex elements such as marketing and demographic and it requires an understanding of ‘visual acuity’. The task is further complicated by the fact that the people will be on the move when they see the sign and it must be possible to read and understand its message in an instant.
We have said it before, but it’s worth repeating, no matter how good your product or service is, if your sign does not make people stop and shop, it has failed. Investing in professional sign design is sound advice. Experienced designers understand how to get the consumer’s attention and, more importantly, how to get them to respond.
Let’s start with some of the basics: Sign legibility depends on many factors, but the more important are:
- Letter size – generally, the larger the size, the greater the legibility
- Letter shape – some letter styles are more legible than others. In particular, script and extended letter styles are more difficult to read unless they form a well advertised brand name or logo (eg Coca Cola)
- Letter spacing – letters are more discernible if they are spaced apart at a reasonable distance. Crowding together, particularly of adjacent vertical strokes can make them difficult to read.
- Brightness – to be legible, a sign has to be bright enough to stand out from its surroundings. (However, too bright a sign can lead to ‘halation’ and blurring of its edges).
- Location – signs will be more legible if they are placed in a position without competing or confusing backgrounds.
- Colour – a sign with a colour that contrasts well with that of its background will be more legible than one where the colours tend to merge.
The following table lists in order of decreasing legibility the top ten combinations of letter and background colour.
Colour combinations in order of legibility
Order of Legibility Colour of Letter/ Colour of Background
1. Black /Yellow
2. Black /White
3. Yellow /Black
4. White/ Black
5. Blue /White
6. White /Blue
7. White /Green
8. Green/ White
9. Red /White
10. White/ Red
Other factors which can influence the design are letter height, shape, spacing and viewing distance, not to mention the legibility coefficient of individual letters or, just as importantly, the your corporate colours.
Mathematical formulae do exist for calculating the optimum values for many of these things and in the case of road traffic signs are enshrined in the relevant standards and legislation. However, it’s not simply a matter of dropping a few numbers into a spreadsheet and waiting for it to generate the design.
While an experienced sign designer should have an understanding of these fundamental principles, it is far more important that he or she has the creative ability to combine these elements to produce a sign that works for your business.
It is also vital that the designer has knowledge of the materials, production techniques and standards which apply to or are used in the construction of signs. And then there are the planning requirements.
Today many businesses are influenced by the design agencies which handle their corporate identity programmes and come up with signage schemes that consider neither the intricacies of planning system nor the feasibility of bending rigid materials into all sorts of weird and wonderful shapes.
Thus, when the signage programme goes out to tender, both designer agency and client are disgruntled when they discover learn that what they have requested just isn’t possible or, if it is, the cost is prohibitive.
This is why it makes sense to consult a reputable signmaker at an early stage in the design process. Most signmakers, and especially those who specialise in corporate branding, have a good idea of what the planning authorities will allow and will be able to advise on the suitability of designs and availability of materials. They may also be able to suggest more effective – and very often much cheaper – alternatives to those specified.
Nowadays, many signmakers also boast an in-house design capability and will happily help create workable concepts that meet both aesthetic and budgetary considerations. When a project is particularly complex, or involves many different types of sign, the best signmakers will produce prototypes to test feasibility and will also supply material samples so that the client and his agency can see whether the ‘glossy effect’ they had so fondly envisaged is viable.
In the Sign Types and Materials section we take a more in depth look at some of the options available for exterior and interior signage, wayfinding and vehicle graphics.