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Sign Design Tips: How to Create a Standout Display

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When someone submits an order for signage without giving any design specifications, addressing their request can be a challenge. Unless your team members have graphic design skills and understand the principles of effective sign design, you risk delivering a mediocre product. And when that happens, you miss the opportunity to turn the initial sale into repeat business. Fortunately, we’ve put together some practical sign design tips you can use to create eye-catching displays your clients will be proud to install. 

But first, let’s talk about why design is so vital for signage…

Why It’s Crucial to Get Sign Design Right 

Ultimately, design is the most important aspect of signage. It’s what determines whether a display will capture the attention of passersby and fulfill its purpose. Even when you use the best materials, perform a rigorous quality check, and deliver the order on time, your efforts will be for nothing if the design isn’t solid. 

Coming up with a great design isn’t just about making a sign attractive; it’s about getting the desired message across in a clear, easy-to-understand way.   

Deciding on the look and feel of a sign is the first step in the fabrication process. And if your team doesn’t handle it correctly, there will be consequences for you and your client.

Here are just a few examples of what can happen when you get the sign design wrong:

These are all things you want to avoid. And by implementing proven sign design tips and best practices, you can. 

What to Consider When Designing New Signs

IT room sign with Armory face, Eternal City backer, and Rowmark Burgundy text from Erie Custom Signs’ Alma Series.

Before diving into specific sign design tips, it’s worth taking a step back and looking at some key factors affecting design. There are several things to consider when designing a new sign. If your team is tasked with creating a display from scratch, having this information beforehand will yield the best results.   

So, get the following details from a client for each display they need:

First, you need to find out who the target audience is for a given sign. Is your client aiming to send a message to customers, employees, visitors, guests, patients, or students? What does this group look like in terms of age? Knowing whom the sign will be geared toward is important because it allows you to incorporate the right colors, fonts, and wording into the design. 

For example, if a sign is meant to provide directions to elementary school children, it should have easy-to-read text with attention-grabbing colors and graphics. 

It’s also important to know your client’s industry—be it banking, food, health care, education, etc. That way, you can make sure the design aligns with what people expect from that type of business. This includes applying color psychology to ensure the shades you use evoke the right emotional response and encourage the appropriate associations. 

Learning what type of sign your client needs is a must. Is it a room sign meant to identify a permanent space or an evacuation map meant to direct people during an emergency? Knowing the sign’s purpose allows your team to approach sign design with a clear understanding of what the display should accomplish. Additionally, it gives you an idea of whether specific requirements must be met, such as those necessary for interior ADA signs.

In addition to the sign’s type and purpose, it’s important to ask your client what message the sign should convey. What do they want to communicate to people with this sign? Although too much text can make a sign hard to read and cause people to overlook it, too little text can cause confusion if the meaning doesn’t get across.

Will the sign go inside the building or outside? If it’s an interior sign, will it be placed in a high-traffic area? The placement should be taken into consideration so your team can decide which materials would be best and what size the sign should be.

5 Sign Design Tips to Apply to Future Projects

Once you have a solid understanding of the project your team is tasked with completing, you can move on to designing your client’s signage. And to help you along the way, we’ve compiled a brief list of sign design tips for creating effective, eye-catching signage. Keep in mind this isn’t an exhaustive list but some best practices to follow each time you design a new display. 

1) Don’t Be Afraid of Blank Space. 

Leaving blank space on a sign may seem careless, but it’s a practical choice that improves readability. Trying to fit too much on a sign can make it look cluttered and prevent people from reading it with ease. So, when designing a sign, strive for roughly 40% of blank space. That way, the most important elements will stand out.

2) Incorporate Minor Details.

Although simple is better for sign design, you shouldn’t underestimate the impact minor details can have. Supplemental graphics, decorative hardware, and other small design elements can elevate the look of any display. If a design seems to be missing something, consider adding a border, accent, or even standoffs to make the sign pop.  

3) Make Legibility a Priority.

As mentioned previously, signs serve as visual communication to those who come across them. So, it makes sense that prioritizing legibility is one of the most important sign design tips to follow. If your client doesn’t have a preferred font, choose one that’s crisp, clean, and bold. Avoid overly decorative fonts, as they can be difficult to read, especially at a distance. Further, aim for only one or two fonts per display.  

Note: If a sign needs to be ADA compliant, using an easy-to-read font isn’t just a recommendation—it’s a requirement. Fonts used on ADA signage have to meet certain criteria.  

4) Use Contrast to Your Advantage.

Contrast is another thing that can help increase a sign’s visibility and ensure the message is clear. So, be sure to use it to your advantage. As part of your design, opt for high-contrast color combinations. Apply dark text to a light background or vice versa. 

Note: A high level of contrast between text and background is also one of the requirements for ADA signage.    

5) Keep Signage Consistent. 

The last of our sign design tips is to strive for consistency when designing signage. Although every new display should stand out, it shouldn’t be strikingly different from the client’s existing signage or décor. Ensuring that signs share a similar look and feel (like our predesigned ADA signs) can improve the visitor experience and get people familiar with your client’s brand. So, whether you’re updating all a client’s displays or just some, use the same fonts, colors, accents, etc. 

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As a sign professional, you understand that signs play a major role in a building. They provide visual cues and information to those who see them. And to ensure they function effectively, you have to get sign design right. So, apply the sign design tips above to deliver the best possible results for your clients. If you need help with a large-scale order—particularly one that involves ADA signage—you can also take advantage of our sign packages. Our ADA-compliant interior sign packages have been developed using solid design principles and can be further customized according to need. Browse our sign packages today!

Filed Under: Business Tips, Design and Customization

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