How to design a sign

Simple Rules How To Design A Sign

Why is sign design important?

Business signs have an important role to play in today’s digital world. Rising customer expectations mean that everyone has to work harder to win new business and earn their loyalty. That means ensuring that every touch point with your potential clients leaves a positive impression.

And that includes your company signage. In a recent survey by the International Sign Association 75% of people agreed that “one of the first things I notice about a new or unfamiliar business is the signage outside its building.”


The best signs are based on the fundamentals of good design. Think about the world’s most memorable brands, Nike, Apple, Coca-Cola. What do they have in common? Simple, memorable and versatile designs.

Bristol, Bath and the South West region are also home to many successful brands, for example SuperDry, WHSmith and Screwfix. All of which have teams of in-house designers responsible for ensuring that every interior and exterior sign leaves a great impression.


So how do you design the perfect sign?

Fortunately, the rest of us can follow some sign design guidelines:


1. Size Matters

Your exterior signs need to be easily understood from a distance. If a sign is mounted on a building on a street and the speed limit is 30 mph, the sign will need to be visible from over 50 metres away. If that same sign is parallel rather than perpendicular to the street it will need to be 70% or drivers won’t be able to read it in time. The beauty of good design is that it works whatever the size.
A standard rule of thumb when it comes to the size of text is the 1-10 rule. This states that 1 inch of text provides 10 feet of readability. So 6 inch high letters will have the best impact from 60 feet (but can still be read from up to 200 feet away.)


2. Location, Location, Location

It is important that your signs work wherever they are located. Your plan for your signage should start with the location where it will have most impact. A quality sign on a business park will draw people into your premises. Whereas signage for a fleet of vehicles will reinforce your brand and generate awareness.


“I have been drawn into unfamiliar stores based on the quality of their signs.” according to 35% of respondents in an International Sign Association study.


3. What’s Your Favourite Colour?

Contrast between colours will make your sign stand out and help draw viewers attention to specific messages. Go for bright bold colours, avoiding light pastel colours. Keep designs uncomplicated because people like things to be straightforward. Remember you may only have a second to make a good impression.


4. Give Us A Kiss

The KISS (keep it simple stupid) principle is based on the idea that things work best if you keep them nice and simple and it also applies to sign design.


Sans serif fonts are easier to read and look more modern that serif fonts (feel free to ignore this advice if you are going for a classical look). Avoid using italics but do think about using bold text to improve recognition.


The ‘keep it simple’ principle applies to the number of words too. For maximum impact use 15 words or less. Another sign industry rule of thumb is the 3 by 5 rule. This means that if you have 3 lines of text you can have up to 5 words per line, if you have 5 lines of text you can include 3 words per line.


5. Compare And Contrast

The greater the contrast between your sign’s text and the background, the more likely people will be able to understand your message. Common combinations include: black and white, black and yellow, blue and white, blue and yellow, green and white, red and white, red and yellow. But if you choose conflicting colours they can be irritating to look at.


Need a new sign for your business? 

We hope you that we’ve given you some ideas about the impact that quality signage can have on your business. If you have a project that you would like to discuss with us, drop us a line or send us an email. We’d love to hear from you.

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