Viewing Sizes And Distances for Signs

A sign with an eye-catching style and an informative message is useless if people can’t actually read it. Legibility is absolutely crucial, as an easy-to-read sign can net up to 40% more responses.

Meanwhile, 54% of consumers say they failed to find a business when a sign is unclear or is too small to read. This is especially the case when a sign is meant to be read from a distance. 


When choosing the size for your signs that will allow for maximum legibility despite the distance, use our checklist as your guide:


1. Location and Purpose


Since signs are used in a number of different ways, there is no one-size-fits-all measurement for the “perfect” sign. For instance, a window display sign has a specific purpose that is not the same as a sign placed on the pavement to advertise a nearby business. 


Consider the following:


  • Purpose — Take into consideration where and what you will be using a sign for. If it is only going to be for an in-store promotion, you can keep the font small and not worry about it being illegible. For a sign pointing the way to your store, you will want to make the text big enough to catch the eyes of pedestrians and drivers. 
  • Positioning — Another factor worth considering in line with a sign’s purpose is its positioning. If you are placing a sign on the side of a street, positioning it perpendicular to the street will make it much easier to read for commuters and cars passing by. Since 35% of customers find out about a local business from seeing it while passing, then it’s all the more pertinent that your target audience knows your store is within the vicinity.
  • Font Size — The size of the font also plays a big role in making a sign legible. It puts a limit on how far away a sign can draw attention and be clearly understood. A sign that is placed above eye level can command attention more easily with big fonts, while a sign below eye level basically requires large text for people to notice it. 


To help you choose the right font size that is appropriate for the signs you will be using, here is a handy table listing common letter heights, the distance where they make the most impact, and the furthest distance the average person can still read the sign:




Letter 

Height



Ideal 

Distance



Maximum 

Legible Distance



7.62 cm



9.14 m



30.48 m



10.16 cm



12.92 m



45.72 m



15.24 cm



18.28 m



60.96 m



20.32 cm



24.384 m 



106.68 m



22.86 cm



27.432 m



121.92 m



25.4 cm



30.48 m



137.16 m



30.48 cm



36.576 m



160.02 m



38.1 cm



45.72 m



192.024 m



45.72 cm



54.864 m



228.6 m



60.96 cm



73.152 m



304.8 m



76.2 cm



91.44 m



381 m



91.44 cm 



109.728 m



457.2 m



106.68 cm 



128.016 m



533.4 m



121.92 cm 



146.304 m



609.6 m



137.16 cm 



164.592 m



685.8 m



152.4 cm 



182.88 m



762 m



2. Font Type


The measurements provided in the table above are for Serif and Sans Serif fonts. Such font types have that simplicity that makes them easy to read. Decorative fonts, however, can be a bit harder to comprehend using the same recommended letter heights for the given distances. 


If you choose a decorative font, such as fonts that are in cursive, you need to adjust the size to be bigger. It is worth noting that thin and decorative fonts, in general, aren’t as simple to read than blocky Serif and Sans Serif fonts.


The space in between characters when a font is typed out is another important consideration. You do not want the letters on your sign all bunched up, nor do you want them too far apart taking up unnecessary amounts of space.


3. Colour and Contrast


Choosing the most appropriate size for the text is not enough. The colours you’ll use also contribute greatly to how easy or hard it will be for people to read your signs. 


The key to colour schemes for business signs is contrast and reflectancy. The colours for the font and the background should contrast for the text to stand out. Using shades that blend too well together makes it virtually impossible for anyone to read, even when in ideal viewing distance.


The best practice for colour contrasting is using dark, bold colours for the text and bright, light colours for the background. The reverse is also true, as bright coloured fonts contrast well a with dark background. Colours that work great either for the text or the background are white and black. 


A study from Sign Research Foundation found that the most readable colour contrasts are:



  • Black font on yellow background
  • Black font on white background
  • Yellow font on black background
  • White font on blue background


A technique you can use if you are set on a colour scheme that doesn’t particularly contrast well is using outlines or drop shadows. These elements that border each letter, number, and/or symbol in your sign can provide the contrast the sign needs to pop in the eye of the reader.


You should also look into colour psychology, as it will not only affect your market’s response but also represent your brand. We’ve published a bigger guide on this topic that details how you can select sign colours that will evoke the right emotions from your target audience and colours that are in line with your brand values.


4. Lighting Conditions


It is also important to take into account the lighting conditions where a sign is located. The intensity of the light can work with or against your chosen colour scheme.


A brightly lit area, whether it is outside under direct sunlight or in a room with plenty of lighting, makes light-coloured text almost impossible to read. Meanwhile, in a space with very little lighting, fonts in dark colours will have poor visibility.


Outdoor signs at night obviously require artificial lighting, and their colours influence how well they will be illuminated. White has the highest light reflection percentage, reflecting around 75% to 90% of light. Yellow ranks second at 65% to 70% light reflection, and green is third at 25% to 40%.


Optimise Your Signs’ Visibility


According to 83% of consumers, a sign can be difficult to read because of letters that are too small. Therefore, it is imperative that you account for the optimal reading distance for your signs when choosing font size. Also, keep the font type simple, and complement it with luminescent, contrasting colours. 





With each sign design aspect applied correctly, your business will benefit greatly from increased awareness. If you want a sign designed and installed for your business, get in touch with our professional team.


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