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6 Signage Design Principles

By: The H&H Group

You might have noticed that we’ve been focusing our blog posts on signage a lot lately. This is because both interior and exterior signs are critical to your business’s successful overall branding and marketing strategies.

In fact, you’ll find tons of important survey data that prove your customers are paying attention to signs—whether consciously or not. For instance, a FedEx Office survey from a couple of years ago showed that “eight in 10 (76%) American consumers enter a store they have never visited before based on its signs, and nearly seven in 10 (68%) have actually purchased a product or service because a sign caught their eye.” Those are some impressive stats.

Unfortunately, though, designing effective signage can be extremely difficult for even experienced graphic artists. Especially when it comes to large-scale exterior signs that need to help customers locate your business, there are many rules and best practices to follow to get attractive and readable results.

Because we don’t want you to waste money and time revising your sign designs over and over again, we’re sharing a few of those sign design rules with you today (though there are more, as well).

Of course, if you don’t want to worry about all the ins and outs of the design process, just give us a call here at The H&H Group! Our experienced sign designers will take the lead so your own team can focus on more pressing business matters (like ramping up to serve all those new customers your signs will bring through your front door)!

1. Prioritize Legibility

It probably goes without saying, but signs that aren’t legible—aka readable—are kind of pointless. After all, what good is wayfinding signage that requires your visitors to squint to tell where they’re supposed to go or tradeshow and events signs that make people ask, “what is this business?”

But, did you know that poor signage can actually hurt your business? That same FedEx survey we referenced above showed that fully half of all respondents are actually so put off by bad signs that they have decided not to visit or interact with a business because of them!

Illegible signs make people feel unsure and confused, and that can make them decide your business just isn’t worth their time. This is especially bad news for retailers with brick and mortar locations that rely on strong foot traffic, of course.

2. Avoid Visual Clutter

One way to make sure that your signs are readable is to keep your overall design simple with bright colors and clean lettering. You don’t want a lot of patterned backgrounds or complicated images competing for attention with important text information (like your business’s name), especially on outdoor signs that are meant to be viewed from a considerable distance.

You’ll also want to consider white space around your messaging and imagery. The United States Sign Council Foundation suggests a ratio of 40% content to 60% negative space.

3. Create Balance Between Text and Graphics + Think About Viewing Distance

Calling back to our previous rule of avoiding visual clutter, effective signs will strike a comfortable balance between words and images within the content—aka copy—area.

There are somewhat complex equations that go into determining how readable your sign will be based on factors like viewing distance and height. If your sign is targeted toward people on foot vs. people driving or riding in passing vehicles, your calculations will be different, of course.

Again, the United States Sign Council Foundation is an excellent resource for these guidelines. And our sign designers here at The H&H Group can also guide you on various rules around creating the most effective signs for your needs.

4. Use Appropriately Contrasting Colors

Have you ever looked at a piece of printed material or even a webpage and thought, “wow, that color combination is hurting my eyes!” It’s true that not all colors play nicely together, and the result of using bad combinations can make your signage downright unreadable.

Consulting the color wheel to determine which colors might work together for both legibility and an attractive look is a good place to start, but for non-designers, the relationships between different colors can be a bit mystifying.

color theory chart

Note that you’ll also need to think about the lighting in the environment where your signs will be located. The highest contrast designs will be most important in low-light settings. Of course, if your sign will be backlit or illuminated, that introduces some other considerations that are best handled by the sign design pros.

5. Keep the Fonts Simple

If you’ve begun to notice a theme with our rules here, we’re not surprised. Most points about sign design come back to the fact that legibility is critical. And this means that your typefaces need to be easy to read. Period.


6. Be True to Your Brand

Even if you don’t have a branding style guide for your business’s marketing materials, you probably have go-to colors and fonts that you tend to use. You likely also have a logo. When designing effective signs, you’ll need to incorporate these key branding elements so that people seeing your signs don’t have to question who they belong to.

Does your current logo not read clearly on your signage, or are you not sure it clearly represents your brand? It could be time for a refresh. (Spoiler alert: this is another marketing and branding feature we can help you out with here at The H&H Group!)

Need Some New Signs for Your Business?

Here in Central PA, The H&H Group is your best resource for sign design and printing services. Don’t go it alone in creating new signage for your business! Our talented team will help you realize your vision while ensuring that your signs are readable, eye-catching, and conform to local code rules (for exterior signage), where applicable.

Complete our pricing request form with a few details about your next sign project, and we’ll be in touch ASAP to learn more!

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