10 Tips For Designing Signage That Effectively Captures Audience Attention


Signage acts as a powerful tool for sharing crucial details, captivating your ideal audience, and spurring them into action. Whether it’s alerting commuters about road closures, welcoming shoppers to a fashion boutique, or guiding individuals to their desired locations, signage is an integral part of our everyday experiences that we can’t ignore.

Nevertheless, signage designs can vary widely between businesses, spanning from traffic signs and caution signs to storefront signage and more. While there isn’t a one-size-fits-all approach to designing these signs, they often share common features that are pivotal for their effectiveness. In this blog, we offer a concise overview of signage design and present ten valuable sign design tips for creating exceptional signs. Continue reading to find more.

What is a Signage Design

Signage Design

Signage design is the art and science of creating visual displays and graphics that effectively convey information, attract attention, and guide people. It involves crafting signs for various purposes, from advertising and branding to providing directions and safety warnings.

A well-executed signage design combines aesthetics, legibility, and functionality to communicate messages clearly and leave a lasting impact on viewers. Whether it’s a storefront sign, a billboard, or directional signage in a building, the design process aims to make information accessible and visually appealing to the intended audience.

What Are the Primary Purposes of Signage

Signage serves several crucial purposes in our daily lives:

1. Information and Direction

Signage is the unsung hero of navigation, providing essential guidance in our daily lives. From road signs helping us find the nearest exit on the highway to directories in shopping malls pointing us to the right store, signage ensures we stay informed and on the right path.

2. Branding and Identity

For businesses, a custom sign is a powerful branding tool. Distinctive signs with company logos and colors not only help in brand recognition but also create a sense of trust and familiarity. The right signage can make your business stand out and leave a lasting impression on customers.

3. Advertising and Promotion

From eye-catching billboards on the side of the road to storefront signs luring shoppers with enticing offers or a simple wall sign, signage is an effective and budget-friendly way to advertise products and services. It grabs attention, conveys marketing messages, and encourages potential customers to take action.

4. Safety and Compliance

Signage plays a crucial role in ensuring safety and compliance with rules and regulations. Warning signs, such as “Danger” or “No Entry,” keep people informed about potential hazards, while regulatory signs inform individuals about laws, ensuring that everyone stays on the right side of the law.

5. Decoration and Aesthetics

Signage isn’t just functional; it can be an art form. Artistic or decorative signs add character to buildings, public spaces, and events, contributing to a pleasing aesthetic. They transform mundane locations into visually appealing environments.

6. Wayfinding

In large, complex spaces like airports, hospitals, and sprawling campuses, wayfinding signs are indispensable. They alleviate confusion and help people reach their destinations efficiently, whether it’s finding the correct gate at an airport or the right ward in a hospital.

7. Community and Cultural Significance

Some signs go beyond their practical use to hold cultural or historical significance. Landmark signs, memorial plaques, and public art installations contribute to a sense of community and remind us of our cultural heritage.

8. Accessibility

Inclusive signage ensures that everyone, regardless of their abilities, can access and understand information. Signs incorporating braille, clear fonts, and symbols facilitate independent navigation for those with disabilities, promoting equality and accessibility.

9. Environmental Awareness

Signs can be powerful tools for raising environmental consciousness. Whether it’s signage promoting eco-friendly practices, conservation efforts, or environmental awareness campaigns, they educate and inspire individuals to make more sustainable choices and take part in preserving the planet.

Signage is a multifaceted communication tool that fulfills an array of purposes in our daily lives, from guiding us on our journeys to promoting businesses, ensuring safety, and even fostering cultural identity and environmental responsibility. It’s an essential element of our modern world, often taken for granted, but undeniably indispensable.

What Makes a Good Sign

Good Sign

As a professional graphic designer, you must consider the following design elements before designing signage for your brand:

1. Clarity and Legibility

Imagine a sign as a messenger of important information. For it to effectively convey its message, it must be crystal clear and easily readable. This involves selecting the right font that is both appropriate and legible, choosing an optimal font size, and utilizing a clean and contrasting color scheme. Whether viewed from a distance or up close, the message should be instantly comprehensible to all.

2. Visibility and Contrast

A great sign cannot be ignored. It’s designed to stand out, grab attention, and be noticed. Achieving this requires a careful selection of colors and design elements that enhance visibility.

High-contrast combinations, such as black text on a white background, significantly improve the sign’s visibility. Consider factors like lighting and the surrounding environment for outdoor signs to ensure they remain eye-catching even in various conditions.

3. Conciseness

The old saying “less is more” holds for effective signage. A good sign conveys its message succinctly, avoiding any unnecessary clutter or jargon that could confuse the reader. It focuses solely on the key information that needs to be communicated.

This brevity ensures that you convey the message in as few words as possible without losing the key message in a sea of unnecessary details.

4. Relevance

An effective sign should always be context-appropriate. It addresses the specific needs of its intended audience and the location where it’s placed. For example, an exit sign should be positioned precisely where someone needs to exit, ensuring that it serves a practical purpose and doesn’t cause confusion.

5. Durability

Quality materials are a must for an effective sign. A good sign is designed to withstand the test of time. This is especially crucial for outdoor signs, which are exposed to the elements. Utilizing weather-resistant materials and finishes ensures that the sign remains in good condition and that the message it conveys remains clear and impactful.

6. Compliance

For certain types of signs, such as regulatory or safety signs, compliance with industry standards and legal requirements is crucial. A good sign not only serves its intended purpose effectively but also meets all necessary regulations and standards. This ensures that the sign is not only clear but also legally valid, contributing to overall safety and adherence to relevant rules.

A well-designed sign combines these attributes to guarantee that the message it carries is easily understood, and seen, and remains effective over time. Whether it’s for wayfinding, branding, safety, or promotion, these principles of good signage design apply universally, making signs a powerful and indispensable aspect of our daily lives.

5 Common Types of Signage Design

Signage design is a versatile field, with various types of signs serving specific purposes. Here are five common types of signage design:

1. Informational Signs

Informational Signs

Informational signs are everywhere, guiding us through spaces. From street signs and directories in malls to restroom signs and room numbers in hotels, these signs provide essential information. They are typically designed for clarity and legibility, with straightforward fonts and easily recognizable symbols.

2. Wayfinding Signs

Wayfinding Signs

Wayfinding signs are all about helping people navigate complex environments. Airports, hospitals, and large campuses use them extensively. These signs often incorporate arrows, maps, and clear directional cues to guide visitors efficiently. Effective wayfinding signage reduces confusion and frustration.

3. Safety Signs

Safety Signs

Safety signs are crucial for public well-being. They include warning signs for potential hazards, such as “Caution: Wet Floor,” and emergency signs like fire exit signs. Safety signs use universally understood symbols and colors to convey their message quickly and effectively.

4. Advertising and Promotional Signs

Advertising and Promotional Signs

These signs are designed to catch the eye and promote products, services, or events. Billboards, banners, and storefront signs are common examples. They often feature bold graphics, vibrant colors, and persuasive messages to attract attention and encourage action.

5. Branding and Identity Signs

Branding and Identity Signs

Branding signs serve to establish and reinforce a brand’s identity. These custom signs are often seen on the facades of businesses or inside their premises. They incorporate the company’s logo, colors, and specific fonts, creating a cohesive brand image. Think of the iconic golden arches of McDonald’s or the distinctive Coca-Cola logo.

Each type of signage design has its own purpose and style, tailored to fulfill specific communication goals. Whether it’s providing information, ensuring safety, guiding people, advertising, or building brand recognition, signage design plays a pivotal role in our daily lives, making spaces more navigable, engaging, and secure.

10 Effective Tips For Designing Signage

Designing effective signage is an art that combines aesthetics and functionality. Here are ten tips that graphic designers should keep in mind to create effective signage that leaves a lasting impression:

1. Know Your Audience

Knowing your audience is the foundation of effective signage design. It’s about understanding who will be reading your sign and tailoring the design to their preferences and expectations. For instance, a sign in a children’s playground should be colorful, playful, and feature child-friendly imagery, while a corporate office sign should exude professionalism with a more subdued design.

To create signage that truly connects, consider the age group, interests, and cultural backgrounds of your audience. The better you know them, the more your signage will resonate and convey its message effectively.

2. Prioritize Readability

Prioritizing readability is paramount in signage design. It involves selecting legible fonts and type sizes, ensuring that text stands out against the background, and maintaining high contrast for easy reading. Whether it’s a directional sign or a safety notice, create contrast so it is easy for your audience to grasp the message at a glance.

Importantly, clarity is key so be sure to avoid intricate fonts or distracting backgrounds that could hinder understanding. Effective signage delivers information swiftly and effortlessly, ensuring that your audience can absorb the message without any confusion or strain. A common rule to guide your design is to keep thirty to forty percent of the sign’s face area as a white space to increase legibility.

3. Keep it Concise

Keeping signage concise is essential to its effectiveness. A concise sign conveys information quickly and directly. It avoids unnecessary clutter and details that could overwhelm the reader. Whether it’s a simple “Exit” sign or a promotional banner, brevity is key.

Too much information can dilute the core message and lead to confusion. A concise sign ensures that the audience can absorb the information at a glance, making it more likely that they’ll retain and act upon the message you intend to deliver.

4. Use Images and Icons

Incorporating images and icons is a powerful strategy in signage design. Visual elements enhance the sign’s message and make it more universally understandable. Icons like arrows, symbols, or images can reinforce the text or even replace it in some cases. For example, a restroom sign with a simple icon of a person can be universally recognized.

These visual cues transcend language barriers and communicate quickly. Images and icons not only enhance the aesthetic appeal of the sign but also improve its overall effectiveness in conveying information.

5. Consider Branding

Incorporating branding elements is a key aspect of a successful sign design, especially since most audiences have only a few seconds to view and check the signage. It involves integrating your brand’s colors, fonts, and logo into the sign. This consistency reinforces brand recognition and strengthens your identity.

Whether it’s an exterior storefront sign, a menu board, or promotional banners, using consistent branding elements helps customers associate the sign with your business. It fosters trust and a sense of familiarity, making your signage an integral part of your overall brand strategy. Effective signage not only conveys information but also contributes to building and reinforcing your brand image.

6. Choose the Right Colors

Selecting the right colors is crucial in signage design because colors evoke emotions and affect how people perceive information. For example, red can signify danger, while green often represents safety. The choice of colors should align with the message you want to convey. High-contrast combinations, such as black text on a white background, enhance readability.

Effective color choices can capture attention, trigger specific feelings, and ensure that the sign serves its purpose, whether it’s for safety, branding, or advertising. The right colors can make your signage more impactful and memorable. The Outdoor Advertising Association of America (OAAA) ranked 15 color combinations for their high readability from a distance.

These color combinations include black on yellow, black on white, yellow on black, white on blue, green on white, blue on yellow, white on green, white on brown, brown on yellow, brown on white, yellow on brown, red on white, yellow on red, red on yellow and white on red are excellent color combinations for an outdoor signage design.

7. Think About Placement

Consideration of placement is crucial in signage design. The location of your sign greatly influences its impact and effectiveness. Think about where your target audience is likely to see and interact with the sign. For instance, a directional sign should be positioned at eye level where people are searching for guidance.

A storefront sign should be visible from a distance to attract potential customers. Whether it’s indoors or outdoors, placement can make or break a sign’s effectiveness, ensuring it delivers its message to the right audience in the right context.

8. Size and Font

The choice of font and its size in signage design is critical to ensuring the message’s readability and impact. Fonts should be clear, legible, and in harmony with the overall design. A decorative script might work for a wedding invitation but not for a safety sign. Additionally, font size should be appropriate for the viewing distance.

As opposed to the general notion that ALL CAPITAL letters might be good for signage design, research has revealed that a good mix of Upper case and lower case letters do the trick. Regarding the number of fonts required, a general rule of thumb is to never use more than two different fonts in a single design. The condition with the two different fonts is to ensure that they complement each other to enhance readability. If you are unsure of how to choose the right size for your signage, gain insights from this chart from the United States Sign Council (USSC) to guide you.

Above all, remember that the right font and size combination ensures that your message is easily understood and leaves a lasting impression on your audience.

9. Test at a Distance

Testing your signage from a distance is a valuable step in design. It allows you to assess its visibility and readability from various angles and distances. You might design a sign that looks great up close but becomes illegible when viewed from a distance.

By conducting distance tests, you can fine-tune your sign’s design to ensure that it serves its purpose effectively. Whether it’s a roadside billboard or a storefront sign, knowing that your signage is clear and legible from afar ensures that it reaches its intended audience, no matter where they are.

10. Consider Lighting

Lighting plays a pivotal role in signage design, especially for visibility in low-light conditions. Signs are often viewed in varying lighting environments, from bright daylight to dim evenings. Therefore, consider whether your signage needs external illumination or reflective materials for readability at night.

Lighting can enhance the sign’s visibility, draw attention, and emphasize crucial messages. Whether it’s an outdoor billboard or an indoor directory, thoughtful lighting considerations ensure that your signage remains effective, regardless of the time of day or lighting conditions.

Bonus Tip: Durability and Maintenance

Ensuring the longevity of your signage is a crucial factor. Signage is a long-term investment, and it should be designed to withstand weather conditions, wear and tear, and the passage of time. Choosing durable materials and considering regular maintenance can help your signage stay effective and aesthetically appealing.

Whether it’s an outdoor monument sign or an indoor informational display, durability, and maintenance should be top priorities to ensure that your sign continues to serve its purpose and maintain a professional appearance for years to come.

Effective signage design is about striking a balance between aesthetics and functionality. Whether it’s for information, navigation, safety, branding, or advertising, well-designed signage has the power to communicate messages clearly and leave a positive impact.

How Can All Time Design Help You Create Compelling Signage Design

All Time Design is your invaluable partner for creating compelling signage. Our team of experienced designers understands the concept of effective signage, from readability to visual appeal. We work closely with our clients to tailor the designs to their specific needs, whether it’s for branding, wayfinding, or advertising.

Our design portfolio showcases our success in producing attention-grabbing signage that leaves a lasting impact. With our expert guidance and creativity, you can trust that your signage will be compelling, professional, and aligned with your brand’s vision.

Get in touch with us today to get your own design!

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