Signage has been around since the ancient Romans and Greeks, who used it mark their storefronts hoping to attract customers. And while your branded signage might differ from their modest stone signs with painted letters, its intent—and its importance—remains undeniable. But one thing is for sure: it’s tricky to get your brand’s signage right.
Given the volume of signs lining the streets these days, good signage is key to making an effective brand impression. There are many considerations brands need to be aware of when implementing signage.
Signs of bad…signage: Branding and design best practices
Let’s start at the beginning: if people can’t read the sign, you have a fundamental and immediate problem. The cause—and the solution—may not be obvious at first glance. Here are a few things that may affect the legibility of your sign.
1. Font. Just say no to that script or comic sans font. A sans-serif font-type, such as Arial or Futura, are solid choices. PNG Air is an example of a company that recently changed its brand to comply with this industry standard. Take a look at their transformation.
2. Illumination. If you illuminate a blue or red sign, it may not be legible at night. Consider halo illumination—a border of LED lights—to provide the appropriate amount of contrast of a dark color against a dark sky
3. Kerning. Kerning refers to the spacing between letters and words to make them more aesthetically pleasing and easier to read. Look at the images below for an example of proper vs. poor kerning. Here’s the thing: when letterforms are poorly kerned—either too close or too far apart—it can be difficult for the reader to differentiate one word from another. It may even result in people misreading the sign. Proper kerning makes reading words and letters effortless and prevents unintentional misinterpretations.
See the difference? We sure do!
4. Spellcheck. Spellcheck is a critical part of signage best practices. Fail to catch that typo, and your stakeholders may lose faith in your ability to cross the t’s and dot the i’s. And unfortunately, these mistakes do still happen – and more often than you would think. Don’t forget to look beyond the company name—we’ve stopped many an error from appearing on wayfinding signage.
5. Regulatory compliance. Perhaps your company has rebranded, or you are a new company moving into an existing workspace. Retrofitting your sign to use the existing structure, be it a monument or pylon style, may seem like a great idea in principle, but there are more considerations. New regulations and risks lurk at every corner of the signage world – so before you retrofit that sign pole from 1990 for your rebrand, take a step back. What is the condition of the sign structure? Have regulations governing wind loads changed? Has the town updated height regulations? Failing to thoroughly explore the implications of retrofitting can bring about disastrous results. If your new, shiny sign is not suitable for that old pole or foundation, you are risking both safety and brand reputation.
6. Understanding your geographic location. A quality sign vendor from the local area will know the lay of the land. For example, in a hot climate, the vendor should explain the implications of the intense sun beating down on your sign for years to come. Or about proper drainage for your sign if you are in areas that receive a lot of rain. Planning around local conditions is critical to ensure the long life of your sign.
7. Maintenance. Properly maintain your signs and they will represent your business well for years to come. Ignore maintenance, and your sign can become an eyesore. Signs can become home to birds and dead bugs, get dirty, or partially lose illumination. Many towns have regulations requiring upkeep – so failing to plan for maintenance can cause both legal issues and public embarrassment.
The future of branded signage design
While we continue to move towards a more digital world, signage is not going away anytime soon. While people are spending more and more time online, they do still venture into the real world. Even tech giants such as Google and Amazon recognize the importance of good signage and have implemented clear signage and wayfinding best practices on their campuses.
Want to learn more about top considerations when looking to implement new branded signage? We’re happy to talk to you about it, anytime!