Visuals for a sign

For the last couple of months as we were driving to work we noticed a lot of signage, a lot of poor signage. A lot of signs that you see usually advertising a product, a service or some sort of offer are filled with unnecessary information that you can’t even read it when you’re at the stop light 30 meters away. So, as professionals we got us thinking that some tips on effective sign and display design would be a good topic for our blog.

Signage is a very affordable mean of advertising. There is a lot more to designing both indoor and outdoor signage than sometimes it meets the eye. There are many questions and factors that should be taken into consideration before and during the design process.

The following signage design principles are used by graphic professionals and also by our business to create attractive, high impact signage that is readable, appealing to the eye and carries a lot of impact:

Keep it visible and readable because less really is more. By keeping your message short, your sign will be easier to be seen and read at a glimpse. Signs come in many shapes and sizes, so make sure you have chosen a size that is best for the distance you expect your sign or display to be viewed from. Consider where the location will be and what other obstacles may be in the way. Visibility is the most important part of your signage.

Avoiding clutter: Successful signage communicates a message. The message should be delivered with the least words possible to your target audience. Filling your sign with too many words or lines makes it harder for potential customers to read from a distance.

White-space: Is the area of a design that is left uncovered by either text or graphics and it can be at any color. The empty space surrounding text and graphics is also important as other considerations we mentioned or will mention. There is a tendency that clients want to fill up the available area with as much text as possible. But when the text is crowded it becomes very hard for anyone to read. Around 30% to 40% of the sign’s face area should be left as blank or “white space” for easy readability.

Type & fonts: In general, clean, crisp and easy to read type styles should be used for maximum readability. Most professional fonts have a variety of weights, ranging from regular to bold, black, extended, etc. Use these to your advantage by giving priority or preference to certain parts of your message.

Capital Letters: There are a lot of misconceptions that capital letters are larger than lower case letters, they must be easier to read from a distance. However, visual tests have concluded that Upper and Lower Case Text is more readable from a distance than all capital letters. Since viewers may only have a few seconds to read your message, increasing the readability of your sign by not overusing capital letters.

A general rule: Never use more than two different fonts in a single design. Choosing two fonts that complement each other can make your message stand out among many other ones. Most importantly, use fonts that are clearly legible when viewed from a distance.

Images and graphics: Adding a border can increase the percentage of being read by 25%. Borders are often recommended to be installed in roads that have high traffic to attract audience by the elegant border design. They tend to cause the eye to focus on the message. In addition, full color digital photos can be incorporated into designs to add great impact. Logos, artwork and other graphical elements can also be added to visually enhance the design and layout you will choose.

Foreground & background colors: When you are choosing a background for your design, be sure not to use anything that will make it difficult to focus on the main message. Black contrasts go well with any light color, and white contrast works well with colors having a dark value. The greater the contrast is the more readable the text is from distance. Colors that are closer together in a background won’t contrast as well and it will be more difficult to read.

Visibility & different color combinations: These 15 color combinations for lettering were tested for readability at a distance. The following ranked colors in the sequence shown begins with the most legible going down to the least legible.

  1. black on yellow
  2. black on white
  3. yellow on black
  4. white on blue
  5. green on white
  6. blue on yellow
  7. white on green
  8. white on brown
  9. brown on yellow
  10.  brown on white
  11.  yellow on brown
  12.  red on white
  13.  yellow on red
  14. red on yellow
  15. white on red

Following the guidelines that we provided above will ensure that your sign for your business is readable and your message gets across clearly to the target audience.


Creating a sign, adding visual elements can make the sign more attractive. By adding these visuals, you are increasing the appeal of your sign. Taking this step, assures that more people will see and actually read your sign.

While adding visuals to your sign there are several different considerations that you will need to keep in mind. The most important consideration is by understanding how your sign will be viewed by the public.

How People Process Visuals & Information

People process information in the three ways, auditory, visually or pictorially. Let’s leave out the first one and focus on the last two elements. In order to appeal to both methods of processing information, it is important to include these two elements on the same sign.

For instance, processing information pictorially means that someone who spots the visuals before the text. Attracting this type of people, it is absolutely necessary to include visuals on your sign. For people who spot text before visuals, it is important to make sure that you have enough text on your sign to attract their attention as well.

This creates a balance in your sign. Balance is an important component in a well designed sign. When a sign is not well balanced with too many visuals and not enough text, or the elements are not properly arranged, this creates a visual disturbance for the viewer. The first thing the viewer will do, is to stop reading the sign.

Combining text and visual elements on a sign, it’s very easy to lose sight of this important point. A good idea is to start with your text, using this as the anchor for the rest of the sign. Once you are done with your message, the visual elements can be used to support it, instead of taking away from it.

Colors will either match your visual, or you can use contrasting colors. If your visuals are simple line-art images, they can be in just one color. However, if your logo is complicated or a visual needs several colors to display properly, you may want to go with a full color sign.

Using visuals with the same color as your text, the viewer will automatically associate them with the rest of your message. In many cases you will need to go with a contrasting color to make sure that the visuals display properly. Try different colors with your visuals until you find the best one that showcases the image.