Evaluating Your Business Location’s Signage Needs

The following article originally appeared on the Small Business Administration website in February 2001, but it was subsequently removed.

Before a business owner puts up a sign, it is extremely important for that owner to evaluate the business and its location in terms of its signage needs.

Carefully review and consider these criteria before designing your sign:

  • The type of business you operate
  • The type of street
  • Approximate speed of traffic
  • Obstructions
  • Business setback from the street
  • Topography of your business relative to the street

1. The type of business you operate
The first thing you should do before buying a sign is evaluate the signage needs of your business in terms of the goals to be accomplished through signage. In other words, is your business:

  • The type that needs to “brand” its site in the community, as with a doctor’s office or auto repair shop, so that potential customers are aware of your business and think of it first when the need arises?
  • A business that frequently advertises price or product specials, such as a grocery or liquor store?
  • Rely more upon “impulse” stops and/or purchases, such as a freeway gas station, or a discount motel?

These factors are very important in determining the number of messages (or lines of text) you’ll need, and whether or not a readerboard or an electronic message center is necessary or desirable for your business, to help you determine the overall size of your sign.

2. The type of street (e.g. two lane, four lane, one-way, etc.)

Traffic “masking” can obscure your message.

  • With more lanes of traffic, any given sign may become less noticeable because of the traffic obstacles, or masking.
  • As a rule, the sign owner should try to compensate for this loss through better sign mounting and/or an increase in the height of the mounted sign.

3. Approximate speed of traffic.

  • The faster the traffic, the larger your sign and its text must be to be readable.
  • It is critical that the text is legible from a sufficient distance to allow drivers to read the sign and safely maneuver through traffic.

4. Obstructions (e.g., trees, poles, neighboring buildings, other signs, etc.)

  • For any sign to be effective, it must be clearly visible to potential customers.
  • Obstacles should be overcome through mounting style choice, sign placement and the height of the sign.
  • Before installing your sign, drive by your business from all directions to check for potential obstacles.

5. Business setback from the street

  • A normal driver has approximately a 25-degree cone-of-vision through the windshield as they are driving.
  • It is important that any sign be placed within this cone-of-vision along the roadway in order to be plainly noticeable to passing drivers.
  • As a guideline, try to keep the sign as close to the roadway as possible and the text size large.

6. Topography of the business relative to the street

  • Adjust the height of your sign’s mounting (or select another mounting style) to compensate for any differences in the height of your business site relative to the street.
  • Again, the goal is to make your sign the most visible it can be to passing traffic.

There is important criteria to review and consider before designing your sign. Be aware of not only the sign, but also how it relates to your business, to your street and approach to your business, and how the structures and street all relate.

Many of the words and designs depicted on this site are trademarks and/or servicemarks of their respective owners. The use of these marks on this site is not in connection with the sale, offering for sale, distribution or advertising of any goods or services and the use of the marks does not, and is not intended to, indicate ownership or rights in those marks by the Small Business Administration or any party other than the owner of such marks.

Wade Swormstedt

Wade Swormstedt

Wade is Executive Director of the Foundation for the Advancement of the Sign Industry. Formerly he was Editor and Publisher of Signs of the Times magazine.

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Posted in Small Business Administration, Visibility and Legibility.