The following article originally appeared on the Small Business Administration website in February 2001, but it was subsequently removed.
- Keep it visible and legible.
Remember that people of all ages are looking through a windshield, in traffic, day and night. They must be able to see and read your sign easily.
- Save the details for the sale.
Don’t attempt to sell them with information on the sign — save that information until they are in your business.
- Keep it simple.
The proper design of your sign is critical to its effectiveness. Crowding the sign with too many words or lines of text makes it impossible to read from a distance. Use as few words as possible so your signage is legible. Fewer words are better, and three to five words are optimal for quick readability.
- Grab attention.
There should be something about the sign that will reach out and command attention. Ideally, the first read should be a large pictorial graphic or your company logo, but it can also be large dominating text.
- Your sign is your handshake.
Your sign is your handshake with the buying public, and first impressions are lasting impressions. Your sign must project the image you want the public to have of you. People will judge the inside of your business by how it looks on the outside.
- Use new technologies.
The addition of a time-and-temperature display or an electronic message center can make your business a landmark in your community. With today’s technology, signs are becoming more effective at delivering their owner’s messages, while also becoming more cost effective. The new electronic message centers allow you to change the message on your sign as easily as you change your mind.
- Appeal to impulse buyers.
Many owners mistakenly think of a sign as merely a device that identifies the business. However, 55% of all retail sales are impulse buys. People see, shop and buy. If a sign is ineffective, it can actually cost the business owner more in lost sales than the entire cost of a good sign.
- Consider aesthetics and suitability.
Your sign must be attractive and appropriate for your type of business.
- Keep it near the viewer.
Put the sign as close to the street as allowable.
- Make sure your sign is conspicuous.
Your message competes in a complex environment. A passerby must be able to differentiate your sign from its surrounding environment.
- Avoid obstructions.
Make certain the sign can be viewed without obstruction from any source. Drive past your business from all directions to help determine the most visible location for your sign.
- Use pictures or graphics.
It should have an attractive pictorial graphic or company logo that clearly grabs a viewer’s attention first.
- Make it memorable.
It should make your products or services, and your location, easy to remember.
- Make it enticing.
Your sign should make a potential customer want to stop and see what’s inside the business.
- 15. Consider colors carefully.
Too many colors take away from the quick readability of the sign. Again, stay simple. Make sure colors are contrasting. Yellow on white is not readable, whereas black on white is very readable. (Refer to a color chart or wheel for best contrasting colors.) If you have several colors in a graphic, stay away from multi-colored lines of text or words (they will compete with the colors in your graphic). Black text is better.
- Use a consistent visual image.
Ideally, the design and the colors of your building should reinforce the design and colors of your sign (or vice versa). Color is probably the easiest and most cost-effective device for this coordination of design for business identification.
- Avoid clutter.
“White-space” is the surface area of a sign’s face that is left uncovered by either text or graphics. The proper amount of white space is just as important for quick readability as are graphics, text and colors. 30% to 40% of the sign’s face area should be left as white space for optimal readability.
- Place it to be seen.
An attractive and well-designed sign will only be effective if it is placed in a location that optimizes its visibility to passersby. Your goal should be to make the sign unavoidable to the passing viewer.