Getting the Message Across
The US Small Business Administration tells us that an on-premise sign is by far the most effective form of advertising for small business. In fact, they attribute the lion’s share of retail business success rates to a visible sign. Why? Because university and other surveys have consistently revealed that 49% of new customers patronized the business because they saw the sign!
How do you maximize this invaluable resource? Here are some tips (though the entire science of signs involves much more, this will be a great start):
· See Image #1. Letter-height: Don’t make your prospective customers go through an eye exam! An effective sign must be legible from a distance. Generally, letters with a taller, wider “stroke” can be read from further away. See the official letter-height viewing charts below as well. With an aging population, this becomes more important, and larger, visible signs reduce fender benders!
· See Image #2. Contrast: A lack of contrast can create big problems for any sign design. Letters that blend in with their backgrounds become illegible at moderate distances. There is no good reason to make address numeral or signage blend into a building’s color scheme. This just makes the job of fire fighters or paramedics that much more difficult when they need to find the right location.
· See Image #3. Font Choice: Make your message clear. Sans serif fonts or open typefaces like Verdana tend to be more legible. Use the more decorative fonts sparingly, as those can rarely be easily read at a distance. Limiting your sign to a maximum of two type styles is important. In almost all cases, more than two type styles does nothing to improve the sign, and often makes the message harder to read and look disorganized to the viewer. In their book, Human Factors in Simple and Complex Systems, Robert W. Proctor, Trisha Van Zandt explain that under optimal conditions, for black text on a white background, the font stock width-to-height ratio is ideally 1:6 to 1:8. For white characters on a black field, the optimal ratio is 1:8 to 1:10. Thinner lines for white on black images are required because of a phenomenon called radiation or sparkle. This is where the light color “bleeds” together due to the contrast -the eye’s reaction. From a sign designer's perspective, this makes sense. Yet, I for one acknowledge the joy of finding the right font - something with personality - after literally hours of searching. Some fun fonts (many free) are found here: Graphics Unleashed. From the http://www.lobbypop.me/ blog resource site, "We, as sign designers, are sometimes drawn to a zesty or ornate font, in order to convey a particular spirit or feeling in our messaging. Some typefaces are just designed to stand out from the crowd. To the degree that a typeface has personality, spirit, or distinction, however, it almost always suffers proportionally on the legibility scale."
So, less is more... Unless it's letter height...
Now, take a good look at how readability is influenced by distance, as well as motion. A body in motion (or in this case, a vehicle) is going to need more "advance time" in order to read a message, see an address, comprehend a shop name. In order to accomplish this "early visibility" requirement, larger letter heights are needed.
And, much to everyone's chagrin, we have an aging population to contend with. Not you and me, of course. We're "Young" forever ;)
But with the increasing wisdom evidenced by grey hair, we find that eyesight is not as keen as it once was. It is therefore doubly important that letters be large and visible! Bigger signs, unobstructed, well within the "Cone of Vision" (see next post on the subject) will reduce fende benders.
Much more “science” is available from Sign Biz, Inc. – Call (800) 633-5580.
Did you know? Effective signage can increase sales as much as 65%!