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Best Practices in Sign Design

Signs grab attention. They are information-light and impact-rich to promote, engage, inform, and sell. According to the Sign Research Foundation, 60% of businesses that added or upgraded their signage enjoyed a 10% increase in sales. Getting the best results, however, requires a knowledgeable salesperson to help clients navigate the many choices in signage types, material choices, design options, and format sizes. Signs viewed indoors from a few feet away require different choices than outdoor signage viewed by drivers from hundreds of feet away. Poor choices in any category will result in a sign that does not function as intended or fit in the intended space. And it may not unlock those additional sales.


Indoor and Outdoor Signage

Approach choosing the best sign for the job using a decision tree. The first decision point is location — will the sign be used indoors or outdoors? Indoor signage is often used for a shorter period and does not need to be as durable as those used outdoors. Signs placed outdoors must withstand the local weather, including sun exposure, varying temperatures, precipitation, and wind.


Make the Best Design Choices

Where the sign will be located, or its placement, is another closely related design choice. Placement will dictate the type of lighting that will influence how the color is perceived, the viewing distance, and the context of the surrounding environment. An adhesive window graphic installed on the glass partition of a city bus stop is quite different from a window graphic placed inside the window of a restaurant. The bus stop sign will require more durable materials and likely need a design that can be understood at a greater distance.

The physical space and the viewing distance for the sign will influence the finished size and mounting options. State-of-the-art, large format printing equipment allows 4over to print sizes measured in inches to feet in width and length. To help choose the best size, the 4over website and team provide design specs, templates, and guidelines that work best for each type of sign. Remember to consider the constraints of the target location, including wall and ceiling heights, floor space for sign stands, and how close people will pass by the signs.    

The same is true for material choices, where 4over generally offers a limited number of materials that are known to perform well for each type of sign. Outdoor banners, like those used for advertising at ball fields, can be printed on scrim vinyl or mesh. The difference is that scrim vinyl is a solid, reinforced material that may also need wind slits added to allow the breeze to flow through the sign. Woven mesh materials inherently allow wind to flow through.

How the sign will be attached, affixed, mounted, or otherwise installed requires careful consideration. Banners can be hung with grommets, a sleeve, and a pole, or placed in a retractable stand. Road and yard signs made from fluted coroplast commonly use an aluminum frame that can be staked in the ground. Window and floor graphics are affixed using adhesives. The environment will impact the placement and the best method for installation.


Design for Effectiveness

With these decisions made, the final design considerations relate to the artwork and color choices. These are important decisions because the research tells us that small unclear signs do not help a business. The Sign Research Foundation says that 61% of US consumers missed a business location because a needed sign was unclear or too small. 

Bold colors and simplified designs usually work best for most signage because the message needs to capture the viewer’s attention within seconds. Photographs, graphics, and fonts must be sized appropriately. We have all seen signs where the font is too small to read from the highway, street, or sidewalk as we pass by. Do not let your clients make those mistakes. 

Colors not only relate to those used in the artwork design but also to what inks will be used to print the sign. Some signs, due to the materials used, are only printed using four standard inks (cyan, magenta, yellow, and black) on one side, which is often expressed as 4/0 printing. Other types of signs, like coroplast yard signs, are often printed on both sides or printed 4/4. Also, remember that printing on metals or other colored materials must use white ink as a base layer for the colors to “pop” on the sign.


Place with Deliberation

Signs allow smaller companies to compete for attention, even in mall and shopping center locations. A well-placed sign hanging at eye level or on a sidewalk sign by the store entrance gets people to stop and take notice. And once you get them in the store, don’t forget wayfinding signs to guide customers to the specials. 

For non-retail customers, like event organizers, sports teams, and schools, the same rules apply. Keep the sign designs sharp, vibrant, and easy to find. Ask about feather flags, retractable banners, and other types of portable signage that can be stored between events.

Work through this set of design considerations with your clients to avoid most mistakes before placing an order. Reach out to the experienced team at 4over that is available to answer any more nuanced or specific questions related to your signage requirements.

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As one of North America’s largest trade-only printers and a trusted source for print fulfillment since 2001, 4over helps print, design, and other creative services resellers grow profitable businesses. We do this by offering a vast selection of quality print products at guaranteed trade-only prices. Our expansive e-commerce catalog includes everything from standard marketing collateral like business cards and brochures, to harder-to-find specialty, large format, and promotional products.

Our capabilities span gang run offset, digital, grand format, and promotional printing across six production facilities, staffed by experienced, committed operations teams. With locations across North America, state-of-the-art equipment such as powerful Incas and Scodix UV machines, and fast turnarounds, 4over offers our customers savings, selection, and scale. We serve large franchise printers, single print shops, print brokers, graphic designers, photographers, and every type of print reseller in between. Learn more at Trade.4over.com

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