When coaching our customers through the sign design and installation process, we find ourselves educating our customers about best practices in sign design and placement. What works on paper, may not be the best for a sign, after all. Here are a few simple yet important tips on what to look for in your next sign or Electronic Message Center (EMC).
1. Viewing Distance
Start with the viewing distance, or the distance your audience will be from your sign and then plan accordingly. The size of your lettering will be determined, in part, by the viewing distance. You’ll want to consider the amount of time your audience will have with your sign as well.
2. Viewing Angle
Consider the angles from which your audience will view your sign. As a viewer moves past your sign they will experience varying points of readability. Be sure to consider all angles and work with your sign provider to match the right sign to your location.
3. Exposure Time
Traveling in a car at 55 mph, your reader will have to read quickly, so the sign should be bright and easy to consume with simple letters that are large and have high contrast to the space around it.
4. Font Size
You’ll adjust your sign’s font size based on the distance from which the sign will be viewed. Figure about one inch of letter height for every ten feet of distance. So, if you need a sign to be legible from 200 feet, then you’ll want to use letters to be 20 inches high.
5. Font Type
If your sign will include a script font, keep in mind that you’ll need to use a larger letter size for better legibility. The style and complexity of the font can affect legibility.
6. Color and Contrast
Without a doubt, the color of your sign background and characters and even the surrounding space will affect readability. We recommend higher contrast – black and white, for example, over two similarly shaded colors such as light blue and yellow. The higher the contrast between the letters and the background, the easier the sign is to read.
Choose colors that will be most readable in the available light conditions. Darker colors, for example, are more visible in bright light and vice versa. When in doubt, consider a lighted sign -- a sign that emits its own light -- or placing your sign under direct lighting.
8. White or Negative Space
In the art and design world, white or negative space is an important element to a finished piece. In the sign industry, overlooking the negative space in a design can sacrifice readability. Negative or white space is the shape of the space around your letters or your sign. It is not always white; think of it as the cushion around the content that adds emphasis. That space is a resting spot for the reader’s eye and it signals where relevant images begin and where they end, allowing the reader to quickly determine what is important to the message.
If your sign is an electronic message center (EMC), the pixilation of the sign will be determined by viewing distance as well. Pixilation in an EMC are points of light that form an image when viewed together. The size of each pixel of light – 10mm, 12mm, 16mm or 19mm – in relation to the height of the characters and the viewing distance, affects readability. We recommend a minimum viewing distance for each pixel size, following the rule that requires a smaller pixel for a shorter distance.
When we talk about placement, we are talking about a number of factors including where your sign is in relation to buildings, sidewalks, roadway and even other signs. Visual clutter around your sign can render your sign less legible. That means other signs, landscaping, traffic patterns can all keep your audience from viewing your sign as you intended. It’s best to place signs directly within the line of sight or perpendicular to it, as opposed to parallel to it. For example, a street sign is easier to find and read when placed directly above the lanes of traffic rather than on the street corner.
Wrapping It All Up
These are guidelines and not hard fast rules. With so many variables, it’s important to work with your sign professional to determine the right sign for your brand, your location, your space, your audience and your budget. We’re here to help you navigate your choices. Contact Lemberg Signs & Lighting for more information.