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5 Leading Causes of Unclear Signage

Posted by Jessica O'Neill Date: Tuesday 10 April, 2018

 Your signage is there to do a job….

The readability of signage can influence the impact the sign has on bringing in new customers and the message it is intended give out. Remember that the signage you’re installing at your customers premises is installed there with the purpose of sending a message. Most of the time it will be there to entice new customers but sometimes its role is to direct you to a place, instruct, warn and inform.

We’ve all seen examples of poor signage on our travels, whether it’s a double take which leaves you wondering what they were thinking or questioning what the shop sign says or what the shop does. 

Don’t let that be your signage. Help guide your customers with their signage decisions as this is good for their business as it is for yours.

Here are our 5 main causes of unclear and uneasy to read signage...

1 -  Poor maintenance or lack of upgrade

Once your customer’s signage is installed, it’s easy to take that as a job well done however the maintenance of signage is so important. Signs that are partially lit, outdated, damaged, faded or dirty won’t do the brand or the area much good. There is also some accountability there in relation to health and safety, yearly checks on signage could be something to recommend. Even offering this as a service yourself to keep the relationship going with your customer. Nobody wants their sign or brand to end up getting bad press or causing harm to those passing by. 

NEWS: https://www.walesonline.co.uk/news/wales-news/woman-hit-head-after-shop-1428490

2 - Improper use of colour & font  

Signage that is too busy with colours and text is confusing and takes too long to read. Avoid fonts that are hard to read like italics. Your customer might be insistent on them, but guide them and explain why he/she should re-consider because they are difficult to read and from a distance they could be completely illegible.

 3 - The design of the sign distracts away from the functionality of the sign  


As mentioned above a busy sign is distracting but not in a good way, if your signage is too compact, long and full of information or imagery  then it’ll distract from the purpose of the sign and most of the time it is wasted as people will not take the time to absorb it all. 

A KEY THING to remember is that if a sign is not clear and absorbed within 5 seconds…then it is not going to work. Potential customers of your client will find it hard to see what the company does and therefore not bother to take the time to find out.

4 -Competition 

If for example your customer’s modest signage is being placed amongst highly illuminated, LED or neon based signage, then the chances are it won’t be noticed. Thankfully there are planning permissions surrounding these types of installations but in some urban areas it can be seen. Think…Las Vegas.

However in a more common example if the area where your customer’s signage is going is full of similar business competition or maybe they are different businesses but have high quality signage then your signage needs to follow suit, otherwise it’ll just fade into the background and go unnoticed. 

On the other hand if there is little or no illumination on the street, it might be good to suggest this as an option to your customers as it would make their signage stand out! But do checking the planning permission implications of the area first. 

5 - Sign visibility 

Location and size: A sign that isn’t seen is no use at all, it is important to take into consideration where potential customers or users of the sign might be coming from. Also it is important to decide what distance the sign needs to be read, so at the design stage consider the appropriate letter height for readability at certain distances. If your customer is trying to reduce the quote to save money by reducing the size of their sign, this could be a bad idea, particularly if people aren’t going to be able to see it. 

Illumination: Put your sign in the spotlight! When done right an illuminated sign can be an effective way of getting your signs noticed. LED signs are a popular choice, they are subtle but ensure your sign is noticed at night and they are energy efficient. 

Other illumination options are light boxes, neon signs and fret cut sign trays. Cabochon lighting on signage is also an effective illumination option which have been coming back into ‘fashion’ lately.  

With illuminated signs it is important to make sure that the choice of lighting fits with the brand and the sign's message, the type of illumination used will strongly influence the ease with which the sign can be read. 

Getting the design right is an essential part of the process, it may take longer but it’s worth it. Find out before you discuss your customers’ requirements what their budget is for their new sign. This will gauge what type of signage you should recommend for their budget but always allow something in the job allow for design time. 


What do you find makes for unclear, uneasy to read signage?

Comment below or let us know on social media.