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What Are the 5 Elements of Effective Sign Design?

When you’re performing a task, there’s a right way to do it and a wrong way. Okay, more realistically, there are several wrong ways to do it and much fewer right ways to get it done. This is especially true with signage. We like to think that we’ve learned a thing or two about the industry in the many years we’ve been pleasing customers. Part of that knowledge is recognizing the 5 elements of effective sign design:

1. Contrast

If you wander over to the Sign Language section of our website before reading the second half of this sentence, you know that contrast is the difference or degree of difference between sign components, like dark and light colors, fonts, or areas. If you want your sign to stand out, contrast is a must. Don’t believe me? Take a look at the “First Floor” door graphics (see above). If you have perfect 20/20 vision, you can make out most of it. However, when the hallways are dark, forget about it. A good rule of thumb is to never put dark graphics on a window.

2. Visibility

Visibility is a measurement of how well a marker can be seen from a particular angle or distance. Before the other attributes of an effective sign can do their thing, a sign must be visible. For example, look at that sign advertising…um…well, we have no idea what the sign says, since it appears to be surrounded by a jungle. How effective is that?

3. Readability

Readability is the degree to which a consumer can accurately and easily perceive the message of a sign. Or, it’s a measure of how well the viewer can see the words, letters, colors, and images of the signage and understand the information. If your marker is along a roadway with a high speed limit, the components of your sign need to be large and posted high up, so motorists can read them while they zoom along.

4. Legibility

This is the readability of the number, symbols, and letters on signage. The typeface you choose goes a long way in determining how legible your sign is. For instance, if you’re the manager of an optical shop or any business that caters to consumers with poor vision, you should consider signs with Roman or Sans Serif fonts, since these are easier to read.

5. Conspicuity

Conspicuity is one element that seems foreign on paper, but if we were to drop the word in conversation, you’d know what we were getting at. Basically, it’s how conspicuous your sign is. For instance, high conspicuity means your marker is very noticeable. This is what you want. If your storefront is surrounded by a number of other businesses, the conspicuity threshold is a little bit higher. Fortunately, our mighty sign makers love these challenges.

It’s a lot to take in, isn’t it? Don’t worry! It’s our job to make sure the signage we produce for you includes the 5 elements of effective sign design. If you’re tired of having lazy signs that aren’t doing their job, give SGS a call today, and we’ll have your markers advertising, marketing, and branding your enterprise in no time!



Questions? Drop us a line at hello@SGSgraphic.com or call us at (360) 635-5556 and unless we’re up to our elbows in alligators, a live person will answer. If you leave a message we will call you back pronto.

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