Signcraft: what makes the perfect sign?

construction site sign

Signcraft: what makes the perfect sign?

Since this blog started, we’ve talked a great deal about both the visual and functional effectiveness of signs. But what factors make a perfect sign? What attributes enable a sign to fulfill its purpose with the greatest possible level of efficiency?

Whether a sign is designed to convey directions, advice or a warning, it has to do two things. Firstly, it must attract attention and be clearly visible to those who need to read it. Secondly, it must transmit information in a way that is clear and avoids potential misinterpretation.

Making a sign highly visible and easy to read is, in fact, the easy part. A great deal can be achieved simply through the use of bright, contrasting colours. It’s intuitively obvious that bright colours will make a sign stand out from the surroundings, whilst ensuring that the sign’s colours also contrast with one another will make the information on that sign more visible. Similarly, the size of a sign can make a huge difference to its visibility, simply because larger objects are easier to spot. To ensure the information on the sign is conveyed easily, the font size and image size used for the sign also needs to be appropriately large.

Making a sign visible may be a cinch, but making sure that the information on it is conveyed in a clear, unambiguous way can be harder. The primary difficulty arises because one has to decide if it’s more efficient to use text or images (or a combination of both) to convey data. Images are instantaneous and can often be understood by an observer far more quickly than text. Consider how few road signs feature text, eschewing words in favour of carefully-designed pictogram-like images that get across the same information far more quickly. A passing driver may not have time to read the words “T-Junction up ahead” before his car is already past the sign bearing them, but they can easily see the shape of T-Junction represented as an image and react accordingly. A no smoking sign if the perfect example of an instantaneous message image that can be clearly understood.

However, some information is too specific, unusual or complex to be shown in the form of an image. For example, farms and factories both use a wide variety of warning signs around dangerous equipment. In some cases, any image complex enough to properly explain the danger would also be too complex and appear baffling. In these instances, text is the smarter choice of medium.

Ultimately, whether to use images or words on a sign comes down to a judgement call regarding how much information needs to conveyed, how specific it needs to be and how quickly it needs to be read.

Here at The Sign Shed, we offer a wide range of signs (including bespoke signs that feature the customer’s own wording) to fit any requirement. What a makes a sign ‘perfect’ may vary from situation to situation, but the advice found in this blog entry should help you identify the perfect sign for YOUR situation.

construction site sign

Outside New Street Station from Pinfold Street and Navigation Street – Danger Do not enter sign by ell brown licensed under Creative commons 4