What makes a sign noticeable?

quayside warning side

What makes a sign noticeable?

The first and arguably most important point of any sign is to be noticed. This is especially true for health & safety signs, where being visible is the difference between whether an accident occurs or not. In short, being visible is everything.

Of course, we’ve already discussed where to place a sign to ensure it’s seen, yet these notices do a lot themselves. Whether it’s colour, shape or punctuation, there are a few ways signs make themselves stand out from the crowd. Whether it’s security, no smoking signs, a general notice or even safety signs, these factors will ensure you never look at a sign as ‘just a sign’.


Colour, specifically that of a striking combination, is a quick way to get noticed. It’s used in the natural world, such as with wasps, and certain signs make good use of this. The black and yellow contrast is used in warning signs, for instance, because we already associate it with danger.


Similarly, shape can often say a lot about a given notice. A plain rectangle, for instance, is rather boring; it doesn’t say anything striking or observant. A triangle, however, is a sharp geometric shape that is often more noticeable. Using the latter, signs can make a more visual point, especially when used in conjunction with colour. Further use of colour can be seen in various road signs, where different shapes indicate different things. Circles often indicate restrictions – such as speed regulations and one-way access – while triangles are, once again, used to indicate warnings or features that require immediate attention.


Finally, simple punctuation or symbols can be used to indicate something without words. This is important when you want to convey something easily, without the time needed to read. This is where exclamation marks, hazard symbols and other features serve an important purpose. These features, much like colour, are often ingrained in the human conscious as a reason for pause or a general label for danger. In either case, they earn the attention they need.

What makes a sign noticeable?

Malcesine – hazard triangle sign by ell brown licensed under Creative commons 4