Why is sign design so important?

The purpose of a sign is to attract attention, and impart information.

It doesn't matter whether it is a building sign, a road sign, a retail sign advertising  a sale, or a simple way finding sign, the ultimate aim is the same.


Fairly obviously, the wording used within the sign conveys information to the reader, but what is less obvious is that the design of the sign conveys as much information as the words themselves, if not sometimes more.


Consider this example :

Would you be attracted to this law company? Would you feel like you were dealing with a competent, professional legal firm?

Most importantly, would you feel you were getting value for your $350 per hour using their services?


Probably not, but how about this company:

How would you feel now?  - hopefully somewhat more confident that you are dealing with a professional business.


Yet the only difference between the two is the fonts, colours and layout of the name (ie, the design). The wording is exactly the same, and yet the two signs convey very different messages.

Good design doesn’t necessarily cost more.

And yet can increase the value of a sign ten-fold.


On the right are two more examples.


Which shop would you feel more inclined to give your custom to? Which shop would you think you might buy the better quality merchandise from? Which shop would you expect to get a higher standard of customer service from?


And yet again, the text is exactly the same, the only difference is in the design of the posters.


Now here is the surprise - assuming that these were both simple window posters, they would cost the buyer a very similar amount. They would both be produced using the same method (a large format printer) and would take exactly the same time to print and trim. They both took similar amounts of time to set, but one was set by someone with no design knowledge or skill, and the other wasn't.

Even simple information signs benefit from good layout skills.

Unfortunately this sign breaks many basic rules, and the ugly result speaks for itself.


Relatively small changes to the layout can however improve it drastically:

A poorly laid up sign gives an amateurish look to an otherwise professional organisation. Here is an example of a poor layout taken from real life.

A considerable amount of the value of a sign lies in its effective design.

There exists a misconception that modern software allows anyone with a modicum of computer skills to "do graphic design", however, the fact that a person has design software on their computer and "knows how to use it" doesn't make them a designer any more than giving someone a pair of wire cutters and a screwdriver makes them an electrician.


Hopefully, the above examples illustrate the importance of good, effective design when it comes to producing a sign.


Remember, a considerable amount of the value of a sign lies in its effective design, not in the materials it is made from - in fact, a poorly designed sign can inadvertently turn potential customers away from your business rather than attract them to it.


When you choose a sign company to work with, take the time to look at examples of their previous work, either on their website or by visiting their premises. Also, make sure you use an accredited NZSDA member, not a back street cowboy.

For your education (and amusement!) here are some further examples of shockingly designed signs...

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