Tips for Effective Signs to Promote your Business


When you combine the internet, television, radio, billboards and direct mail we’re exposed to 14,000 advertising messages every day but only 5 of them stick with us for more than 24 hours.

Summer is the season for outdoor activity that brings more pedestrian meanderers, road trips and outdoor events offering some new possibilities for marketing your business. Street side flagssidewalk signs and promotional canopies are some ideas that may apply to your business.

Here are 6 tips for designing a sign that will be remembered.


The biggest difference in designing a sign is scale. Considering that a brochure is maybe 8 1/2″ x 11″ and a business card is 3 1/2″ x 2″, large scale design requires a different mindset when designing it.

Signs have to be read and understood from a distance; often by people who only have a few seconds to look in that direction. Everything should be big and simple for maximum impact.

Billboards can be 14′ x 48′ so art file resolution is paramount and vector art is required to avoid a blurry image when enlarged.

  • File Resolution
  • Graphic Clarity


Designing for location can be tricky if a single design is going to be used for different environments. If you design a sign with a sky blue background that will have the sky behind it, it will blend in too much and not get noticed.

A sidewalk sign or street-side flag, however, may have lots of different colors behind it, so a bold solid color may be your best choice to break through the clutter.

  • Environmental Clutter
  • Viewing Distance


Generally graphics and color should be bright and saturated. Avoid light colors or pastels and opt for colors that will stand out – especially between your text and background.

For images and graphics, pick a single element and go big with it. Your design has to catch the viewer’s attention in a second and a single, simple focal point will help.

Color can be one of the most important decisions you’ll make in designing an effective sign.

  • Go Big and Bold!
  • Keep it Simple


Aside from the company logo, pick a single typeface. A san serif font works best for signs.

And make it big! Think about lettering in terms of 10 to 100, that’s 10″ tall for every 100′ of viewing distance.

Bold lettering can increase the readability from a distance but avoid italics as they confuse the view.

An industry standard is to keep your message at 15 words or less and use the 3 x 5 rule. That’s 3 lines of 5 words or 5 lines of 3 words. Less is better if you can make your point.

  • Simple, Bold Type
  • Simple, Short Message


While contrast is an important consideration of any design project, it is especially important when you only have a couple of seconds to get someone’s attention.

Every focal point must be clearly distinguishable.

With type, size and simplicity as key factors, selecting colors that stand out from one another will help get your message noticed.

While I’m personally not a fan of using borders in design, the use of a border can help to create a contrast between your sign and the background environment. Of course, using a border on a street-side flag will not make much sense.

  • Bold Colors Create Contrast
  • Borders are OK


Substrate is the material that your message is being printed on. Knowing the material and method of printing can help in your design process.

Whether it’s a vinyl banner, fabric flag or a graphic-wrapped bus, consulting with your manufacturer can help you provide the appropriate art files for best results.

Knowing if your sign will be for indoor or outdoor use can help you select the appropriate substrate to print your message on.

  • Select Lasting Material
  • Environmental Exposure

Most designers don’t spend their day designing signs. Typically it will be the same person who creates brochures and business cards and only asked to design a large format graphic for special occasions like tradeshows, outdoor events or special promotions.

Reaching out to your manufacturer before you begin designing for large format graphics can help you avoid the headaches that may come after the design is finished.

Markit in a big way!

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