Your signs are pretty much going to be the first things that customers will see on your store. Therefore, we do not exaggerate when we say that what your signs say about you as a business will probably make or break their decision to visit. Indeed, the designs you are putting on your signs could very well tell your customers all they need to know before they even set one foot beyond your store’s main entrance.
It should not come as a surprise to learn that you want your sign design to be as attractive as possible. However what seems to be attractive to you may not necessarily be all that attractive your customers. In essence, the question of sign design becomes a matter of taste and preference.
Yes, we get it. You have your artistic vision and your ideas about the sort of message you want to send to your customers. However, creative freedom and expression must conform to the needs of the business. Like it or not, you have to appeal to the largest amount of people possible to turn a profit. That cannot be done if your sign designs turn out to be hugely unpopular and are actively putting off people from visiting your store.
So what designs do you want to avoid putting on your signs?
Poor Color Selection
You certainly want your designs to be eye-catching and memorable. This is especially the case if your store is one of many along your stretch of road. However, there’s a difference between “eye-catching” and “eye-watering”. Your colors should be bold and striking, but at the same time they must be attractive. Bright orange signs with yellow text will certainly draw attention, but the jarring clash of color will quickly throw it away again.
When choosing a color scheme for your sign, it is important to decide on something that’s striking, yet not painful. This also means choosing colors that are attractive. Khaki may be your favorite color, but it probably doesn’t have much appeal elsewhere.
Too Much Activity
Your sign is too busy. Too loud. Too full. There’s too much going on and it is driving your customers crazy to look at it.
In essence, your sign does not so much advertise your store as remind you of the adage “less is more.” The best signs are the ones that have very little on them. They are snappy, instantly recognizable, and get across their message in a glance. Try to keep it as focused as possible. If you want to provide additional information, such as a list of products or contact details, consider adding a banner or an A-frame somewhere nearby to keep your primary store sign uncluttered.
This can also apply to the design itself. The best logos and designs tend to be simple, subdued, and subtle. Try to avoid using more than three colors, and keep any images relatively singular. Popular logos are also somewhat abstract, although there’s nothing wrong with a detailed logo if it is kept under control. For example if your store sells home-grown produce, you can have a somewhat artistic farmyard scene, but if so that should be all the logo consists of. Remember: less is more.
Remember when we said that instantly recognizable and distinctive signs are a good thing? That depends on why it is distinctive. If it is distinctive because your sign’s text is written in Wingdings, then this is actually a bad thing.
Your sign needs to be legible to your customers so that they can clearly recognize it. To that end, you need to make sure that any text on your signs can be read. A fancy, swirly, calligraphy style font may look rather dashing and classy, but it will not mean diddly squat if your customers cannot even read what it says for all the looping letters. As such, try to keep a fine balance between distinctive and practical.
This also applies to color schemes. We already mentioned how certain colors are hard on the eyes, such as yellow on red. Make sure then that colors you use mix well with each other, and can easily stand out.
Poor Grammar and Pronunciation
When using text in your designs, remember that punctuation, grammar, and spelling follow fixed, standardized rules that must be followed. Incorrect use of apostrophes, the confusion of you/you’re or are/our, or (God forbid) use of text spellings (“u will luv our gr8 offrs!”) will all create very poor impressions on customers. At best such errors make you look ignorant, at worst they make you look lazy and unprofessional.
While you can make exceptions – using regional colloquialisms such as “y’all” or “ain’t none finer” can actually make your store seem friendly, down-to-earth and approachable – you should try your best to put on the best face possible linguistically speaking. Always dot your Ts and cross your Is.
Don’t Make Your Customer Work too Hard
All these points can perhaps be followed up with this single Golden Rule of Sign Design: don’t make your customers work harder than they need to. Your sign should get across all of the information you want it to within the first second or two of looking at it. This can include everything from what your store offers to the customer to whether or not the customer wishes to go in. Any longer, and chances are you’ll lose the client’s attention and with it a sale. People are busy, and increasingly possessed of short attention spans. You cannot afford to waste time making them work out what your sign is trying to tell them.
When designing your sign, make it as easy as possible for your guests to read. The simpler and more obvious the sign is, the more effective it will be.
That said, that does not mean you cannot have fun with your design, or even be clever with it (hidden messages or jokes will be greatly appreciated when spotted). Just make sure such embellishments do not get in the way of your sign’s ultimate objective: getting your customers to your store. Always prioritize that function above all others.