A good sign is a timeless sign. And signs are just as relevant in the digital age as ever before. But a sign’s impact and effectiveness are ultimately determined by its design and make-up. 

And whether it’s a roadside billboard or a shopfront sign, there are steps we can follow to ensure that all of our signs operate at peak performance, and draw as much positive attention to our businesses as possible.

So here are three steps to designing a stellar sign. 


With a sign in particular, colour can be used to great advantage in helping to accentuate key points of your message. There’s a certain science to colour in design, and each colour has its own unique set of properties when it comes to brand communication

Consider how loud the sign needs to be. How many other signs will it be competing with in the vicinity? How large is it? The pallet you decide on will have a huge effect on your sign’s overall impact. 

Another point to bear in mind is where exactly your sign will be located. If it will remain in a fixed location, consider using colours that contrast the environment in a subtle yet effective way. Equally, if your sign will be moved from place to place, it can be a good idea to opt for a more subtle palette that blends with multiple environments.  

According to Sapna Budev, director of strategic initiatives for the International Sign Association, “studies have shown that 80 percent of the recognition of a trademark is due to its [colour].” This is a point also worth considering. If your brand is already strongly associated with a certain colour set, be sure to incorporate it into your sign for enhanced recognisability. 


Legibility is alwaysimportant. But with signage it’s essential. Large signs, especially billboards, are mostly viewed in a very short space of time. People are either driving or walking past them, and very few will actually stop to study them in detail.  

The legibility of your sign will mostly be determined by two factors: the copy and the colour. Contrast between your text and graphics is possibly the most important point. A strong contrast ensures that your text isn’t consumed by your graphics, and therefore won’t require too much work to decipher

The actual length of your text also affects its legibility, though in a more subtle way. Even with the most stark contrast, your copy will be effectively illegible if there’s too much of it to read. This is really concerning the overall legibility of your message. If it can’t be digested in one interaction, then it will ultimately fall flat. 


It can be tempting to focus all of our design attention on the aesthetics of a sign. But ultimately it’s the information conveyed that determines whether or not your sign will be a success.

The best approach is always to keep it simple where possible. If it can be said in five words, use five words. Signage is all about brevity. Using graphics and copy side by side to communicate a message-in-brief is the highest goal of most signs. 

One approach is to experiment in shaving down your message to its barest form and seeing if it’s still understandable. The point at which every word is essential to the legibility of the core message is the point to aim for.  

Signs in the world

For more on signage, why not take a look at our post on the merits of using large format graphics