Having signage that is difficult to read is like having a door that doesn’t really open or a toilet that doesn’t flush. Bad for business, counterproductive and messy. And above all else: useless. There’s no point in putting up signage if prospective customers cannot see, read, and understand it. You might as well not bother. So how do you avoid these pitfalls? What makes a sign difficult to read?
The clear and the not so clear
I imagine some of the qualities that make signs difficult to read will be common sense to you. You probably know enough not to put up a sign with miniscule font or place your sign behind a bush. But you’d be surprised how often seemingly obvious rules are forgotten or ignored in the service of style or aesthetics. You should always remember, beyond branding, beyond color schemes, beyond anything, that your sign must be easy to read. Now, having said that, there are problems that make signs difficult to read that aren’t quite as obvious.
What makes signs difficult to read
Let us go over some of the leading causes of unclear and uneasy to read signs. These figures are compiled from the Sign Research Foundation. Each of the following numbers are percentages of how frequently each problem is present in signs that have been found to be unclear and/or difficult to read.
- 83% – Letters that are too small
- 71% – Poor placement of sign
- 64% – Insufficiently lit at night
- 60% – The coloring of the letters fails to stand out from the background
- 53% – Digital signs on which the message changes too quickly
- 48% – Letters are in a fancy (but illegible) font
- 36% – The letters are spaced too closely together
- 34% – Signs that fail to stand out because they are too similar to other signs nearby
- 32% – Distracting Visuals
Don’t get carried away
Looking at the above issues, it is easy to see how they can come about. Have you ever made a sign on bristol board for a sporting event, or maybe when you were a child for a school presentation? Did you ever start writing a message or a title on your sign in big, bold letters…only to realize halfway through that you weren’t going to have enough space? Definitely do not do that with your business’s sign. And don’t try to cram too much text into a sign, causing the font to be too small or the spacing between words too small.
Sometimes business owners are so focused on keeping the same color scheme or font throughout their business, that they choose colors or fonts that are barely legible. And sometimes business owners try to insert too many messages or images on a digital sign making it impossible to read in such a short time. Remember to always look around your place of business at other signs in the vicinity and try not to blend in with them. Remember, you want to stand out, be legible, and keep a similar style with your business as a whole.