Your business storefront sign could be 100% better

Some business owners spend thousands of dollars on a sign for their storefront, but most never really think through what makes a sign effective. By following these simple suggestions to design your storefront sign, you will bring in more customers and make more money.

Visible from up and down the road
If your sign is on the front of your building, and your building is close to the street, your sign will not be visible to passing traffic until they are in front of your business, and then only if the driver turns her head to read your sign. Your sign needs to be more or less perpendicular to the roadway, and so will have to be lettered on two sides. Even if your business is one a one-way street, your sign should be double-sided for pedestrians. A sign painted on the building will only be highly visible if your building is set back a good distance from the road. But even then, you should have a sign right up at the roadside. Pedestrians are not likely to wait for the signal to cross a busy street unless they can clearly see your shop sign.

Visible from sufficient distance
Your sign needs to be visible from at least 500 feet away. Especially if traffic is moving at speeds around 55 miles per hour, drivers need plenty of time to slow down safely to pull in to your business. Make sure that your sign is high enough to be seen above cars and trucks, and that it is not blocked by tree branches, etc.

Well lit
Even if your business is shut at night, you want people passing by after dark to see your business. Make sure your sign is well lit. Check frequently to make sure that all the light bulbs are working.

Lettering of sufficient size
To be visible from 500 feet, especially in a fast-moving vehicle, letters need to be 12 inches high, for people with normal vision. As the average age of the population increases, more and more of your customers will have impaired vision, so your sign needs to at least meet these standards, if not exceed them.

High contrast lettering
Use black lettering, or a dark color, against a white or light-colored background. Do not use reverse type, that is, white against a black or dark-colored background. Our eyes have evolved to focus on an object (foreground) against a background. Work with this natural tendency, not against it.

Use plain lettering
Use relatively plain lettering, not fancy lettering such as cursive.

Use all upper case
Upper case letters are learned first, and people can read upper case more easily than lower-case or mixed-case lettering.

Distinguish your business from the competition
You are competing for the attention of customers who have limited time, attention, and money. Fewer shoppers will stop at a store with a sign that says “POTTERY” than at a store with a sign that says “LOCAL HANDMADE POTTERY”.

Be brief
Shorter is better.

Grab attention with something a little unexpected
Do something creative with your signage to capture your customers’ attention and to make it memorable. Nobody remembers the logo for Kaybee Toys, now out of business, but everyone remembers that the “R” in Toys-R-Us is backwards.

Promote your website on your sign
Of the hundreds or thousands of people driving and walking past your sign every day, only a small percentage will stop at your business. Make sure your sign communicates effectively to everyone who passes by. Your website name, the dot-com, is your de facto business name. Promote it.

For more profitable business communication advice, see DanShaw.com.