The Topmade Blog

Signage Checklist

Sometimes clients miss critical pieces of information when ordering signs; so we thought we’d provide a simple signage checklist. Might as well tick these off, to avoid being ticked off later if your sign misses the mark, and you’re smacking yourself in the forehead (hopefully not on your brand new sign!). Here goes…and yes we’ll plan to add to this list as we go!

  1. Spell Check your Sign. Make 100% sure that all of the sign is checked for correct, or even preferred spelling. This can also be a missing word, like a “to” or a “the”. Such attention to detail can make the difference between looking amateur or professional.
  2. Be Precise about Colours. Not everyone knows what shade their logos exactly are.  To avoid confusion, check and select your colour via Pantones or CMYK numbers online; this can be done through referring to a printed booklet or online colour charts.
  3. Consider Visibility in Choosing the Size. It’s very important to know from how far away your sign will be viewed. Too many words, or too-small an image, and the sign loses effectiveness for passing traffic. Click here to refer to our guide on “How Large Should your Sign Be?”
  4. Does it Have the Right Data on it? Many signs are missing critical data – like a website address, phone number or business hours. It might be as simple as adding a “24h” or “8-5 daily” to the main sign, or a website address. Remember, a sign is your sales representative when you cannot be.
  5. Bring us Photos and Measurements of the Location. Don’t just say, “I want a sign about this big.” You could easily over or underestimate the location and environment in which it will be displayed. Take photos close to, and further away from the location, and put a ruler or measuring tape in the photos. That will help us immensely in creating the ideal size. For larger jobs, we will, of course, visit your location to measure it ourselves prior to getting final specifications.
  6. Check the Mounting Options. You might be surprised to learn that you’ve planned to mount your sign on a concrete wall that won’t take typical hangers, or that it can’t be breached with mounting equipment that will keep your sign stable. Be sure to carefully check for mounting options, including electrical outlets. If you need hanging equipment attached, bolt mounts, or grommets, it can all be done before the sign leaves the shop. Safety is also always a concern; you don’t want to be one of those people whose heavy sign crashed from the string attached to a false ceiling!
  7. Consider night visibility. You don’t need to work at night, but it’s pretty cheap to have your sign doing so for you. Consider if your inside or outside sign should be visible at night, and whether it needs to look its best in full brightness (day) or night. It can be difficult to try to find ways to light a sign after it’s been designed.
  8. Durability. At Topmade, we can UV-protect, laminate, coat, trim, and choose substrates that will take a lot of abuse without showing wear. Think carefully about what all the most careless people you know might do to your sign (well, don’t dwell too long on that!)….and then use “Murphy’s Law” to keep us in the loop as to what your sign might be subjected to. Getting the right material will surely be cheaper than replacing the whole sign later.

Do you have more suggestions? Please get in touch, and we’d be happy to help you get the best signage for your business’ needs!

Commercial Signage Tips

You want your sign to Attract, Direct and Inform your target audience. It is a message to the world; be sure it gets noticed. Who hasn’t been driving down the street, stopped at a store and made a purchase, merely because they noticed the sign?

Once you’ve decided what you want to say, there are a few things you should reflect on before you visit Topmade. Here are some considerations in designing a great commercial sign.

 

Strategy

Be aware of your competitors’ marketing strategy and try to make yours distinct. Your sign is often the first impression of your brand– whether luxury, budget conscious, high-tech or otherwise. If you allow your business to look like a carbon copy of another business, then you’re subtly telling people you’re a lesser version of the original.

 

Message

Tell the world who you are!  Ever gone by a sign and wondered, “Geez, what do they do?” For certain businesses, there may be some mystery they want to evoke, but vagueness is a real hindrance for the vast majority of companies. The two primary elements are the business name and logo. Obviously, when you design your signage you should have these two elements solidified. But if for some reason your name and logo do not really convey what it is you do, consider a tagline or imagery that further clarifies the message. A sign is a true opportunity to bring in new traffic. Even if your business is a sophisticated consulting firm or highly specialized technical service, you never know who could be walking by, and whether they have friends or family members who might fit within your precise target market.

 

Colour

Choose your colours carefully. Your colour choice will help your commercial sign get noticed, read and remembered. Give some careful thought to what colours fit your business’ brand and what will be noticed from across the street. A poor colour choice can make it difficult to read your sign or even notice it in the first place, while compelling colour is integral to brand identity– think of Coca-Cola red & white, or McDonald’s golden arches. On the other hand, if you have a logo that just doesn’t read well, or a corporate colour scheme that won’t lend well to your sign, you might consider doing a natural treatment (e.g. wood or metallic) or converting your sign into black and white.

Another important consideration: trendy colours. Some business owners may feel compelled to convey their personality via signs that use current, edgy colour trends, but care should be taken to consider longevity when designing static signage. Today’s “colour of the year” could be tomorrow’s eyesore.

 

Contrast

Apart from colour, a sign’s contrast will usually determine its readability and is a huge factor in engaging the attention of passersby. Contrast refers to the difference between light and dark, and this can be dramatically affected by how the sign is lit and placed on its intended background.

Most signs will include either text or graphics in the foreground, with a continuous background colour. Contrast between these two elements is critical to the viewer’s retention of the content. Pairing similar colours will decrease a sign’s readability, but a weak colour contrast can be strengthened with outlines, drop shadows around the foreground elements, or lighting. The reflective properties of the chosen materials must also be considered.

 

Font Choice

As we’ve mentioned recently, a clear and simple statement can be rendered ineffective with a poor choice of font. Pick out a font type that is easy to read, and consider the distance from which passersby are likely to see the sign. Steer clear of font types that are difficult to see from a distance, and make sure the size of your font is large enough to read.

 

Graphics and Images

A key asset to a commercial sign is beautiful eye-catching graphics and images. Pairing graphics and/or images with your main message can instantly bring focus to the product or service you’re offering. Your image should also be a size that can be easily seen and identified from a distance, and not weave in so closely to the text that it confuses text with image.

 

Size

Simply put, the larger the letter, the easier it is to read. We almost always recommend using the biggest sign your landlord or municipality will allow.  After all, it is a billboard, right at your location, for which you need not pay monthly fees!

The size of your sign is especially important if you’re creating roadside signage or signs that will be displayed at a significant distance. A good rule of thumb is ten feet per inch of letter height. Say you have lettering that is one inch high and clearly legible at a distance of ten feet; at a distance of 100 feet the lettering would have to be 10 inches high to achieve the same impact.

 

Placement

Just like font, type size and image size, you should think about where your sign is being placed. You may already be working with strict size specifications. If not, make sure your commercial sign is large enough to get noticed and to accommodate all your design elements (i.e. name, logo, headline, graphics, etc.).

 

Conclusion

In this technology-centred world, we’re often talking about advertising and marketing online and especially over mobile phones. But when it comes to really grabbing people’s attention with immediacy, sometimes a real, physically impressive, solid sign can be your best bet. It says, “we’re here in the flesh” and helps to build customer trust, so it’s worth getting right.

Extensive design experience is just one reason Topmade is Calgary’s leading full-service sign manufacturer. Give us a call today!

How to Choose a Colour Palette for Your Sign

In our last blog, we talked about typography and how your font choice can impact your sign’s legibility, as well as its visual appeal. Today we’re going to explore an equally important design element – colour.

Artists can spend years exploring how to expertly manipulate the power of colour. But if a career in the fine arts isn’t part of your life plan, don’t worry. By reviewing a few key concepts of basic colour theory, you will be able to make more informed decisions about an integral aspect of your sign’s design. And, if you’re working with a graphic designer, having a good grasp on design vocabulary can work wonders to reduce the revision process.

The Power of Colour

When we appreciate great signs, we tend to focus on the clever wording or the neat imagery. In comparison, as long as the sign isn’t hurting our eyes, we might not actively pay much attention to the colour choices. However, that does not mean colour should be underestimated. Its true power rests in how it subconsciously makes us feel.

Due to cultural, historical, or personal associations, colours have multiple meanings and can elicit strong responses. For example, in Europe and North America, purple represents royalty and riches. But why is that? Until 1856, purple dye was very difficult and costly to make. Soon, purple fabric became a symbol of the wealthiest class. When Cadbury, a chocolate company located in the UK, uses purple as a packaging colour, they’re sending a clear message to their consumers: Cadbury chocolate is rich, high quality, and decadent.

At the same time, purple can mean something very different in other parts of the world. In Brazil, for instance, purple is worn with black when mourning. So if you’re planning to expand your business globally, it might be worthwhile to investigate the various meanings of your chosen colours thoroughly before using them.

For a comprehensive guide to the meaning of colours in different cultures, check out this infographic by Information is Beautiful.

In short, colours are imbued with meaning. They are also a useful tool when planning your design’s composition. A carefully chosen colour, like a bright yellow against a backdrop of greys, can balance an asymmetrical design or guide the viewers eyes along a predetermined path.

Basic Colour Terminology

  • Hue is the name of a colour.
  • Saturation is the intensity of a colour. A vivid colour has a high saturation, while a dull colour is desaturated.
  • Brightness is how light or dark a colour is.
  • In addition to portraying specific meanings, colours can also feel warm, neutral and cool. Warm colours, like red, appear to pop in a composition whereas cool colours, like blue, recede.

The Colour Wheel and Colour Harmonies

Choosing one colour might not seem intimidating, but how do you decide on an appealing palette of two or three? In general, it’s best to keep colour combinations simple. This means there should be a primary colour – think Home Depot’s orange or Snapchat’s yellow – followed by a few, less dominant, accent colours.

For these difficult decisions, we often rely on a colour wheel. Using the colour wheel, you can easily identify sets of colours that work well together. These successful colour relationships are referred to as “colour harmonies.”

six colour wheel diagrams of the different colour harmonies

  • Complementary: Two colours that are opposites on the colour wheel. These colours will have a strong contrast with each other and the result is dramatic.
  • Split Complementary: Like complementary but a little subtler. A primary colour is picked and the two supporting colours will be adjacent to the complementary colour of the primary.
  • Double Complementary/Rectangle: 4-colour combination that consists of two complementary pairs. Because this colour scheme features a lot of contrasts, set one colour as the primary, and use the secondary colours sparingly.
  • Analogous: Two or more colours that are beside each other on the colour wheel. The colours are similar; so, it creates a soothing and natural combination.
  • Triadic: Three colours that are spaced evenly around a colour wheel. This variety in colour leads to a vibrant colour combination. To tame the results, two of the colours should be used sparingly.
  • Monochromatic: Varieties of saturation and lightness of a single hue are used to create a colour scheme.

Colour harmonies are a great way to form a pleasing visual but don’t be afraid to break the “rules” when it suits the goal of the design. For example, if you’re hoping to disrupt the status quo with your sign, deliberately choosing discordant colours can shock and excite the viewer.

If you’re not sure where to start, colourlovers.com is a great online resource. You can browse their large library of community-made colour palettes for inspiration.

Colour and Your Brand

Designing your company’s sign is a great opportunity to really consider how colour can play a major role in your brand strategy. Once you’ve decided on a colour palette that supports your company’s message and tone, why not set down some brand guidelines? Ensuring colour consistency across the rest of your print materials will speed up future design projects and project a professional image.

We hope that this discussion in colour theory has been helpful and, if you’d like further guidance, Topmade offers expert signage consulting to help you decide what kind of sign is right for you.

Additional Sources:

  • Stone, T. L., Adams, S., & Morioka, N. (2006). Color design workbook: A real-world guide to using color in graphic design. Gloucester, Mass: Rockport Publishers.