Retail Signs

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!

Retail Signage List

If you’re starting a new retail business this year, you may be wondering, “What kinds of signs do I really need to budget for?”   We thought we’d supply a handy list of must-have signs for a typical retail environment.

1.  Exterior fascia – This is the main sign with your business name or The Italian Centre Shop Sign lit up at night.logo on it.  Hopefully your name gives people an inkling of what you do, but if not, make sure it is somehow clear by using a few descriptive words or a tagline that also become part of the sign.  You should have one or more of these signs to face each main direction of traffic flow.

2.  Open for Business  This may not be applicable if you’re locating inside a shopping mall, but in almost any other environment, a prominent “OPEN” (or “VACANCY” sign if you’re a hotel/motel) is extremely helpful and will attract business.  Many stores use neon or lit LED signs to attract attention to OPEN signs as they are the most visible.

3. Business Hours – This should be posted visibly to the exterior doors.    If this can be lit, even better, since when you are closed with lights off, it may be hard to read by a person from within a car.   It’s also a great idea to have the sign data changeable, for holiday or seasonal hours, or if you decide you need to change your hours from time to time.   

4. Product Category Signs – Use signs inside your store to tell people what is in the store – for example “bicycles”, “helmets”,  “menswear” etc.  These interior signs ensure people will get a faster understanding of what your offerings are, and they will be more likely to investigate multiple areas instead of simply coming for the one product that spurred them to visit.

5. Directional Signs – These include instructional signs such as “Place Orders” and “Pick Up Orders”, or “Customer Service” and “Washrooms” signs.  Map out your business and ensure you have enough directional signs.   

6.  Safety Signs – Signs marking exits, fire escape/stairwells, push/pull doorways, fire extinguishers, “slippery when wet” and other areas should be properly placed.   If you’re concerned about safety or access around display racks, we do encourage you to have your site inspected by City Fire Inspectors.

7.  Parking Signs – Clearly mark where customers of your business are permitted to park, and for what duration.   This will ensure your parking spaces are maximizing their benefit to your business.

Pylon Sign8.  Pylon Signs – If you can get a panel for your business within a multi-tenant pylon sign, or even get a dedicated pylon sign that attracts vehicle traffic, this will be a great benefit to your business, as it is very much like having your own billboard.   It is also a good idea to refresh a pylon sign with a new design every few years, passers-by will often take notice of something new in their visual spectrum.  Also, design of multi-tenant panels is tricky (since your business name and logo must compete with others in the sign) so do ask us for assistance in design if you do not already have a graphic designer on deck.

9. Decorative Signs  Beautiful lifestyle graphics are superior silent “salespeople” that help your merchandise create a compelling image and appeal to various categories of customers.   If you’ve got some wonderful photography, or can access it through brands you might carry, we encourage you to create large, photographic imagery that creates a lifestyle to appeal to your customers.  Screens to display product videos are also an excellent idea.

10. Philosophy and Policy Signs – Your mission, your history, your customer service guarantee, your environmental philosophy – these are all messages that will set you apart from the competition.  Consider making signs containing these messages and placing them proudly for all to see. Philosophy Sign

11. Sandwich board signs –   If walk-by traffic is a priority, consider some sandwich boards.  These are free-standing A-frame signs that can be easily moved outside set up to direct traffic.  If you use “chalk paint” you can also rub off and change the messaging using colourful chalk!

12. Directory Signs – If you’ve got a big, multi-departmental store, consider a floor map or layout near the entryways, allowing people to easily locate key product categories in your store.    This will enhance the customer experience and once again give people a better understanding of the full range of merchandise you offer.

With these in mind, we at Topmade would be very happy to help you build a budget, and produce signage for your entire retail environment.  Please contact us today to start planning.