Stay on Track: 6 Design Considerations for Directional Signs

Directional signs might not be top-of-mind when contemplating creative signage, but an immense amount of consideration goes into their design. That’s because they’re integral to navigating through our environment efficiently. While good design can help create a seamless, enjoyable journey through a nature park, bad design can lead to someone missing their flight or, worse, the turn-off to the hospital. As a result, it’s important for transportation services, municipalities and businesses to get it right when developing their directional signage.

Advantages of good directional signs include:

  • Reduced travel time.
  • Increased accessibility.
  • Improved user experience.
  • Boosted revenue due to improved user experience.
  • Enhanced brand awareness.

When designing directional signs, remember:

  1. Consult design best practices. We’ve discussed general design guidelines on previous blogs, but what sets directional signs apart is their focus on clarity and consistency. For example, directional signs at airports or subways stations often use fonts that have a steady thickness throughout. These fonts are easier to read at smaller sizes than ones that have thick and thin areas. Overall, you want users to be able to glance at your sign and glean information from it quickly.
  1. Keep it simple. Only include information that is necessary, and do so in short sentences. Avoid insider terminology or confusing jargon if your signs will be used by the general public. In addition, if you have a digital sign system, avoid excessive animations as they can be distracting and hard on the eyes.
  1. A picture’s worth a thousand words. Universally understood symbols allow us to communicate visually in a way that transcends language and cultural barriers. Symbols can also be seen from a distance, which is helpful in emergencies.
  1. There’s strength in consistency. Take time to decide on imagery, colors, fonts and a visual hierarchy that will be used on your directional signs. (And make sure these choices are adhered to when ordering new signs). This serves a couple of purposes:
  • It’s an opportunity to carry your branding into your signage.
  • It demonstrates professionalism and attention to detail.

Most importantly, standardization ensures that once the user understands how information on your sign is structured and represented, they’ll be able to quickly decipher additional signs. Constantly changing these “rules,” however, can lead to confusion and frustration as their expectations are not met.

  1. Use logical placement. Ideally, a directional sign will be unobstructed and isolated from any “visual noise” created by other signs in the environment. They should be as easy to spot as they are to read.
  1. Choose the correct materials. There are different priorities depending on a sign’s purpose. Outdoor directional signs need to resist glare. They also have to be durable, whether to withstand the pummeling of the elements or a busy sidewalk. In comparison, if the sign is to be installed inside a hospital then the ability to clean it easily is a major concern.

Even in the age of portable and in-phone GPS apps, we still rely heavily on signs in our environment. That means it’s critical to convey directional information in a way that’s easy to understand. Have any further questions about directional signs? Give us a call here at Topmade. We offer expert signage consulting to help you through the design process.

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