Key Factors for Sign Visibility

Ever have trouble reading a sign when you were driving by a business or standing in the parking lot? This article will give you some idea as to why and what you need to think about when considering a new sign for your event or business.

For starters, there are many factors that impact the visibility and hence, effectiveness, of a sign. According to the International Sign Association, the top 5 are: SIZE, ANGLE, LOCATION, LUMINANCE, and CONTRAST.  We are going to add CONTENT as a critical factor as well.

When planning the SIZE of your sign, it is important to consider your audience.  How far away will the people be when viewing it?  Will they be on the road driving? Will they be standing on the street? or in your lobby? Next, you want to consider how fast they are traveling.  Are they driving? standing? walking?  If you make your sign too small, they may have difficulty seeing it from the distance and velocity they are traveling.  If you make it too large, with too much content, they may have difficulty taking it all in during the time they are passing by.

The next factor to consider is ANGLE.  Where will the majority of people be positioned when viewing your sign? People see things most clearly when they are directly in front and facing them.  You probably can’t please all your viewers, but you definitely want to position your sign at an angle where the majority of viewers can clearly see it.

LOCATION, location, location.  This is true for successful retailers, and true for successful signs as well.  Trees, landscape, buildings, parked cars, traffic and even people can obstruct the view of your sign.  You want to determine the proper height and setback when planning where to install your new sign.

LUMINOSITY.  During the day, signs made from most materials are easily seen.  But at dusk, dawn and night the visibility of different types of signs diverges. If you want your sign to be clearly visible at night, consider producing it with reflective material, lighting it from the exterior, or via internal lighting.

Have you ever seen a sign with yellow letters on a white background? or grey letters on a black background?  You had trouble reading it right?  That’s because there was not enough contrast between the sign background color and the text color.  When designing your sign, be sure to select background and text colors that present a strong CONTRAST to each other so that your sign is clearly visible.

Last but not least, we broach the topic of sign CONTENT.  It is very tempting to fill your sign with too much information.  The best, most readable signs use the K.I.S.S. method – Keep it Simple.  You don’t need a lot of text to get your message across.  A great graphic and 1 or 2 brief lines is all you need.  Think twice before adding more because most people will be unable to read it all, unless they are standing there waiting for an elevator.

For an additional information on the science involved behind this article, please view:
Federal Highway Administration Sign Visibility Research