Designing an Outdoor Sign to Attract Business

I have attended quite a few meetings lately involving discussions between businesses and city government regarding the role of outdoor signage in helping businesses stay afloat during these difficult economic times. The discussions included business’ requests for easing sign ordinances to allow more frequent use of temporary banners, safety issues, fairness, and city beautification. Many businesses are saying outdoor signs are one of the few marketing efforts that they are trying that works. I have seen signs that work well, as well as signs that drive business away. I would like to share some tips about sign design that will help you assure the investment you make will work for you and not against you.

Signs are a distraction to those passing by. As long as that distraction doesn’t cause a safety issue, nor create a negative feeling for the passerby, the sign has a chance at working well. So here’s some tips to help make them work for you.


Too many signs or signs trying to provide too much information typically offer poor results. The passerby usually has less than a second to read the sign. If the reader is overwhelmed with information, no communication takes place. Most of us are afraid of not getting our monies worth when we buy a sign and try to cram too much information on it. There is only one action you want from a sign designed to attract business. You want the reader to come to your business when they need something you offer. Keep the communication simple, such as your business name and an offer or a few words describing what you offer.


Hand made signs are difficult to read, appear desperate, and often are not attractive, driving business away. Have your sign professionally created and giving a positive feeling to all those that pass by it. An unprofessional look includes too many signs, poorly displayed signs that flap in the wind or have an unprofessional looking sign frame. Unprofessional or poorly designed signs not only have a negative impact on your business, but on all the business in your center, especially those closest to you.

Not Too Many or Too Much

More then a sign or two gives potential customers a feeling you are desperate (and perhaps you feel that way). However, people want to do business with those they feel are solid and will still be there tomorrow. So don’t look to anxious or desperate. Don’t cover every square inch of your windows, just like professionals don’t cover every square inch of a sign. You can’t highlight or making something stand out when you overwhelm the readers senses with too much to read. Blank space (called white space) makes things stand out. Less is Best.

Font Choice (Text)

Unless your logo uses a script font, don’t use script fonts or other difficult to read fonts. Shadows, fades and other graphic tricks generally don’t work well on signs that have to be read quickly. So select easy to read fonts and limit the number of words you use. Remember, the reader has only one to two seconds to see and read your sign.

Font Size (Text)

At the end of this blog I will provide a chart of letter height with the visual distance that the words can be easily read. When planning a sign or banner first focus on how far away the reader will typically be. If the text size is too small, it won’t be read and can cause accidents if it distracts a driver.


Some colors are much easier to read than others, especially at a distance. So text color readability goes in this order: white, yellow, red, bright blue. The background color or surrounding colors also make a difference.


So the background or surrounding color must create a contrast to make the text readable. White text with other surrounding light colors such as yellow does not make the sign doubly readable because they are the two most readable colors, it makes it almost impossible to read. White with a black background works great. So does white with a dark blue, green or other dark color. So light and bright colors for the text and graphic and darker colors for the background works best.

Letter Height – Inches

Best Imapact – Feet

Maximum Readable – Feet