If you want your new sign to get the results you hope for, follow these simple tips. These tips are primarily focused on large outdoor signs, however, the same basics apply to all signs.

Ease on the Eyes – Font Choices

The three primary category of font design (text letters) are script (like your signature), serifs, and sans serifs. Serif fonts have small lines extending from the ends of letters (like the font used for this sentence). Sans serif fonts (like in this sentence) have nothing extending from the edges. Serif fonts extending lines help the reader bridge letters together to make them easy to read as words when you are reading large numbers of words in paragraphs. Sans serif (meaning without serifs) are the most readable and work well in large sizes or as a single line of text. So for important words on signs, I typically stick to sans serif fonts.

Distance – Font Size

Here are two “rule of thumb” tips for determining the size of the text on signs for the text to be readable at certain distances. For short distances (indoors) every 1/2 inch of text size (measured by a capital ‘X’) provides 12 feet of reading distance. So a 1 inch font can be easily read from 24 feet. For longer distances, add a ‘0’ to the font size in inches and change it to feet. A 3 inch high letter is readable from 30 feet. A 12 inch letter from 120 feet.

Contrast – Font & Background Color

Readability is also tied to contrast of colors between the text and background. So if you want a light color for the text, you need a dark color for the background. The best color combinations for readability are in order:

  • YELLOW – BLACK
  • WHITE – BLACK
  • BLACK – YELLOW
  • BLACK – WHITE
  • WHITE – BLUE
  • BLUE – WHITE
  • YELLOW – BLUE
  • BLUE – YELLOW
  • WHITE – DARK GREEN
  • DARK GREEN – WHITE
  • RED – WHITE
  • YELLOW – RED
  • RED – YELLOW

White Space – Amount of Content

White space is the empty space around text and graphics. White space has nothing to do with color; it’s the background color of the sign. It refers to the amount of blank space. The blank space is like a frame, it sets the text off and makes it stands out. It highlights the text. So don’t cram too much onto the sign. Too much text makes it hard to read and looses your primary message. More text often results in less desired results. It’s very tempting to add text so you don’t feel like you missed something. Ignore the temptation the best you can and know we are all tempted, even the signmaker making his own sign.