Standing out in a crowded marketplace is a major consideration for any business owner. How could you persuade customers to choose you over your rivals?
For many brick-and-mortar businesses, visual branding and signage can play a big role in making a company appear distinct and unique in its industry.
With the right typefaces, colors, and presentation, the visual language used on your signs can position your brand strongly in the minds of visitors, and help them to see you as a great choice for their custom.
So how can we use signage to make an impression? In this article, we’ll look at some key design ideas that can help your business stand out from the crowd.
1. Think about context
Signage never exists in isolation, and if you’re thinking about the colors and fonts you’d like to see on your sign you should always consider what other companies are doing.
This obviously includes making a point of doing something different from your main competitors (if they all have warm-colored signs, consider doing the opposite, for instance) – but it can also mean taking note of the design choices made by other businesses in proximity to yours, even if they operate in a completely different sector.
Having two businesses side-by-side with blue-and-white signage doesn’t help either of them to stand out, so it may be worth making a point to not clash with other nearby companies.
You might also consider the context in which your signs will be installed. What color is the wall they will be going on? Will they need to be seen in the dark? Would they require any extrusion to be seen from a particular angle? Think about the physical environment and how your new sign is going to fit in.
Another consideration is that we tend to mostly think of ‘signage’ as existing only over the front door of the establishment, but there are many different types of indoor and outdoor signage that you could use to stand out from the crowd.
You might decide to install a free-standing monolith sign out in your car park, or a swing sign on a bracket attached to a wall so that customers can see your branding even when approaching from a side angle – or the context of your available space may suggest other unusual opportunities for sign placement.
Considering the immediate environment may also influence the materials you choose to use for the construction of the sign. A sign displayed indoors will be sheltered from the elements, whereas an outdoor sign will need to be constructed and treated for suitability in all weathers.
Of course, an expert sign making company will be able to advise on the best way to complete your unique project.
How can you find the perfect font to make your business stand out? Writing a large sign isn’t the same as typing an email – which typefaces work better for use in this format?
The number one consideration is readability. You may take a shine to a particular typeface that seems to perfectly encompass your business, but if the letterforms aren’t understandable when viewed from a distance it might not be suitable.
Visitors may view your signage from any one of a number of unpredictable angles and vantage points, or when speeding past in a vehicle – if the design takes more than a moment to understand you may miss out on capturing their attention.
(A good tip is to avoid writing your business name all in uppercase – studies show that this is actually harder to understand than using a normal mix of upper- and lower-case letters).
Therefore, fonts that are clean and simple are recommended for signage, and overly ‘flowery’ and flowing handwritten styles might be too hard to parse. Within that stipulation, however, lives a broad array of choices in a plethora of different styles suitable for all kinds of businesses.
Many smaller companies have basic or uninspired typography on their signage, and adorning yours with classy, elegant or striking letterforms is a great way of standing out from the crowd.
A company looking to communicate old-school prestige and class might select a traditional serif font such as Baskerville or Didot, while a business hoping to convey contemporary trustworthiness might select a classic sans-serif font such as Futura or Gill Sans.
There are so many great fonts for business signage that it would be somewhat beyond the scope of this article to give a full list, but there are plenty of resources available online to help you choose the perfect typeface.
Of course, hiring professional signage or graphic designer to help you could be a very good idea. If you don’t have design expertise in-house, it’s often advisable to call in a professional and make sure it gets done properly.
3. Signage Illumination
Few signage design choices will help your business stand out like illumination.
A glowing sign can communicate prestige and improve your company’s presence and visibility. If your business operates outside of daylight hours, an illuminated sign is a must-have.
Even for companies that only operate in the day, illuminated signage can still be a very sensible investment. It will improve your visibility in periods of inclement weather, and the sign can be left on overnight to remind customers that you exist even if you’re not currently open for business.
Traditional illuminated signage was accomplished with the use of neon and glass tubing, although this style of sign is now largely in decline except in cases where a ‘retro’ aesthetic is specifically sought. Neon signs can in some cases evoke a deliberately old-school feel and bring to mind the glitz of Las Vegas or the colorful vintage chic of Tokyo.
The modern approach is to make use of light-emitting diodes (LEDs), which provide a much more reliable and energy-efficient source of illumination.
LED lighting is available in a wide range of colors and can be incorporated into signage in a number of ways – whether illuminating a lightbox-style sign from within or providing a tasteful backlighting effect from being mounted on the reverse side of a solid design.
Another great reason for using LEDs is that they last for a very long time – at least 50,000 hours in many cases. This means that even if you left them switched on and powered twenty-four hours a day you could still expect them to last for many years without needing to be replaced. This makes them a very cost-effective investment (especially compared with neon, which by comparison uses a vast amount more electricity to run).
Lighting is a great way to make a bold and creative statement with your exterior signage – and literally, outshine your competitors.
At the end of the day, your choices for signage can play a major role in whether your business is noticed by customers and how it is perceived.
By carefully observing your competitors and making design choices that differentiate your company, you can position your brand as a bold departure from the norm – and with good use of unique color and font combinations and high-quality illumination, your business can really make a strong visual statement to stand out in a league of its own.
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Zarna Feltham is the Production Manager at Medash Signs, which has provided business signs and vehicle graphics for companies and organizations across Kent and the UK for more than 40 years.