Signage, the bane of every retail store’s existence. It often seems like customers don’t read signs at all. A good sign can increase business and make your store easier to navigate, a bad one can just be a big waste of money.
So here are some tips for getting your sign noticed. This applies both to longer informational signs and simple section labels.
- MAKE IT BIG: If you can’t read at least part of it from 2 metres away, it’s too small. As people get closer, they can pick up more detail, so make the grabbing headline big and then as you offer more info, it can be in progressively smaller type as they get closer to read it all. The smalles type should not be less than 14 point.
- Don’t forget to include the ANGLE the sign is read at in the distance calculation. Signs above people’s heads or below their knees need to be bigger than ones at eye level to compensate for being read at an angle.
- They aren’t looking at it straight on: People are rarely facing a sign dead on. They’re often walking past or approaching it at an angle. Make sure the sign is recognizable (and legible) when viewed at an angle. Stick it above your head, near your waist, and to left and right of you so you can see what it looks like from various angles.
- Keep it simple: Say no to crazy scripts. Most “handwriting” scripts are difficult to read quickly. As someone walks past the sign, you only have a split second to catch their eye. If that second is wasted on them trying to recognize the basic letters in the typeface, they won’t actually read the sign. Keep it clean and easily recognizable.
- Just say no to reversed text: White lettering on colored background looks cool, but its murder on the eyes. It’s fine for a headline, but don’t write any of the details in this color scheme.
- Use a limited color palette: Often the best sign is
a crisp black and white because it’s uncluttered. In a retail store,
there’s a lot going on. The starkness of a black and white sign draws
the eye. If you decide to go with color, pick ONE. Text should be black
on a light colored or pastel background. If you simply must have a more
colorful background to match the décor or to contrast with a large stack
of black and white items, use color complements. Use a darker one for
the text. Cool colors work better for text in most cases. This will make
the color ‘pop’. Complementary colors are the ones that appear across
from each other on a color wheel:
- Green & Red
- Blue & Orange (gold)
- Purple & Yellow
- You can do more complicated splits, but there’s a reason these three appear so often, and that’s because they work!
- Make space for space! A clear, concise sign is more effective than a cluttered one. Make sure there’s space so people can break the text and pictures up into easily digestible chunks. They’ll retain more info that way. If it’s one big mass of text (or too many pictures) they won’t be able to parse it as they walk past.
- Proofread! Proofread! Proofread! After you have designed your sign, take a break. Ideally, leave it be for at least a day. THEN proofread. All the errors will jump out you. If you do it too soon after writing it, you will see what you think you wrote, rather than what you actually wrote.
- Show it to at least two other people. They’ll pick up some more mistakes and point out spots where things are unclear. You may know what you meant, but that’s doesn’t mean you wrote it as clearly as you could!
- Special note: If you are in a multi-ethnic area, grab someone from each of the main ethnic groups to proofread. Its embarrassing to find out what looked like a great sign uses a slang term that is either offensive, confusing, or just plain really funny to your customers. Don’t forget that British and American English have lots of spelling differences that can trip you up.
- Make a mockup: If you are having fancy signs made that will be near permanent fixtures (such as section labels), have a friend or employee walk around the store with a mockup and hold it in various places so you can see how it will look. You may discover it’s not big enough, a bad color scheme, looks strange under your lights, the finish is too reflective and it’s unreadable, its too cluttered, etc. Nothing beats actually seeing the sign in action.
- Put the sign in the right place: How many times have you come in and seen the “big sale!” signs clustered over the checkout? If people are standing in checkout, telling them about the great sale on something in back of the store is not going to work! Sale signs should be where people can act on it. This means either at the entrance or somewhere people can be drawn towards the sale section.
- Signs at checkout should either relate to something the customer can get right now (impulse buys), can do at checkout (sign up for our e-mail list), or relates to an event in the future that they might wish to come back for.
- Don’t lay it flat: Flat is great for eye level or things that are hanging and have writing on both sides. However, if at all possible, signs above most people’s heads should be tilted slightly down so they will appear at a 90 degree angle to someone’s plane of vision when they look up. Signs below the waist should be similarly tilted up slightly. Use a yard stick or long rod on your shoulder to gauge angle. Tilt it so it follows your line of vision to the sign.
- For signs that are only meant to be seen close up, like price labels, adjust them to be visible that way. They may be invisible from farther away. Don’t worry about this. For ones that are meant to be seen from several points farther away, you’ll want them at a shallower angle so they can still be read from very far away. Try several different angles before you secure the sign.
- You may even want to have two sets of signs! One large sign that can be seen from across the length of the store, plus a smaller one tilted so that people standing within 3 feet of the display can easily read it.
- If you REALLY want people to see the sign, stick it next to the cashier’s head. Or get the cashier to wear it. Don’t block the view of the cashier’s face, or have the cashier’s head in front. You want it where it’s in the sweet spot around the face so its in line of sight, but not distracting.
No matter what you do, you’ll still have some customers that don’t read the signs, but now you have a fighting chance!
Extracted from a post written by Nora O’Neill of Rainy Day Paperback Exchange. http://www.rainydaypaperback.com