Tips for Designing Your Advertising Sign

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Running a small business can be a real test – you often have to do a lot of things that bigger companies can afford to outsource. Some of these things involve a lot of creativity, like designing your own signage, for example. If you don’t have a design background, or a designer budget, you’ll have a steep learning curve ahead of you if you want to promote your business.

Don’t worry, though, you can pick up some pointers right here.

What are you making the sign from?

The material of the sign can affect its location and use. Many people opt for plastic while others prefer metal; it depends on your preferences and the environment it’ll be in. Thankfully, many sign makers, like, can work with both materials.

Think about the size – but not much

If you’ve only designed business cards or flyers before, you might feel a bit daunted by a yard sign of around 24” by 18”. This shouldn’t deter you, though, as the same basic principles apply – the size doesn’t matter so much.

You have to concentrate on the design; make sure it’s the right sort of colour and that it can be read and understood in a couple of seconds from a distance. Keep everything big and simple.

Do think about the location

Think about where the sign will go, where it’ll be placed. Is it going to be on the ground? Indoors? What colour is the background it’ll be “competing” with? If it’s going to be placed near trees, for example, then green isn’t your go-to colour!

Think big with graphics and colour

Colour is vital when it comes to design and advertising, so keep two things in mind – your branding and company colours and the sign’s contrast and visibility.

Sometimes these two factors are incompatible. Try to compromise. Graphics and colour should be bold and saturated; don’t use pastel colours but use lots of contrast between the lettering, graphics and background.

When it comes to graphics, use a single element and make sure it’s assertive. It’s a focal point.


As for location, just make sure the sign stands out against the background; the trees again? Go for red or yellow. Old design rules advise against a blue background, but this has relaxed a bit – just don’t use sky blue if your sign will be hanging a way off the ground…

Keep the typography simple

Use just one font besides the font your company logo uses. Sans serif is best and try to keep the letters medium to wide. Adopt the 10 to 100 rule – 10 inches of letter height for every hundred feet of good visibility.

You should also limit your words to no more than 15 as this has the maximum impact in the least amount of time. The design industry has the three by five rule – three lines of up to five words, or five lines of up to three words. If some words are really long, they count as two. Avoid italics and frilly fonts.

Contrast counts

When you only have a few seconds, you need good contrast and a clear focal point. You need to pair colours together that contrast but don’t clash. Try black and white, black and yellow, red and yellow, red and white, blue and yellow, blue and white, green and white…you get the picture.

If you’re worried about a busy background, then a thick white or black border to your design will help to draw the eye to it and guide the eye to the elements within it.


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