The Most Common Signage Mistakes To Avoid

Your business signage typically represents a fairly hefty investment, so avoiding common signage mistakes is crucial to gain maximum impact from your signs’ marketing potential.

Just about every industry you can think of (and even a few you can’t), from retail to hospitality, sports, medical settings and public transport, among numerous others, makes use of signage, often in varied ways.

Signs have a strong marketing power in terms of getting your brand or business noticed, and they can work for you 24/7, 365 days a year. They’re one of the first things visitors notice about your premises, and they have a key role to play in the overall customer experience. What’s more, they’re low-maintenance and highly cost-effective.

Here are some of the surprisingly varied ways signs are used:

  • Exterior signage tells the world who you are and what you do
  • Signage complements your other marketing efforts, inside and outside your business
  • It encourages people to buy your products or services
  • In Retail, once someone has come inside intending to buy one thing, retail signage can entice them to purchase something else
  • Signs welcome visitors to your site and provide reassurance that they are in the right place
  • Wayfinding signage gives directions to and inside your premises, or around your venue while alerting people to where certain things are, from the latest bargains to the exit to the toilets at a busy arena

Most Frequently Made Signage Mistakes

There are more common signage pitfalls than you may have realised, made more frequently made than you may have thought. Any one of them will have a significant impact on how effective your signage strategy is, and could well hinder your customers’, visitors’ or clients’ overall experience.

Over our many years in the industry, we at Rocket have seen more than our fair share of common signage pitfalls. Here are some of them – unfortunately, the list is not exhaustive!

#1 Too much information

Too much information! It’s a commonly enough used phrase, but, in the case of signage, you genuinely can overdo it. It’s a common misconception that more information makes for a better sign or advertisement, but, as with so many things, less is definitely more. A sign groaning under the weight of too much text not only looks unsightly but is less likely to get noticed, thus defeating the object of having it at all.

Ideally, the text will occupy no more than 20% of the available space. Indeed, the most effective signs, including those made by or for the biggest brands, typically have very little in the way of textual information on them.

#2 Text too small

Another common error is having text that is too small, and which cannot be read from a distance. Overcrowded signs are often the work of a less experienced designer who is trying to cram in more words by reducing their size. This is not a good look.

#3 Poor font choice

Using a delicate or script font (in which the font is joined-up or looks like handwriting) is another rookie and all-too-common signage pitfall. Just as with text that’s too small, it can be hard to read and generally ends up significantly reducing your sign’s impact.

#4 Bad colour selections with poor contrast

Colour choices have a key role to play when it comes to great signage, with poorly contrasting shades causing the biggest headaches. As a general rule of thumb, a dark background should feature light colours and vice versa, so that your message stands out enough to be legible.

Another consideration is how signage will appear to a colour-blind viewer. They may find it difficult to distinguish between oranges, yellows, browns, yellows reds and greens. So don’t use a combination of these colours or similar primary hues. This applies to both the background and text. When blending colours, only use combinations of light and dark for heightened contrast.

Another common error is to choose too many colours, or ones which do not look good together. We recommend you limit your designs to two or three colours and stick to those your brand already uses. Additionally, a professional designer can create an individual colour pallet for your signs.

#5 Low resolution or low-quality images

If you’re incorporating graphics or photos into your design, these need to be high resolution, particularly for large-format signage. When printed, a poor-quality image with low resolution or bad lighting will look unclear and unprofessional.

If using photos, ensure they’re high quality and of a professional standard. Equally, any graphics should be in vector format so they stay crisp and smooth however big you make them, avoiding aliasing and jagged edges which otherwise become more pronounced.

#6 Not using a professional designer

One of the most common signage pitfalls of all is not using a professional graphic designer. Indeed, working with one can avoid most of the common signage mistakes listed here. Because many designers will have worked specifically on signage, they can ensure your artwork is always in optimal format.

#7 Poor visibility or bad placement

Unfortunately, even once you have your beautifully designed and made sign, mistakes can still happen. One common signage pitfall is fitting it in the wrong place, which often means it’s either missed or not noticed, or confuses anyone who does see it. Investing in a reputable signage installation company will help avoid this issue, since they can advise on the best placement, with the service typically including an advance site visit.

#8 No backlighting

Not incorporating some backlighting is a common signage mistake for businesses with shopfront or office-front signage. If you’re open at night (or just during regular office hours in winter), lighting makes a huge difference and helps visitors find you easily. If your signs aren’t lit, they’re often missed unless you happen to be near excellent street lighting.

Even if your business is never open after dark, investing in backlit signage helps drivers or pedestrians passing by to notice it.

#9 Poor choice of materials

Signage material choices are often overlooked, yet choosing the right material can make all the difference between a long-lasting sign and one with zero longevity. Consider the weather and placement of your signage, as well as the material it’s made from. Something that’s weather-resistant and hardwearing (such as Foamex or aluminium) is better suited to use as exterior signage.

Clearly, you have greater flexibility with interior signage since the weather is less of a factor, although UV rays can discolour signs fairly rapidly if they penetrate windows, so you need to think carefully about material types for interior signage too.

#10 DIY signage

This is quite possibly the worst kind of signage mistake. Indeed, it can be frankly disastrous:

  • It looks extremely unprofessional (however neat your writing or painting, handwritten signs are never going to be the same as professionally produced ones)
  • This signage won’t last as long, so it could fall off and blow away, and could even be dangerous
  • If you do your own digital signage, unfortunately, this is more liable to failure
  • With DIY signage, ink can fade over time, cardboard may rot and timber planks can become worn

Looking For a Professional Signage Installation Company?

We hope this guide to common signage mistakes has been useful. If you’re looking for a professional signage installation company, Rocket Graphics can produce and install all manner and sizes of signs. As a large-format printing company, we can print in super-wide format up to 5m wide – meanwhile, our clients include some of the UK’s biggest sporting brands, hotels, retail stores and others. Talk to us whether you need wayfinding, indoor or exterior, or anything else. We’ll help you steer clear of the most common signage pitfalls.