Now It’s Time to Design!

Once the purpose and logistics of the sign are determined, the actual design and massaging of the sign can be started.  The sign should incorporate some design elements that will help it stand out against the landscape, such as color contrast, changeable components, motion, and uniqueness of design.

Things to consider for the actual sign design:

Layout is the organization and arrangement of copy.  Good layout leads the eye through the composition quickly by emphasizing the most important information.

Negative Space is the area around and within the letter and graphics, extending out to the edge of the format.  Negative space is just as important as the positive space in design.

Line Value Is the relative thickness of line in letter strokes, ilustration and ornamentation.  There are three distinct line values – light, medium, and bold.  One way to make a sign more interesting to look at is to use variation in line values.

Color should be based on image appropriateness and overall effectiveness.  Red, Black, and White are a traditional combination that will always have its place in creating a sign. Color alone does not make a good sign, but it can destroy an otherwise good design.

Color & Contrast

A high color contrast factor will improve legibility.  Here are the best combinations, ranked in order of legibility from a distance.

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Color Combination Effects

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Legibility is Key

Selecting Alphabets focuses on the design function of different uses of upper and lower case as well as different letter styles or fonts.  Most design specialists recommend that you use only two alphabet styles or fonts (possibly a third for a logo). A design with upper and lower case letters is easier to read and creates more interest to the eye than a line of all capital letters.

Typestyle Selection is critical to the effectiveness of a sign.  The proper font should convey the desired image without sacrificing the ability to distinguish individual letters.  Many script and specialty typestyles are difficult to read, especially over greater viewing distances.

Sans Serif

Sans Serif fonts project a strong durable image.  They also effectively communicate quick bursts of information.

Sans Serif


Scriptfonts project an elegant image.  Unfortunately they are often characterized by poor legibility.  They should only be used for short viewing distances and only in combinations of upper and lower case letters.



Display fonts project distinctive images for special situations.  Legibility is also a concern, especially over greater viewing distances.


Serif fonts project a more sophisticated upscale image.  They also make it easier to read large bodies of test.