If you own a brick-and-mortar store, you need a sign out front. It’s how customers find you. It’s also the first impression you give the general public about your company. Needless to say, making your sign memorable is important. Most businesses make the mistake of designing a sign that’s understated or too elegant, they try to blend into their environment, include too much information on the sign, they cheap out on the materials, or they place the sign too high off the ground. The idea is to get people to remember you, not to make it hard to figure out what you do (or that you exist).
Quality is important. It’s probably the most important factor in your sign. A cheap sign can be spotted a mile away. If you know you don’t have a good sense for quality, ask a friend or business partner for help. In general, you should buy the most expensive sign your company can afford. Buy good materials that stand up to UV light, harsh winds, torrential downpours, ice and snow, and any other extreme weather common to your area.
If you want to make your brand memorable, you have to be a little outrageous – audacious even. No one remembers a sign that blends into the background. People remember signs that stick out like a sore thumb. For example, if your business is in a wooded area, consider using colors that contrast, even outright clash, with the scenery. It’s not supposed to “fit in.” On the contrary, it’s supposed to get noticed.
Think about businesses that have “over the top” signage – Hard Rock Cafe. The company has a guitar as its logo. In some areas of the country, their signs are 3D, actually coming out of the building. No one forgets these signs after they see them.
Another example is the Hollywood sign in California. It’s not a business sign, but it’s very memorable. Why? Because it’s dramatic, it’s grossly oversized, there’s nothing near it to distract you, it’s in a strange place, and there’s something oddly “wrong” about it – the letters are all sitting at different heights instead of each one being perfectly level with the next one.
Don’t make your signs overly complicated. A complex sign isn’t always a better sign. You should be able to communicate your message simply, clearly, and unequivocally. Think about the signage that Apple uses. It’s logo is simple – an apple. To be more exact, it’s a blue apple with the words “Apple Campus One Infinite Loop.” That’s it. Everyone recognizes the logo and the sign when they see it and they never forget the brand.
You want your customers to want to do business with you. In general, regardless of the color scheme you use, your customers should be enticed to do business with you (or, at least, be enticed to walk in the door). The most attractive companies – from the street – are the ones with the cleanest signs. In other words, there’s not a lot of clutter on the sign.
A simple sign doesn’t try to jam in every possible offering of the company, the phone number, the fax, the company name, logo, tag line, etc. It simply tries to convey the business name and possibly a tag line if it’s not clear what the company does from its name.
Robert M. Smyth is an entrepreneur. He loves sharing his tips on small business blogs that he learned while starting his own company.