Tips For Designing Effective Signs

Signs, as a mode of advertising, are not slapped together without logic or agenda. They are specifically designed to serve a purpose with much thought put into every element. One major element in sign design is that of color.

Different colors work in different ways. They can communicate specific values, appeal to certain demographics, or denote cultural or political association. By choosing the right colors in sign writing, the design of a sign can be most effective in targeting a clientele and expressing the desired message. Some color combinations are also more eye-catching and work to make the message stand out to their audiences.

According to Color Theory and one of its co-pioneers Wassily Kandinsky, colors communicate specific values and qualities. The following hues represent as follows:

  • Yellow: happy, exciting, warm
  • Blue: peaceful, deep, supernatural
  • Green: peaceful, still, natural
  • White: harmonious, silent, clean
  • Black: darkness, grief, the unknown
  • Red: confidence, liveliness, glow
  • Orange: radiance, health, seriousness

The messages of signage must show themselves in every element of their design and so the value-connotations of colors are very important. One example might be a sign generating awareness for an environmental issue: it makes sense to ensure an overarching pallet of green is used as this is symbolic of nature.

Certain colors also appeal to specific age and gender demographics. For example, found that children are often attracted to yellow, whereas adults prefer colors of a shorter wavelength, such as a blue neon sign. Sign writers should therefore, know the age of the people they want to appeal to and pick their hues accordingly. Similar generalizations can be made of genders. Male-related products, for example, should not necessarily make a bee-line for designs of pinks and purples.

Political and cultural connotations are also inherent in colors. Sign writers would then certainly want to work with a target market’s subconscious connection of ideology and color pallet. Billboards and signs dominated by the color red, for example, might give out messages of socialism as opposed to the conservative associations of blue signage. Reds and blacks, alternatively, could be used to create cultural links such as with Gothicism or lust depending on the sign’s composition.

Once an appropriate sign color is chosen, it should then be paired with another color that will successfully compliment it. This means colors that will contrast, working to make the text or main image stand out from the background. The highest visibility color combinations are:

  • On yellow: black, blue, brown, red
  • On white: black, green, brown, red
  • On red: yellow, white
  • On brown: white, yellow
  • On black: yellow
  • On blue: white
  • On green: white

Ultimately, sign writing is the art of grouping together all the design elements that convey the message intended by the sign and then making sure they reach their audience. What works, therefore, is entirely on a case-by-case basis. In the instance of color, this means considering the emotional, cultural, value and demographic connotations of the sign’s colors and then using them in eye-catching color combinations.

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