Common Signage Mistakes that Damage Readability



When most of your customers speak English, how much money would you be willing to spend on a sign that was in French?

Chances are you wouldn’t spend any money on it. And yet businesses the world over are perfectly willing to fork over their hard-earned cash on signs that most people can’t find, can’t read, or won’t bother with. If you want your marketing dollars to go as far as possible, you’ll spend your signage money on clear, distinct, and readable signs–and you’ll take our advice when it comes to avoiding readability mistakes.

Mistake #1: Matching letters to their background

The most important principle of making your sign readable is contrast. You wouldn’t put translucent letters on glass because you know they’d be nearly impossible to read from any distance. When you match similar colors without paying attention to how strongly they contrast from each other, you’re making the same mistake.

Take a look at some of the best sign color combinations to see how you can get your sign’s readability up quickly. Some of the most common pairings include black and yellow, red and white, and white and blue. Color combinations to avoid? Red and orange, grey and black, and green and blue. These colors tend to be a little too close on the color wheel for comfort. If you want to use multiple colors for your background, your only option might be white letters outlined in black.

Mistake #2: Failing to match dark with light

If you want an easy way to remember how to make your sign more legible, think about it this way: match dark lettering with bright backgrounds, and vice versa. The reason black works with yellow is because yellow is a light color and against which black provides a stark contrast. If you have a darker color for your background, like blue, then you should tend toward light lettering with white. Here’s a demonstration that shows exactly how this phenomenon works.

Mistake #3: Strong text, but weak context

No matter how stark and distinguishable your sign is, it’s not going to be very visible if it’s not put in the right location and in the right context. Putting up a banner over the front of your store when most of your visibility comes from foot traffic near your windows means you’re ignoring the context of where your potential customers most often stand the chance of viewing your signage.

Mistake #4: Bad sizing

Consult our readability chart to find out how large your lettering should be depending on your visibility goals. There tends to be an “optimum” readability level with font size: you want it to be small enough to relay plenty of information but large enough to attract eyes and be read clearly for anyone with normal vision. If you didn’t give any thought to the size of your lettering, at the very least, make sure to do that with your next sign.

We at Sign It Quick can help you avoid all of these mistakes with your next sign–simply contact us and let us know your goals. We’ll be able to tell you everything your sign needs for maximum clarity, ideal size, and total readability.