Your business sign usually marks the first impression for new customers so it should be unique, memorable and reflect the quality of your products or the work you do. Making your own sign is a perfectly good option, particularly for a small business that is just starting out. You can design your own sign and then get a local printer to put it on plastic or vinyl, or paint the sign yourself using stencils and paint that will adhere well. Just because you're making a sign yourself doesn't mean it has to look like it was painted by hand.
Sign Ideas for Your Business
Signs are always a reflection of the business you run, whether you intend it to be that way or not. To understand this, consider two extremes: a sign made of chrome letters mounted on marble, compared to a sign made with a piece of cardboard and a magic marker. One speaks of permanence and solidity, while the other seems to shout cheap and unprofessional. The first would be appropriate for a bank, an investment company or an upscale jewelry store. The second sign may be ideal for a roadside produce stand and may even do better at attracting customers than a more expensive sign.
For your small business, the perfect sign is likely to be somewhere between these two extremes. Indoor signs for products are often something you can get from your suppliers who sell you those products. Other indoor signs can be made of almost any material and, for items on sale, signs written by hand with magic marker can work well. For outdoor signs advertising that you are here and ready for business, more permanent materials are more appropriate.
Materials for Storefront Signs and Outdoor Signs
The first decision for a sign is what material it's going to be made from. If you are buying a sign produced by a professional company, your sign can be made of almost anything, such as neon signs, electronic signs, cabinet signs or awning signs. If you're planning to make your own outdoor business sign, your options are only a bit more limited. In most cases, the best materials to choose from are:
The material you select will affect what type of graphics you can use. A vinyl banner or a plastic sign will give you a wide range of color and graphics options and they are highly portable. For a metal sign, aluminum is usually the best option, since it is relatively inexpensive, non-corrosive and strong but also light-weight. For a wooden sign, select a hardwood, which will resist weathering. A less expensive option for the appeal of a wooden sign is HDU plastic, which gives the appearance of wood without the maintenance requirements.
Selecting Your Message
The main purpose of a business sign is for people to find your business. As such, the message of your sign should be clear, succinct and should make it apparent what you sell with a single glance. Your business name or what you do should be prominent. Your address, slogan or additional products or services you offer should be smaller.
For specialty shops, your area of expertise may be more important than your business name. If you own a shoe repair shop, for example, "Shoe Repairs" should be the most prominent words on your sign. Graphics often say more than words. A pair of scissors beside a generic business name like "Chloe's Place" or "Sally's Salon" will immediately tell people that you cut hair.
Making Sure Your Sign Gets Noticed
Wherever your sign is placed, it should stand out from the field of vision. A green and brown sign on a tree-lined street won't attract much attention, nor would a gray sign on a concrete wall. Use contrasting colors in comparison to the sign's background and within the sign itself to ensure it can be easily seen, such as light letters on a dark background or vice versa.
Select a font that is easily readable. Elaborate calligraphy or 3-dimensional text can be difficult to read, particularly for someone in a moving car. Your sign should be lit so people can see it at night, but if you're on a limited budget, consider adding lighting later (particularly if you're not open after dark).
- Place the sign at eye level of drivers in a town or a city. Place the sign higher on a freeway so it can be read from a greater distance.
- Find out if you need to get a permit before you hang your sign, and include the cost of the permit in your budget for the business sign.
- Avoid predictable designs that will render your sign invisible.
- Don't design a sign to blend in with the surroundings if you want the sign to be noticed.
A published author, David Weedmark has advised businesses on technology, media and marketing for more than 20 years and used to teach computer science at Algonquin College. He is currently the owner of Mad Hat Labs, a web design and media consultancy business. David has written hundreds of articles for newspapers, magazines and websites including American Express, Samsung, Re/Max and the New York Times' About.com.