Signs are a great way to build awareness and are important in making sure that people know where to find you. You might think that where to place a sign is obvious. Too often I find that poor choices are made.
If for example, you want people to turn into your organization’s driveway. Placing a sign beside the entrance seems like a good choice. If you need to drive up a hill before anyone can see a sign though, then it may not be the best location if people can easily drive right by without seeing the sign. You may be better to find a location before the driveway, if not for your main sign but for a sign to let people know they are getting close.
I think sometimes we just take things for granted. If we know where to turn to find a conference centre in a setting because you work there everyday, you can lose the perspective of someone coming for the first time who doesn’t know when they are getting close or which side of the road the entrance is on.
Sometimes signs are placed poorly due to ignorance. In a political campaign, you can tell when a novice has gone out to put up signs because the sign faces the road. You can almost imagine the volunteer standing on the sidewalk and admiring their work. They don’t realize that most people will see the sign driving along the road and not stopping in front of a house to look at it–even pedestrians can easily miss it. In general, a sign needs to be placed perpendicular to the road for most people to see it.
In some cases, decisions on sign locations seem to be made out of context for the environment. I can easily think of many examples where the signage on the architect’s drawings probably looked great on paper–forgetting that the only people who will look at the building from that angle are standing on the sidewalk on the opposite side of the street. That may be nice to have but not if that means ignoring a much larger audience.
The good and bad of signs at a big box centre
These principles apply even in big box super centres. I recently found examples in one of great signage and lost opportunities.
I love the signage in the photo at the beginning of this post. People are encouraged to walk from store to store by a generous sidewalk. So in addition to the typical front signage you can see a football field away, there are small signs perpendicular to the sidewalk. They are human-sized and attractively designed and hung. They not only serve a functional purpose by helping people see where the stores are, they also help to draw people up and down the sidewalk to go to another store instead of just going back and forth to their cars. By big box standards, this design and signage is both unusual and as good as it gets.
Take a look at the photo to the left for contrast. Even though it’s across the parking lot in the same centre, it lacks the perpendicular signage and overhang. If someone comes out of Bulk Barn, they are neither informed or encouraged to explore other retailers along that strip.
There are more lost signage opportunities in the photo below. Even though it’s along the same sidewalk, there is no signage from the pedestrian’s angle to indicate what is in the white building (a Future Shop). But the same would be true of the Old Navy if coming out of Future Shop. Both rely on signage aimed only at the parking lot. The brown building in the distance also makes no effort to try to get folks to go that far. But then again, maybe Walmart doesn’t need the additional marketing help nor cares about the pedestrian experience. But I suggest that you should!
To get back to my earlier point if these three stores were on a downtown core street, you could easily drive by all three without know what you missed. Think about where you put your signage.
I’m sure a good sign company can help you figure out the best place to put signs to achieve the greatest impact possible. Listen to them!