5 Lessons to Learn from Companies Who Had Ineffective Signs

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An ineffective business sign is any sign that doesn’t perform its intended purpose to attract attention, inform and create a positive outcome. Although there are dozens of lessons that business owners could learn about ineffective signs, consider these five lessons the most important:

A Sign Is Useless If No One Sees It

Visible signage may seem like a common sense concept, but many companies allow plants to grow over sign fronts or position signs in areas where people can’t see them from a distance. Additionally, partially blocked signs often express the wrong messages or leave out important details resulting in unintended humorous or offensive interpretations or broken company policies or laws.

One Wrong Character Can Cause Disaster

How many times have you laughed out loud after seeing online image posts about signs with ridiculous messages caused by missing, faded or incorrect characters? How many times have you been frustrated or angry because of a sales sign that had a mistake? New and old signage should always represent your intended message.

Correct Symbol Placement Is Critical to Preventing Confusion

The role of symbol placement is best understood through a short story: A business traveler decides to relax at a hotel pool. Sign arrows for the pool point at the floor. The lobby doors are behind him and the front of the hotel doesn’t have a pool. Does this mean that the hotel has a basement? The sign has no elevator or stair symbols. The businessman heads to the front desk to ask only to discover a long line. His attempt at relaxation ruined, he returns to his room. He later gives the hotel a poor review online.

Wordless Signs Only Work When They are Understood and Acceptable

Target’s bright red bullseye logo is so readily recognized around the world that the word “Target” on related signage isn’t always necessary because it’s an understood and accepted symbol for the store. Yet, if your company’s logo isn’t well-known, any logo-only sign becomes meaningless. Additionally, people find some symbols highly offensive. For example, the ancient swastika symbol became a World War II Nazi symbol. It now evokes negative feelings in many people even though it’s associated with positive elements of several religions that existed long before the war, including Buddhism and Hinduism.

Tight Text and Blended Colors Lower Readability and Impact

Little space between lines of text or letters and poorly contrasted background and foreground colors reduce readability and impact because they force people to squint and try to think about what a sign means. A sign should provide brief, easy-to-digest information. Test out new sign ideas on employees or target audience focus groups. If an idea fails, go back to the drawing board.