It’s important to make sure that the signage over the door of your retail establishment reflects well on your business. After all, it’s the first thing customers see when they approach your premises.
In fact, your storefront signage can play a major role in how your retail establishment is perceived by the general public. There are many things that can affect this, from imagery and design to production quality, maintenance and placement – and getting it wrong could even put people off doing business with you.
In this post, we’re going to cover some common retail signage missteps, and go over some possible ways to avoid them.
Inconsistency with brand values and character
This is a mistake often made by inexperienced designers – the act of creating signage that ‘just looks nice’, without thinking too much about how it really reflects on and embodies the brand values and personality of the business.
The phrase ‘brand values’ sounds like something only big chain stores would worry about, but really it just means your business’ ethos and outlook. What does your company stand for, and what does it offer?
One important role that your signage fulfils is letting people know about the character of your business and what they can expect. As a basic example, if they see a big, colourful sign, they may be primed to expect a friendly and approachable shopping experience with bubbly sales assistants. On the other hand, a dark and elegant sign may lead them to imagine an elegant store full of luxurious and aspirational products.
Getting the design wrong can lead customers to have the wrong expectation about what your shop offers or the character of the shopping experience – which may lead to them being confused or disappointed when they visit your establishment and have a completely different encounter.
Brand values and character can be expressed in signage in numerous ways – from font and colour choices to the use of logos, symbols and imagery.
Muddled or illegible designs
As with most forms of design, clarity is key.
For one thing, it’s important to pick a typeface for the sign that not only fits the business but is also extremely legible. A common mistake (especially for florists and boutiques and small curiosity shops) is to use a flowing cursive lettering style on fascia signage, which can look very pretty but also quite hard to read quickly.
Being able to read the sign in a hurry is important, because consumers don’t have the time to stop and decipher every sign they pass. We live in a world extremely saturated with shop signs, street signs, banners, billboards, vehicle graphics and more – and if the meaning of your shop sign isn’t immediately clear you might just miss out.
It’s also vital to realise that retail signage, unlike some other forms of design, has to be designed with the knowledge that it may well be seen from a distance, when whizzing by in a car, in a variety of lighting and weather conditions, and from any number of strange angles. Would somebody cycling past the shop on a rainy day be able to quickly understand your sign, for example?
For this reason, it’s important to prioritise readability above almost all other concerns when selecting a font for your retail sign – and it’s also a good idea not to make your other design elements too muddled.
Having too many elements in general (or placing them too close together) can also cause legibility problems on signage. A good rule of thumb is to use as few elements as you can and to allow a good amount of space between each of them to ensure clarity.
Another factor that can affect legibility is the sign’s placement. If it’s been installed in a dark space, or is obscured by leaves from a nearby tree, or is recessed compared to next door’s signage… well, you might end up with readability problems. To some extent, these problems can be mitigated with creativity – for example, you may design to also add a swinging bracket sign that extends out into the street to improve visibility of your shop name from certain angles.
Of course, having a beautiful design is only part of the project – and it won’t help if the actual manufacturing quality of the signage is poor.
Getting experienced professional help with making and installing retail signage is an absolute must, and you may wish to consider installing additional features such as illumination (which these days can be achieved very cost-effectively and stylishly through the use of LEDs).
It’s important to make sure that the sign’s materials and other construction choices are appropriate for the character of your business (for example, colourful acrylic plastic might be excellent for a toy shop, whereas elegantly brushed aluminium might be better for a jewellery store).
Once your well-made sign has been professionally installed, it’s also a very good idea to keep on top of the maintenance. A fascia sign that is clearly old and in a poor state of repair can be quite off-putting to potential customers, and it’s certainly not very desirable from a branding and reputation point of view that the business may have seen better days!
One more thing to consider is that times change, and even a sign that has been kept in a good state of repair for years on end may benefit from a design refresh from time to time to keep up with modern trends. No business wants to look as though it’s stuck in a timewarp (unless that’s part of the concept, of course!).
At the end of the day, the right signage can be an extremely powerful tool for building your brand, reputation, and customer base. When done properly, it’s very effective at drawing consumers in and communicating to them what you do.
By making sure your signage is congruent with your brand values and business personality, that your designs are clear and that the signage is well-made and looked-after, you can ensure that your retail signs are as good as they can be.
Medash Signs is an established firm of sign makers in Ashford. With more than 40 years of experience designing and installing signs for retail, commercial, public sector and other industries, they have a broad portfolio of satisfied clients all across Kent and the UK.