why signage size matters

Business owners are typically so understandably focused on the aesthetics of their sign design, they neglect to nail down one important factor: what size sign do they want or need?  

This question often results in the proverbial “deer in the headlights” look, as they sheepishly reply, “Well, come to think of it, I’m not exactly sure…” 

Basic Sign Size Guidelines to Design By 

The most basic guidelines to go by when you’re designing new signs for your business or an upcoming promotional event are: 

  • The standards or restrictions set by your town, neighborhood, and/or business park 
  • Big enough to catch attention without being obnoxious or out of proportion with other signs in the area 
  • Not so small that it’s hard to see the logo or to read the font 
  • It’s proportionate to the space where it will be mounted or installed 

Your graphic design and printing professionals will be able to steer you in the right direction. We’re happy to visit the site where the signs will be located to provide our insight and opinions because the ultimate goal is to “measure twice, design once.” The last thing you want to do is design a sign that winds up being too big or too small for the space, taking you back to the drawing board. 

Is the sign for a specific event? 

If you’re designing new signs for an upcoming event, like a tradeshow or local fair, the size of your signs will need to comply first and foremost with any guidelines provided by the event planner.  

Check the literature carefully to see if size specifications are given in print form. If you don’t see anything about that, it’s worth calling ahead to make sure before moving forward with your own ideas. Most tradeshow signage is created with respect to your booth size or footprint, and the signs are fairly standard from show to show. 

Does your neighborhood, homeowners association, or business park have CC&Rs? 

Many downtown business associations, HOAs, and business parks have highly-specific guidelines governing signage – including its size. That’s the first place to start because if you don’t design your signs with respect to their covenants, codes and restrictions (CC&Rs) or similar documentation, you may be cited, fined, and forced to replace them – all adding up to far more than a small or medium business owner can comfortably afford. 

Are you rebranding? 

If you’re in the process of rebranding or redesigning your company logo or lettering, you may want to err on the larger side (with respect to any size restrictions) to draw attention to the change. It can take a while for consumers to make the connection between your own logo/name/colors, etc. and the new ones. Making everything just a bit larger than it used to be – or using time-sensitive signs such as banners or billboards – is a good way to help your target markets make the transition along with you. 

Where are viewers standing (sitting, driving, etc.) when reading the sign? 

For example, signs that are put up at the top of your front door or on a billboard need to be larger and have larger images and lettering than signs that are at eye level. If your signs are in the windows and designed to be ready by those on foot, you want to make sure sign size accommodates that so readers aren’t forced to step back to take it all in.  

That leads us to the importance of choosing the right font for the right sized sign. 

Adjust fonts to sign size and distance  

You never want prospective customers or current clients to struggle or work to read your signs. To that end, most graphic designers and printers use standard rules of thumb to select the font size for your signs based on the size of the sign and the average distance a reader would be from the sign when viewing it. 

For example: 

 

Letter 

Height 

Ideal 

Distance 

Maximum 

Distance 

3″  30′  100′ 
4″  40′  150′ 
6″  60′  200′ 
8″  80′  250′ 
10″  100′  400′ 
12″  100′  400′ 
15″  150′  630′ 
18″  180′  750′ 
24″  240′  1000′ 
30″  300′  1250′ 
36″  360′  1500′ 
48″  480′  2000′ 
60″  600′  2500′ 

 

Font size will vary a bit from this, depending on the type of text it is and the priority of its content.  

Another thing to keep in mind regarding font is that the average American reads around 200 to 250 words per minute. However, those who speak English as a second language, or who have learning disabilities read notably slower than that. Keep reading speed in mind when creating your signage, contact, and font sizes. Ultimately, you want readers to be able to easily scan the information within seconds – especially if your sign is a billboard on a highway or major thoroughfare. 

Size may dictate the design 

Another reason size matters when it comes to signage is that some design ideas simply don’t work unless your signs are big enough – or small enough. Certain layouts work better with small signs, while others look better for larger signs. 

Your design might not work proportionally in the sizes you’re working with, which means we can take your ideas and translate them into a similar format that works better for the size specifications. Also, remember that you don’t need to fill the entirety of the space. The simpler the sign, and the more concise the wording, the quicker viewers synthesize what you’re trying to communicate. 

What’s your budget? 

In almost all cases, the larger your sign the higher the price tag. If you’re on a strict budget, share that dollar amount ASAP with your printer. That will help us keep design ideas and suggestions – including sign size – within your bottom line. 

Would you like ideas or help around what sized signs to design and print for your business, for publicity, or for an upcoming event? Contact the professional graphic designers and printers at SpeedPro East Bay for professional support.