Working the Elements of Sign Design

One of the most important elements of a building’s exterior design is the signage. It is an announcement of the business, who it is and what it does. For retailers, this often makes the difference between shoppers stopping or driving by.

When designing exterior retail signs, several elements should be taken into consideration to attract the right clientele to the business.


The sign should reflect the corporate colors of the business. Using a white or light background with bold, prominent colors makes a contrast that is easy to read. A dark background with light or white lettering is also effective. The name of the businesses, the logo and details about it can be in one color or two. More than that confuses the eye and the message may be lost.


Creating signage with the appropriate font can be tricky. Choosing a font style with a bold enough width of letter stroke is important. From a distance, the details in the lettering will be lost. Elegant script fonts are lovely up close, but from far away cannot be seen or read clearly. Serif fonts are those with tails on the lettering. They are more effective than script and add a touch of elegance. The stroke of the letter is wider, making it easier to see. San-serif font styles have plain letters. They are clear from a distance and when the stroke width is very thick, the words are easy to see and understand.


Exterior retail signage in should be lit at night when the store is open. Large signs in parking lots attract attention, especially in the dark, and will help potential customers know the business is there. When placed near a driveway entrance it helps indicate where to pull in. Anything to assist customers in finding a retail business will boost foot traffic into the store and bring success.


Not all businesses require a parking lot sign and one over the business. Every retail design concept needs something special at the door to identify the entrance. Whether it is simple vinyl lettering with the business name and its hours of operation or a large window display, potential clientele need to know where to go and how to get in. Poorly marked entrances result in frustrated guests that would rather leave the establishment than enter a store embarrassed at not being able to find their way in.