A Sign Of The Times

A Sign Of The Times

by John Mcquillan

From paint and brushes to high tech equipment, signwriting has come a long way. John McQuillan details its progression and what to consider when making your own sign.

From the moment the first cave dwellers scratched rudimentary pictures on the wall of their caves in a primitive attempt at passing on knowledge, signs have been one of the most important forms of communication. Today, they are more significant than ever, as new image technology seeps deeper into our lives, having an ever- greater influence on our decision making.

Signage has come a long way since that early cave drawing, although, a traditional sign writer, working deftly with their brushes can still be found if that is your preference. The modern sign-maker’s tools however, are very different and will include, computers, vinyl printer/cutter and laminator. A workshop will also be needed to house them all.

We are bombarded with signs of all kinds from all directions, so how can you get your message to stand out among all the others? Well, there are a number of things you should consider carefully. The fact that it is now possible to eat a photograph that’s printed on a cake, should tell you that today almost any application is possible with signs. First of all, take the time to research your full range options within your budget. A good sign company can advise about the possibilities and will offer ideas.

It is important to consider what your reader’s situation might be when reading your sign. For instance, will they be moving or stationary? As a rule of thumb with signage, ‘less is more’. If your sign or reader are on the move, you may only have a few seconds to command attention. There is more time if everything is stationary, however, I would suggest the same advice holds true. People catch the headlines, but in today’s fast-moving world there are so many distractions to quickly divert their interest.

This is where colours and fonts can help. Use them to grab attention and send out the correct image for your product or service.

It’s no mistake that danger signs are usually depicted in bold, bright red, unfussy lettering, while a delicate, wispy font in silver perhaps, might be seen promoting a beauty product. If you’re selling high quality, how about trying gold lettering? However, large, bold capitals are not always the clearest. For instance, if your sign is to be read from some distance, upper and lower-case lettering is easier to read – take a look at motorway signs. Your sign maker will advise on fonts and colours.\

A final tip: if you have a catchy and memorable strapline and/or illustration – wonderful. It is said that a picture is worth a thousand words, so maybe that caveman had the right idea after all.