Sign Design Guidelines

Proper design is a critical aspect when creating and maintaining your visual communications. Here are some important things to consider when designing your signage and custom graphics:


Before designing your sign, you need to plan the sign’s purpose and the action you would like the viewer to take as a result of seeing your sign. This plan will help you create the foundation for successful sign design.

If your sign is purely for business location identification purposes, you need only include your name and logo.

However, if your sign is a roadside advertisement for your business, you need more than that. In this case, you need to make sure you include your business name, logo, a brief image with text of what your business does, and a call to the action you want the viewer to take:

John’s Mobile Notary Service
We Help You Document Life’s Most Important Moments
Call 123-456-7890 to Schedule an Appointment!


Now that you created your sign’s message, it’s time to discuss some important elements specific to sign design.

Signs are different than other types of advertisements or collateral you may have for your business. In most cases, you only have 1 second or less to capture the attention of your viewer and convey your message.

Even the most beautiful and well-thought-out brochure design will not translate well into a sign design without some changes.


To maximize legibility, signs need simple text that is sized appropriately for the viewing distance.

Font Style

Be sure to pick a font that is consistent with your branding but also very legible when enlarged.

Script fonts should be used with great care and are usually to be avoided. While they are often a great element to add to close-up printed collateral such as business cards and brochures, they can be challenging to decipher on signage.

Look for fonts with clearly defined shapes and even spacing. If the letters are too close together or too far apart by default, don’t be afraid to play with the kerning (adjusting the spacing between characters) to achieve clarity.

Sans Serif fonts like Arial, Helvetica, and Montserrat are great fonts to start with. A font like Impact can seem like a great choice at first, but its narrow letter spacing both between the characters and also within the characters themselves can be problematic. Be sure to work with the kerning to make sure it is legible on your sign.

If you would like to choose a serif font for contrast or visual interest, be sure to follow the same guidelines. Ensure it has clearly defined shapes and that the serif edges don’t merge or blur together.

Font Size

A good rule of thumb is to make sure you have an inch of letter height for every 10 feet of viewing distance. Each font pica point (pt) is approximately 0.0138 inches tall. The chart below displays letter heights in relation to font sizes and their visible distances.

Letter Height (in.)Font Size (pt.)Distance for
Best Impact (ft.)
Readable Distance (ft.)

Visit this helpful page for an easy conversion calculator if your font size is not displayed above.


While you should always strive to make your sign designs match your brand’s identity and colors, you must keep in mind that not all color combinations are conducive to signage.

Signs need bold combinations with a high-color contrast that work well with your font and messaging. Avoid combinations that strain the eye or rely too heavily on green. Green is the most common color that individuals with color blindness struggle to see and in many cases appears to them as a light yellow, brown, or gray – none of which are easy to see from a distance.

Here are some good high-contrast combinations to consider in your designs:

Color Combos

Combination Effects to Avoid:


Final Sign Design Example

John's Mobile Notary Service
With 100pt. font, this sign will be most visible between
10-30 feet.


Be sure to consider where your sign will be placed to help it stand out against the landscape.

A roadside sign along a rural road should avoid colors like green, brown, and light blue as it will be more likely to blend in to its surroundings.

If your sign will be placed in a busy cityscape with lots of different colors and patterns around it, choose a simple design with clear text and two bold colors.

While it might seem that these sign guidelines will make for boring sign designs, there are plenty of ways you can spice things up without compromising visibility or effectiveness.

Don’t be afraid to use elements like outlines, drop shadows, clever or humorous text, memorable images, and simple shapes to help you make the most of your sign!

We are here to help you navigate the world of sign design and help you create the best sign for your business. Our professional designers can bring your ideas to life!

Contact us today to discuss your project and get a free quote!

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