All the above combinations produce an effective and readable sign
contrast, even #10 on the list. The customer may have certain colour preferences or leave
the decision up to you. Colours not listed above or custom colours that are in the
customer's advertising scheme may be used if maximum impact is not required. Just make
sure the separate colours look well together and have enough of a contrast.
The selection of lettering styles is virtually limitless, especially since the recent
upsurge of graphic design software. But the use of an appropriate type style is very
critical in conveying a certain "feel" to an intended audience. Consider the
function of the sign and what kind of business it will be advertising. A movie theatre may
decide to choose "Broadway", but a printing company may go with
"Stencil". Too, there are many bold type styles that do well with many kinds of
businesses, such as "Helvetica Bold", "Omega", etc.
How many typefaces should you use in one sign? Too many are confusing. Generally limit
your selection to no more than two different styles. Also consider how the two type styles
complement each other. Don't try to mix a light style with a dark style.
What are the various styles? Basically there are two categories. One is called sans
serif. This kind of lettering is without any short lines of embellishments extending from
the tops and bottoms of the letters. The other style is serif and this is the type that
has the extra "bells and whistles".
Type styles can be condensed, stretched, and distorted with the newer computer software
to fit an area, but some type styles are just naturally smaller or larger in size. This is
a consideration if you have a limited area to work with.
Logos and Graphics
Designed logos and graphics make a sign spicy and interesting. Many signs that grab
your attention have a graphic design. Many businesses already have a logo or design and
you may be asked to incorporate it into the signage you are preparing. Or, you may be
asked to design a logo from scratch.
Scanners, in conjunction with your computer hardware and software, do an excellent job
of capturing the existing design and using it in your sign preparation. They are a virtual
MUST if you are doing this type of graphic work. Be wary of using photographs for the
scanning image and stay with letterheads, business cards, etc. that offer a high contrast
So, what if you are asked to design a graphic image yourself? Don't panic. Look around
you for ideas. They're everywhere and usually are very uncomplicated. In fact, the simpler
the better. Scan sign magazines, newspapers, and even product packaging found at the local
grocery store for image concepts. These can be easily modified to suit the customer's
need. Pretty soon you'll have a wealth of information that you can file away for other
customers' requests, too.
Once your text is entered, special effects can be used to provide a unique effect. The
image can be compressed, stretched, slanted, distorted, rotated to any angle, and arced to
fit a curve. The design possibilities are endless. These features can work hand in hand
with logo or graphic design, too.
Some computer software can even slant each individual letter, outline, cast shadows,
and weld multiple graphics together. So you see, you CAN be a professional artist!
If using a basic vinyl cutter, colour combinations within a graphic design can be
handled but each layer is cut separately. Just remember to charge extra for the additional
vinyl used and your time to cut each layer. And since the introduction of the
revolutionary colour vinyl printers and cutters, colour work is a breeze. These machines
print and cut in one operation saving valuable time.
The Sign Layout
There are two types of space in the layout of a sign. This space is called negative and
positive. Negative space is the space that is blank around your lettering and logo.
Actually, negative space is extremely important in projecting a balanced and total
Where do you want this negative space? For one thing, you will need some for the
borders of the sign. A good rule of thumb is about 15% of the height of the sign. So a 3m
high sign would require 450mm top and bottom. Also, negative space must be balanced within
the sign from one side to the other. Otherwise, it will have a "something's
Again, scan various trade magazines to get a good idea of how this is handled. Many
sign magazines have yearly awards handed out to the best sign designs. Look at these
examples and learn why they were picked.