Graphics, Signs and Creative Display Solutions

Sage Advice

Creative K.I.S.S.

Have you ever wondered why so many signs, banners, vehicle graphics and other displays have simple blocky fonts and more standard red and black on white background or vice versa? Well there's a very simple reason, readability! The creative scripts with thin lines and swooping letters in a pale yellow on a white background, just are not going to do it. Big and bold is! While it's not that simple and you do want to stand out in the crowd, some things to consider are those things and a few more.

Being Creative and keeping it simple stupid don't seem to go together very well, and may even be insulting, but sometimes there's such a drive to have the next creative look and feel, that the message get's lost and the ROI becomes frustrating. So I say be creative, but keep a few things in mind when doing so.

First contrast is important, yellow on orange reminds me of a local restaurant chain that has opened up more and more locations, but every time I look at their signage it hurts my eyes. Black, Red, other darker vibrant colors and or variations of these colors on a light background or vice versa is what I would encourage, at the very least is being aware of contrast.

Next up is the font, it's incredible, we are not even sure how many font's are out there, since there are fonts being created all the time. You can go to various sites like and they have over 150,000 fonts, but I like what Massimo Vignelli had to say in his interview with Big Think about the proliferation of fonts. You can also check him out in Helvetica.

Another thing I will touch briefly on is 'white space'. White space is something you don't have to be afraid of, it is helps with readability. Too often due to cost or lots of things to share, signage is laid out with to much text & imagery. What this does is crowd everything, makes it to busy and hard to read. As a lot of great Art Directors and Designers I have known over the years say, 'don't be afraid' of white space.

Finally size does matter, following you will find an example of what size that your text should be at for best readability from various distances. If you use this as a guide you will be good to go.


3 in.
30 ft.
100 ft.
4 in.
40 ft.
150 ft.
6 in.
60 ft.
200 ft.
8 in.
80 ft.
350 ft
9 in.
90 ft.
400 ft.
10 in.
100 ft.
450 ft.
12 in.
120 ft.
525 ft.
15 in.
150 ft.
630 ft.
18 in.
180 ft.
750 ft.
24 in.
240 ft.
1,000 ft.
30 in.
300 ft.
1,250 ft.
36 in.
360 ft.
1,500 ft.
42 in.
420 ft.
1,750 ft.
48 in.
480 ft.
2,000 ft.
54 in.
540 ft.
2,250 ft.
60 in.
600 ft.
2,500 ft.

This is prepared by the California Institute of Technology. The Distances Vary With Different Colour Combinations.

There are other factors when it comes to designing your signage/graphics, but this will give you some food for thought!

Dallas Roemeling

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