Directional signage is crucial to the way we navigate our environment. Whether we’re driving or going shopping, being able to find our way simply and efficiently to our destination is the true purpose of directional signage and if we can’t find the toilet, or the right exit, then those signs have lost their function.
Good directional signs should achieve a number of design goals. On the roads, they should help to reduce the time it takes us to travel from A to B. Elsewhere, they should increase accessibility for all, by clearing marking disabled lifts and access. For your business, they can enhance brand awareness and provide a superior customer experience, which, in turn, boosts your revenues. Get your directional signs right and you can help a mother with a fractious baby or get a client to their meeting on time.
So what separates a good sign from a terrible one, and what features should your directional signs possess in order to provide your users with a seamless experience?
Function before form
Don’t lose sight of clarity when designing your signs. You don’t need to show off your linguistic skills or design flair. Simplicity should be your watchword – don’t include any unnecessary information or any jargon or technical terms. Always consider the user experience over the aesthetics of your sign.
Keep it consistent
If there’s a pre-existing visual hierarchy in the signs you use, don’t break it. Keeping all of your signs consistent creates a professional impression and strengthens your branding. Most importantly, by keeping your signs consistent and standardised, you’ll give them a uniform look and ‘voice’, that allows users to understand how you structure and present information, so they can decode your signs quickly and easily.
Pick the right font
If you’re keeping your signs standardised, then you won’t need to choose a font, but if this is your first directional sign, then you’ll need to be very careful in the font and font size you select, to ensure the sign is easy to read. Again, simplicity is key. Don’t use script fonts, but prioritise the use of sans serif fonts that comply with DDA regulations.
Take your cues from established design best practice. For example, directional signs at airports often use a font that maintains a consistent thickness through the characters. These fonts are legible at smaller sizes, allowing users to glean information quickly and easily.
Get the grammar right
Incorrect spelling is all too common on official signage, and it creates a poor impression of your organisation. Always use a spellchecker to make sure you’ve got it right, because a badly spelled word in your sign can create confusion for your users. Try not to use capitals for at a glance signs, as capitals are less easy for the eye to decipher than lower case letters. Capitals should be used at the start of signs and can be useful for standalone, static signage.
Focus on colour
Wayfinding signs need to feature colour contrasts that make them legible for everyone, including those with a visual impairment. Hazard signage should feature black text on a yellow ground, while mandatory signage features white text on a blue ground. Getting the colour contrast right not only helps your signs to pop, but ensures they are compliant with Government safety guidelines.
A picture says a thousand words
This is never more true than when used with directional signage. However, if you intend to use pictograms in your signs, make sure they conform to internationally recognised norms.
Getting creative with your pictograms may seem like a clever way to differentiate your signs, but it can be totally confusing for people who don’t read or who don’t understand your language. By contrast, using universally understood pictograms and symbols can transcend these barriers and can be priceless when used for some emergency signs, as they can be seen and decoded from a distance.
Arrows point the way
A sign can only be referred to as a directional sign if it actually has arrows on it. Make sure that your arrows are easy to decode and are clearly pointing the right way.
Get the positioning right
To navigate to where they’re going, your users need to be able to clearly see your wayfinding signage. Position signs where they’re unmissable – at eyeline level, near escalators and lifts, above a shopping aisle – and make sure their placement makes sense, and is unobstructed and away from other visual noise. You’ll also need to think about getting the size of the font right in relation to the mounting height, for maximum readability and impact.
Think about materials, size and finish
An outdoor sign should be durable and weather resistant, while a sign in a hospital must be easy to keep clean. Your priorities for the materials and finish for your signs will obviously be dictated by their usage, but for wayfinding and directional signs, it’s imperative that they have a no glare finish, so the information is easy to see at all times.
An exterior sign will generally be larger, to accommodate bigger font sizes intended to be viewed from a distance. An interior sign is usually much smaller and in proportion with its indoor position.
Be accessible and inclusive
Always consider every member of your potential audience and design signs that can be understood by people who don’t speak the language or who have a visual impairment. Use translations, Braille and other tactile signage where necessary, to make your signage as inclusive and accessible as possible.
Ask the professionals
If you need to create professional, inclusive and accessible signs for your business, then contact us at the Sussex Sign Company. We can advise you as to the most appropriate signage for your needs and help you to design signage that is efficient and cost effective, call us today on 01273 424900 or email us here.