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Here’s a good example of a how a design works well both in black-and-white and with color added. It’s clean and legible, and having plenty of negative space around it frames it nicely.
On a banner like this, it’s really important that the primary message really shouts. If the reader misses Open House, the banner is useless. This digitally printed banner is colorful and eye catching, and none of the lettering employs any special effects—not even so much as an outline.
Of all the designs I’ve done over the years that didn’t end up being used, this one may be my favorite. There’s lots of information to deal with, but it is prioritized in such a way that it leads the reader through it easily and effectively, using just contrast in size and weight of the text and the principle of foreground, middleground and background. No unnecessary outlines or special effects were used. They would only have taken away from the overall look.
Here’s a fairly common real estate sign: Property size, the description, three bullet points, company name, the agent’s name and phone number. The reader can’t get that all at once, so we get them started with the size and description. If they’re still interested, we have the other information grouped in text blocks for them.
Banners like this are all about creating a sense of excitement about a special value. I used type that conveys that feeling, and kept the emphasis on the primary message. Since the banner was in front of the restaurant, the logo could be smaller, making more room to push the special and the price.
I recreated a version of the sign that was on my father’s ice fishing office in CorelDraw and did a digital print for my own office.
Here’s the original sign from about 40 years ago. There is a lot of information, but notice how the sign painter separated in to different message groups, each with its own degree of prominence. There wasn’t much negative space around each text block, but it still works well.
Many customers have a budget that only covers a basic lettering job—or may only want that. Even so, it’s easy create an appealing layout. Here it’s a one-color job, but I used a script headline and dramatic differences in the sizes of the text to create interest.
At one point I was designing a lot of window splashes for Pierre Tardif. Quite often I had to figure out how to present a lot of information and make it work. This is one of my favorite designs, but in retrospect, I see a significant design flaw: the word SALE deserved more emphasis. It should have been brought to the forefront by painting it fluorescent green and using the light blue on the line of text below it.
There’s definitely a lot going on with this sign, but fortunately it’s on an entrance road with a low speed limit. GOLF is obviously the most important and I made that the most prominent. We also wanted to bring attention to the small TRAILER PARK there, along with annual The Long Drive Challenge. On a project like this, my mindset is to divide the layout into regions that are visually distinctive to separate the different messages. The solution was to create the horizon and then use the other techniques we’ve discussed to lead the reader. The Flamingo is the course mascot!
This layout harks back to a few years ago when I was pumping out a lot of window splash designs while working with Pierre. It has three distinct regions separated by color and prominence.
A van—especially a box van—can be a very effective rolling billboard for a business. I had a lot of copy to deal with here, and several different messages. I tried to break them up into blocks, then used contrast to emphasize them in order of importance. Even a viewer with no real interest would at least get the Nanticoke Industrial Limited message.
This was a knock-out digital print on corrugated plastic. The order came in on Tuesday and had to be delivered by Thursday. Just black on white, it shows how to arrange copy in a visually appealing and effective way.
At one point I was designing a lot of window splashes for Pierre Tardif. Quite often I had to figure out how to present a lot of information and make it work. This is one of my favorite designs, but in retrospect, I see a significant design flaw: the word SALE deserved more emphasis. It should have been brought to the forefront by painting it fluorescent green and using the light blue on the line of text below it.
I recreated a version of the sign that was on my father’s ice fishing office in CorelDraw and did a digital print for my own office.

Layout skills set your work apart

By SignCraft Magazine

Posted on Wednesday, February 28th, 2018

Technology has made the process of making signs easier than it was back when you had to spend years as an apprentice learning the business. That has meant increased competition locally—plus from the local office supply store and the Internet. Because the computer has opened the sign business to people without the necessary design skills to create quality signs (or even the interest in learning those skills) we see a great deal of substandard sign work on the street.

I’ve said for years that it doesn’t matter how many people around me buy a printer and try to make signs. If they have little or no skill, it’s not going to affect my business much. It’s just the opposite, in fact. Now if the quality of work in my neighborhood goes up, I’ll take notice! But still I wouldn’t change my approach, because skilled competitors aren’t going to work for peanuts, either.

Why? Because quality work attracts quality customers and bigger dollars. There’s no need to worry about anything or anyone else. Sure accounts will come and go, but when you do well-designed, effective signs and charge accurately for your work, you’ll make it.


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