This customer emailed his black-and-white artwork and asked me to make a two-sided 4-by-8 sign for him. He wanted me to use red graphics on a white background. I felt he needed a more legible design, so I presented him with several designs to review. My goal was to have a one-color design, because he planned to use it on other advertising products as well—t-shirts, packaging, etc.
Before
Dry Prong is a nearby town with a population of 427. I was asked to make a banner for their Christmas parade and given a layout from the original banner. When advertising an event, three major points should be considered: What? When? Where? For my version, I chose Christmas Script and Jiggy Roman, both from Signfonts.com. The script is a no-brainer, and Jiggy Roman gives the festive feel. Both fonts are outlined in gold. The original banner used a casual font for the date and time (which seemed to clash with the ornamental decorative DeVinne font on the main copy). I chose Frutiger 65, which is extremely legible. The date was cut in removable vinyl so that it could be changed each year. The cartoon helps draw attention and adds an element of light heartedness. I dropped Village of which seemed irrelevant.
Leonardo da Vinci said, “Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication.” That’s true for signs, too. A simple sign can be much more effective, and simple doesn’t have to mean boring. Here the sign shape provides added interest, and the strong contrast between the letters and the background makes it easy to read.
Before
A local lube center needed a banner to advertise their $29.99 oil change promotion. The old banner was in pretty bad shape and needed to be replaced. I asked the owner if I could tweak the design to make it a little more effective. The old banner is a victim of HMS or “Helvetica Misuse Syndrome.” The font was overused in the layout, then squeezed to the max. The result was a monotonous design. Using the same color on all the lettering didn’t help the design, either. I chose to incorporate the colors of the franchise chain to tie in to their brand. Adding the funnel graphic and a shade on the price created a little more interest and character.
On my version, I chose a more appropriate font for the company name and added the repeating trees to support the management aspect of the business. Using script for the owner’s name gives the design a touch of personality. Eliminating the word Owner helps reduce unnecessary “weasel words”—vague words with little meaning to the reader. I limited the font selections to three in keeping with a cardinal rule of design. Varying colors and font weights helps avoid a monotonous layout as well.
The single font used on the original was too light in weight and too condensed. The priority of the message was unclear. What is most important— the company name, owner’s name, business type or the phone number?

Nine tools for stronger layouts

By Michael James

Posted on Thursday, October 24th, 2019

Over the years I’ve found a few things that I feel really make a difference when it comes to creating signs that do their job. They’re easy to spell out, but it takes effort and practice to incorporate them into your work.

I do a lot of routine signs and banners, and I find that keeping some basic principles in mind is a big help in creating effective layouts quickly. I’m including a few examples to help illustrate what I mean.

I can think of at least nine guidelines that result in better-looking, more successful signs. Look them over and see if you don’t agree:


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