19 mistakes every sign maker should avoid

By Michael James

Posted on Sunday, January 23rd, 2022

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It’s not hard to find examples of ineffective signs that don’t provide the best value for the sign customer. You can set your work apart by avoiding these common errors. Your customers will benefit, and you’ll establish yourself as a professional who has the skills to make signs that are better than the rest.

Layout problems

  1. Wrong font used. The font should be appropriate to the subject, time or era. Choose a font because it fits the business or the application—not because you or the customer likes it.
  2. Wrong weight or width of font. Fonts should not be over condensed or stretched that would cause distortion. Bold and extra bold lettering is easier to read than type that is light in weight.
  3. Wrong size for the sign. Sign size should be determined by walking traffic, driving traffic and distance from which the sign will be viewed. If the sign is too small for the setting, even the best layout won’t be read.
  4. Wrong size for the letters. The distance the sign will be read from should determine the size of the letters. Make sure the letter size you choose will be easy to read from the viewing distance. When in doubt, find an example that is legible from a comparable viewing distance and measure the letter height.
  5. Wrong shape of signs. Generally, square-shaped signs are not ideal for most signs since most words are not short. Rectangular signs are more adaptable to longer words and sentences.
  6. Letters too large for size of the background. When lettering fills the background it becomes much less readable. Reduce the letter size on your layout and see if it makes the message more readable.
  7. Wrong color. Color determines how effectively the sign can be read from a given distance. Contrasting colors between graphics and background should be as effective as if the design was to be viewed in black and white. Convert your layout to grayscale to review the contrasts and make necessary adjustments
  8. Colors are inappropriate. Color should be appropriate to the subject matter. The bright colors of an auto body shop won’t work on the law office sign.
  9. Too much copy. Too many words or graphics make the sign too busy and more difficult to read. Less is more. Only the necessary information should be used.
  10. Too little white or negative space. Margins that are too small make the sign appear crowded and hamper legibility. This is a common error that cripples many otherwise good layouts.
  11. Too many special effects. These can be used too much and ruin the whole design. In most cases, limit yourself to two effects.

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