It’s a Sign—and Part of Your Design

Visual Theory

How to turn signage from “cluttered mess” into promotional success

Signage can be an effective way to communicate with your customers. Need to communicate policies, drive traffic to a specific area, or highlight a promotion? A sign is a perfect, flexible, and affordable solution.

But they’re so effective and easy to use that, soon, you could end up with a cluttered signage landscape that actually dilutes your messages, says branding and retail design expert Joan Insel, a vice president at CallisonRTKL a New York City-based design consultancy and architecture firm. Instead, use these four tips to make them most effective for your business.

1. Start with an intuitive floor plan

Signage can help drive customers throughout your store; layout and product placement are also part of what literally moves them, Insel says. Think about how your customers move through your place of business. Place products or service stations logically so they can easily find what they’re looking for. Small signs to highlight certain offerings can be placed to help direct them without being overwhelming.

2. Draft signage guidelines

Create a set of guidelines for your signage that includes fonts, colors, materials, and standard sizes for your signs, Insel suggests. This will help ensure that signage colors, fonts, and other design elements are cohesive. Mixing formats and straying from your brand’s “look” can make your entire place of business look unprofessional, she says. A coordinated, uniform approach to your signage will reinforce your brand.

3. Create a policy center

Instead of posting “don’t do this” signs in various areas around your business, create a central policy area where you state essentials that customers must know, such as return and exchange policies and the like. Encourage employees to interact with customers for other messaging. For example, instead of posting a sign about a three-item limit in a clothing boutique dressing room, an employee can meet the customer and advise them of the policy, offering to hold the additional items for them at the front counter while they try on their selections.

4. Integrate signage artfully

Even when signage guides them to a product selection or a specific area of the store, Insel loves to delight customers when they get to that location. If you’re running a price promotion on a product, create a beautiful display of the product near the signage. For example, a sign might get the customer to visit an area where you have discounted scarves, but an artful display that makes them seem special is going to inspire them to buy. Use repetition of your product to create a display around or near the signage.

“If you repeat a lot of a product that’s very similar, it can create a striking effect,” she says. By weaving your signage into your merchandising, you can spur more sales.

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