Moving Seasonal Signage Beyond Imagery

Visual Theory

Beyond flags and snowflakes, creating effective holiday signage is an art form. Here are some tips to get it right.

When a big holiday is upon us, retailers often embrace the opportunity to infuse seasonal flavor into their signage. From Independence Day signs emblazoned with Old Glory and colorfully painted eggs on Easter, to Thanksgiving-themed posters with bountiful cornucopias, certain images are closely aligned with their respective holidays.

But, beyond seasonal imagery—pumpkins, snow, etc.—there are other elements of signage that need to be mastered for maximum effectiveness. Here are four things to keep in mind as you’re designing your seasonal signage:

1. Embrace subtlety.

Just as certain images are closely aligned with certain holidays, the same holds true for colors. Orange and black mean Halloween. Red and green signal Christmas. Your customers know this, so you can subtly integrate those colors and still get your message across, says Dean Logan, creative director of Raleigh, North Carolina-based advertising agency French, West, Vaughan. Choose a dominant color—red with touches of green and white, for example—to prevent a jarring look that seems like it’s trying too hard.

“I’ll try to do a lot of red with little hints of green, accents, or maybe some white in there to, of course, reference the weather. For Halloween, I might go with something that’s all black with little pops of orange. You don’t have to rely on one or on a set of colors. We get it,” Logan says.

2. Experiment with unexpected fonts.

It’s easy to be too heavy-handed with holiday-themed fonts like Old English typography for the December holidays or creepy, drip-effect fonts for Halloween. It’s one thing if you’re doing a simple entrance or name sign where the main message is the holiday.

Otherwise, try simple, classic fonts that complement the theme. Logan likes fonts like Trajan, a classic serif font that works well for Christmas. A bold, sans serif font might work well for a holiday where clear, contemporary messaging is preferred. Experiment with typefaces to get the right message.

3. Pay attention to format.

Digital printing has made many new creative options accessible to small businesses, Logan says. Various signage materials can help your business create signage that truly stands out. From vinyl films that reflect various seasons, to foam core signs that have depth or can stand alone, explore the various materials available to you—they can have an enormous impact on your design.

4. Keep the message first.

Whether you’re promoting a 20 percent-off sale or simply celebrating the holiday, be sure the message is clear in your signage. Too often, key themes get crowded out by an overemphasis on visuals or illegible fonts, notes Logan. Keep your message front and center when reviewing design options.

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