Directional Signage Design Tips

Directional Signage Design Tips

APRIL 27, 2020| SpeedPro



Directional signage is more than just setting up a few arrows around your building and calling it a day. Navigation throughout your facility is a fundamental component of ensuring guests can enjoy their visit. It welcomes them to your building, tells them more about your brand and, of course, helps them get around.

Since directional signs, also called wayfinding signs, is such a quick read, you need to consider legibility and ease of use as some of your primary concerns. There is more than meets the eye with these kinds of signs, so here are a few design tips to help you guide your guests through your facility with ease.

Why Is Directional Signage so Important?

If you’ve ever been lost or misdirected in a large building, you already know the answer to this question. Directional signs tell us how to get around somewhere and where our destination is. It’s one of those things that we don’t think about when it’s there, but when it’s missing or done poorly, it can have frustrating consequences.

Good navigation serves a couple of purposes. It dramatically improves the user experience for visitors. They can depend on navigational signage to get them where they need to be without a lot of confusion or stress. It can also serve as an advertising method when used outdoors. Think about a sign pointing out directions to a parking lot on a busy city block or an interstate billboard for a fast-food chain telling you which exit to use. Finally, a less-pronounced function of directional signs for businesses is that they can help reinforce your brand and image. Signs that align with your facility’s image can help put your logo and design features in front of people more often and solidify those associations. Universities, for example, frequently put up signs with their logo or name alongside the name of a building.

Directional signage isn’t something you can leave to subpar results. So here are some of our best tips for getting stellar signage set up in and around your facility.

What to Do

Let’s start with the things you can do to improve your sign design.

1. Be a Minimalist

Use as few words as possible to get your message across. If you make a sign too wordy, people will tune it out and ignore it completely. Remember that many times, people will be reading your signs as they are walking or driving, meaning they have just seconds to read and process the message. Make it easy on them. No one should have to do a double-take to understand a sign.

2. Use Simple Designs

In a similar vein, opt for simple design features, such as adequately large text, straightforward fonts and appropriate colors. Where applicable, use icons to supplement or replace your message. Some widely known symbols include things like a no-smoking sign, the Wi-Fi symbol and an image of stairs.

3. Incorporate Your Brand

Remember that each time someone sees navigational signs, it’s another opportunity to show them your image. Keep signs aligned with your marketing guidelines, including using the same fonts, colors and styles as other signs and materials around the building. If it doesn’t distract from the sign, consider adding your business name in different areas, such as in headers and footers. You could also add your logo somewhere on the sign or faded into the background.

4. Design for Accessibility

Your signs must meet the standards of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). These guidelines say that any permanent signage must follow a few rules so everyone can use them, regardless of ability. Here are some of the basics that can help you meet them.

  • Include Braille texts underneath standard written English.
  • Make your signs well-proportioned and easily readable.
  • Place signs in locations where they can be seen and read from a reasonable distance.
  • Use high-contrast colors in the design.
  • Don’t use a finish that causes glare.
  • Make sure any pictograms are easy to see and understand.

5. Be Smart About Arrows

While they might sound simple, arrows are a common problem area on signage. Your arrow and its accompanying text should be unambiguous and easily understood. Don’t make your arrows point to another arrow or more text. If you have many different destinations in the same direction, you can group them all under one arrow, to minimize the possibility of misdirection with multiple arrows pointing to each other.

Your arrow and accompanying text should be unambiguous and easily understood

Up arrows generally mean something is straight ahead, but you could also use a “flattened” arrow to point forward if you need to differentiate due to ambiguity. If there may be a complicated path to the final destination, consider using diagonal or curved arrows to indicate the general direction of the place.

Line your arrows up, so they are on the edge of the sign in the direction they are pointing. For example, place an arrow that points right on the right edge of the side.

What Not to Do

Of course, there are also plenty of pitfalls that can plague your directional signage. Avoid the following as you create your design.

1. Don’t Get Fancy

Remember that simplicity is key to an easily readable sign. Don’t use complicated fonts or get too fancy with it. Keep it simple.

2. Don’t Forget the Obvious

You’d be surprised how many signs try to do away with arrows in the name of minimalism or clever designs — these are usually confusing. Use traditional arrows and include your destination name.

3. Don’t Use Nonstandard Symbols

If you’re using symbols, they need to be universally recognizable. A picture of a waving hand isn’t going to register to most people as a welcome center, but a cigarette with a circle and a slash through it immediately appears as a no-smoking sign. Your visitors shouldn’t have to think twice about what a symbol means. AIGA and the United States Department of Transportation even came up with a handy set of symbols that you can use or reference with your design.

4. Don’t Leave Them Hanging

Don’t give up on your arrows until you get to the destination. Each decision point, such as a divided hallway, in your guest’s journey should be accompanied by a sign. Your guests should never reach a point in which they don’t have a clear indicator of where they should go. Don’t give them one sign that points in the general direction and then leave them to fend for themselves. Guide them the whole way there.

Custom Directional Signs From SpeedPro

Keep these tips in mind as you create your signage to ensure your guests can navigate your facility and get a little more exposure to your brand identity. Whether you’ve got a rock-solid design or still need a little help getting there, SpeedPro can help.

The experts at your local SpeedPro can help you create a grade-A design, complete with high-quality materials and prints to bring it to life. We offer exceptional color-matching services to align your brand’s image to your existing materials and a wide variety of materials to fit your design scheme. Find your local SpeedPro studio to learn more and to get started.

Contact SpeedPro for help designing your directional signage

Back to Blog