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Creating Memorable Business Signs

Make your business signs stand out with these proven attention-grabbing tips.

The purpose of advertising is to increase the public's awareness of you. What better way than through good signage?

Most business signs are well-proportioned, carefully balanced, tastefully drawn and perfectly color-coordinated. In other words, utterly predictable and effectively invisible.

The five most common mistakes made in business-sign design are:

  1. attempting to be understated or elegant;
  2. attempting to "fit," or blend into, the surrounding environment;
  3. underspending;
  4. including too much information; and
  5. placing the sign too high. (The eyes of drivers tend to stay focused at windshield height. Low signs are better in town. Tall signs are better on freeways where they'll be read--at windshield height--from great distances.)

Great signs are always the most interesting piece of scenery in their vicinity. This is why they're noticed even when people aren't looking for them.

Would you like to have such a sign? Believe it or not, it's possible--not cheap or easy, but possible.

Consider the sprawling white letters stretched across a hillside in Southern California: HOLLYWOOD, a landmark known around the world. Did you know that sign was originally erected by a real-estate developer to identify his remote suburban subdivision, Hollywoodland?

Not all business signs will become famous landmarks, but it doesn't hurt to keep these common denominators of business signs that do become landmarks in mind:

  • They're dramatic. This can be due to the fact that they're:
    • grossly oversized,
    • strangely placed or
    • 3-dimensional.
    • The Hollywood sign fits all three criteria.
  • They're different , contrasting sharply with their surroundings due to:
    • Color. For example, snow-white Hollywood letters against a hillside of dark brown and green.
    • Installation. The famous Hollywood sign isn't on a pole or a board. Its individual letters sit directly on the ground.
    • Context. There's nothing immediately around it to distract from it. Or if there is something important nearby, it's incorporated into the sign itself.
  • There's something "wrong" with it. Ever notice how the Hollywood letters aren't level, but rise and fall with the terrain? This makes it far more memorable.

I doubt if the builder of the Hollywood sign did these brilliant things intentionally. But they worked, even if some of them were accidental. Do you have the courage and determination to repeat on purpose the things he did right by accident? If you do, the public will soon be using your sign as a reference point when giving directions.

If you're able to bulldoze past these roadblocks, I'd love to see your fabulous new landmark sign. E-mail me a photo of it and perhaps I'll include in my next book.

Roy Williams is the founder and president of international ad agency Wizard of Ads. Roy is also the author of numerous books on improving your advertising efforts, including The Wizard of Ads and Secret Formulas of the Wizard of Ads.

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