Can People Actually Read Your Sign?

by admin on November 22, 2012

Make sure your sign budget is well spent by calculating sign size correctly

Have you every driven around and strained to make out a business’s sign? You would think that business owners would recognise the need to make a huge impact with readable, short signage, especially considering the super-short time that passers-by in automobiles have to read their material. The problem is that most people are completely lost when it comes to choosing the correct type and size of sign for their businesses. Make sure you don’t make the same mistake by following these steps.

Step 1: Work Backwards

The biggest mistake business owners make is choosing the size of a sign first and then trying to fit their lettering into that sign. However, it is the letters that need to be read, not the sign, so base all sign calculations off of properly sized letters.

Step 2: Deciding on Letter Size

Since choosing the size of your lettering needs to come first, the next question is: how big do my letters have to be? There are two factors to take into consideration here: the maximum distance from which the sign can be viewed and the ideal distance for the viewer.

Step 3: Determining Distance

The distance at which your business’s sign will be read will vary from business location to business location and from sign to sign. However, it is of the utmost importance that you do not guess at this distance but rather take the time to carefully measure it out. 

There are two factors to consider. First, the maximum viewing distance, or from how far away is it possible to see your sign. The second factor is the “ideal” viewing distance of each sign, or the distance from which the sign will look best. The key is to balance these two numbers in accordance with the physical location of your business. The chart below provides a general idea of the size of letters you will need for common distances:

Maximum Readable Distance (in metres)

Letter Size (in millimetres)

Ideal Viewing Distance (in metres)

25 m 75 mm 9 m
50 m 100 mm 12 m
100 m 200 mm 25 m
150 m 275 mm 33.5 m
250 m 500 mm 60 m

Note: This chart was developed by the Pennsylvania Transportation Institute, Penn State University, and the U.S. Sign Council and converted into rounded metric measurements.

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{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Steve Willats January 23, 2013 at 9:50 am

Sign readability is such a simple thing and it’s amazing how many people get it wrong. If you can’t read it until your right next to it, many opportunities are missed. The chart is great, I’ve been looking for something like this for a while for my clients.

Some other common issues I see are colours that don’t contrast well, difficult to read fonts and way too much text.


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