Sign design, if you’ve tried shopping online for a sign lately, you’ve probably been bombarded with an onslaught of companies that want you, the customer, to design your own sign. Many of them don’t even offer design services, or if they do, they charge extra for it. But are these design tools any good, and is it a good idea to try to design your own sign to begin with?
When it comes to the image of your business, much like with dental work, the design of your signage is best left to those with experience. More goes into the design of a sign than you might think. Especially now that full-color signs are becoming more common. Many sign layouts have complex issues to deal with.
Signs are usually the first thing your customers see, so it’s your first impression. Being able to read the sign from a distance should be a top priority. Many things have to be taken into account to ensure legibility. The font, the size of the lettering, the spacing, the kerning, the margins, the weight, the colors, and the order of the copy are just a few of the things that a professional sign designer stresses over to get your design just right. Online sign design tools are very primitive and don’t give you the rulers, guidelines, and advanced layout capabilities to optimize a sign for readability.
Aside from readability concerns, another priority should be designing a sign that fulfills its goal of doing what you intend for it to do. Whether that goal be to get customers in the door, generate leads, or instruct a passerby to do something, it takes an experienced sign designer to make sure the sign will be effective. If you don’t have experience designing signs yourself, you should let someone who does design your sign.
Aesthetics are often the top priority of sign buyers. While the top priorities should really be readability and effectiveness, aesthetics are also important. Signs should be appealing so that people actually want to read them and, in many cases, will go out of their way to see what the sign says. Online sign design tools usually offer a few tools to create some design elements, but they don’t automatically infuse the user with the knowledge and experience to use them to design a sign that looks professional.
There’s also the issue of templates. really, really bad templates. These online sign design apps are typically accompanied by some generic templates for you to customize with your information. But these templates are usually horrible, mass-generated layouts that won’t automatically accommodate your copy and certainly aren’t designed with your goals in mind.
The signs made with the online design apps end up looking unprofessional. What you see on your screen may look really awesome, but when you have the finished product in hand, the mistakes become apparent. It’s very obvious who built their own sign online and who let an expert design it.
Using the online sign design tools takes time. How much time are you willing to spend trying to use a frustrating online design tool to save a few bucks? It may not even cost that much more to have an experienced sign professional design your sign. Wouldn’t you be willing to spend an extra five or ten dollars to have a sign that is readable, effective, and looks professional?
The sad truth is that an increasing number of sign shops are implementing online design tools on their web sites. Sure, they engage the customer, but they are a huge disservice to both the customer and the sign company. If the signs are unreadable, ineffective, and unprofessional, they won’t work. And if they don’t work, the sign buyer is unlikely to ever buy signs from that sign company again. or at all.
Making the customer do most of the work in order to shave a few bucks off the price comes at the cost of customer loyalty, referrals, and repeat business. The online design apps are also bad for the sign companies.
The next time you need a sign, make a point to find a sign company that has experienced sign designers. You may have to pay a little more for the sign, but having a readable, effective, and professional sign is invaluable to your business. Many sign companies even offer a free sketch or free proof with their design before you even place an order.