Having been in the sign business for over 20 years, I've seen the same mistakes made over and over when it comes to signage. So often business owners put in a great deal of time, effort and money to ensure their business will be a success, but then fall short of the mark when it comes to understanding the importance of a well designed and well placed sign.

As an aid to business owners I've put together a list that can be used as a tool either to assess the effectiveness of an existing sign or as a guide to designing a new sign.

1. Where will the sign be located?

Remember, you have seconds to make an impression. People will see your sign for less time than it takes to load a web page, which means you have three to five seconds unless it is located at a traffic light or stop sign.

2. How fast is the traffic going by?

Many sign companies miss the mark on this. There is a huge difference between a sign being seen on a residential street with a speed limit of 50km per hour and a highway with a speed limit of 100km per hour.

3. How far away is the viewer?

Is your potential customer 10, 20 or 50 feet away?

4. What is your target traffic?

Whether it is foot traffic, car traffic, or in some cases, truck traffic you're after the sign needs to be designed accordingly. For example, if you are Mama's Truck diner you will want to place your sign higher than the average of 4.5 'to 6' so truckers can see it.

5. Study the site at different times of the day.

You will be amazed how a location can change over the course of a day. For example, we saw a sign that could not be read at lunch time because the sunlight was reflecting off of it. What made the situation ironic is that the sign was for a restaurant that featured lunches.

Now that you're ready to have your sign made, be sure to follow these basic rules, keeping in mind that designing your sign is similar to developing a business plan.

6. Know your customer.

Who is your target market? If it is younger, internet savvy customers then highlight your webpage and social media. If it is older customers from the phone era, then make your phone number more noticeable.

7. Keep it simple.

Sell ​​more by being short and concise. A good sign will read “Canadian Made Beds for Less” A poor design assumes 'more is better' – “We are a supplier of Canadian Sourced Beds that are Comfortable and Environmentally Friendly for Less Money than our Competition”.

8. Include a call to action.

This is not always possible or applicable, but when it is an example would be, “Stop In Today for 20% off Your New Bed”.

9. Use images.

Do you sell ice cream? Then include a simple graphic of an ice cream cone.

10. Give it time.

Your customer may not need your product or service today, but when they have passed your sign dozens or even hundreds of times, when they do it will be your company they remember.

11. Keep in mind the minority psychological effects of a sign.

One of the most overlooked aspects of designing a good sign is recognizing the minority, but powerful, cues that the material being used plays. Cheap, throw away coroplast signs do not leave an impression of permanence whereas more long repeating materials like wood, metal or stone do. As an example, wood immediately communicates long term, earthy and comforting emotions and metal communicates emotions of strength. Yes, these signs are more expensive, but what is the point of paying out thousands of dollars for your interior design if you do not get anyone in the door?

12. Hiring a Sign Company

Be careful! The sign company you deal with is being given one of the most important tasks relative to promoting your business. Before you open a dialogue with them take the time to visit their website and look at their signs. If you like what you see then get in touch, but keep this list to yourself; let them guide you down the path. Remember, you are relying on their skills, not the other way around. If they do not ask at least one or more of the questions noted above, then move on.

The one last piece of advice I have to offer is the importance of allowing yourself enough time to get the right sign. Deciding two days before you open a business that you need a sign is just not a good idea.