SIGNAGE FAILS – PART ONE
SIGNFAIL – EPISODE 1
Unlike the iconic TV sitcom, sign designers are not generally trying to make people laugh. There are, of course, exceptions. Sometimes, especially in certain business contexts, a funny sign works especially well. This 2-part post series, however, concerns some of the classic types of signage failures that we at Graphplex don’t let our customers make. In Part I, we’ll review some memorable examples.
SIGNAGE – WHAT IS IT GOOD FOR?
Information, persuasion, direction, contention, support. Those four purposes encompass nearly everything that signage does. All four are modes of communication. Signage is a communication medium. That understanding steers right to the list of things that can go wrong with it.
BE SEEN TO BE USEFUL
The first duty of any communication is to reach the intended recipient of it. For example, it doesn’t matter what an email says if it never gets to the person(s) it’s addressed to. Signage, likewise, has to be seen by the addressee(s). The location, placement, sizing, visibility, illumination, and design all factor in.
A sign that’s in the right place, but facing the wrong way, is a signfail. A 4-inch font is invisible to the drivers on a road 250 feet away. Signage that’s too high, too low, too dark, or obscured by trees or other signs (!) is useless. For a sign’s message to reach visually impaired recipients, it must, of course, be in Braille.
There’s a time factor, as well. The message BRIDGE OUT doesn’t do any good if the sign’s location gives drivers a 10-millisecond heads up.
DO YOU READ ME?
A sign’s target audience has to comprehend its message. Otherwise, all it says is “here is a sign”. The text has to be in a font, and with spacing that works for the message and the situation. Crowded Olde English lettering, for example, is a poor choice for highway signage viewed by people zooming by at 75 mph. The actual verbal content is where lots of the comic signfails people post on social media mess up. Think of all the SLOW CHILDREN who are PLAYING in towns and cities across America.
Then there are the icons. Road signs use icons a lot. So do institutions and businesses. We’re familiar with many of these. There are standard icon sets that most of us are familiar with and can interpret at a glance. Things go off the rails sometimes when designers get creative and invent new icons or import foreign ones.
Signage failures can result in confusion, waste, danger, injury, and damage. At times they’re hilarious, with unintended double meanings, or the opposite of the intended meaning. In Part 2 of this post series, we’ll take a look at some examples of the signfails our experts don’t let our customers make.