Jul 25, 2019

If you look at something often enough, you kind of stop seeing it. Or, stop seeing it as it is. The people closest to us don’t notice how we change with aging, or with diet, for example. But then we run into somebody we haven’t seen for years and it’s “Wow? What happened to you??”. This is the familiar “familiarity effect” It’s the reason why anybody who relies on signage needs to schedule focussed audits of the signs and installations. A signage audit is the stitch in time, the ounce of prevention. Hence, we at Graphplex urge clients to adopt the practice.


A sign that’s become worn, damaged, faded, or vandalized isn’t one that’s doing the intended job. Legibiity and clarity matter. A sign that’s become hard to read – or illegible – is a call to action. A problem that needs solving. And even signs that are still in pristine condition can be disabled by changes in its installation setting. Shrubbery, weeds, and tree branches grow and obscure them. Thoughtless storage of equipment or merchandise blocks them from view. So,obviously, can changes in parking patterns.


Signage in perfect physical condition can still be “worn out” and need action taken. Does the message the sign conveys comport with current reality? Does a business sign promote current products at today’s prices? Do we really stop and pay toll in ¼ mile – or does our Sunpass handle that now?


Let’s not forget the numerous signage requirements imposed by local, state, and federal regulation. The content, format, and placement of  ADA and OSHA signs, for example, are spelled out in law. Laws and regulations, of course, are subject to change. It behooves a business owner or facilty manager to take care that all mandatory signage is up-to-date and compliant.


Just as the people responsible for signage tend to stop seeing it due to familiarity, so does signage’s target audience. Where road signs are concerned, we rely on drivers to overcome this effect and pay attention in spite of it. Business signs, however, are another story. Sometimes it’s good business to change up the style and format of a business sign while leaving the message be. It’s not a case of novelty for the sake of novelty. It’s for the sake of impact. People who pass by a business sign every day for years naturally tune it out. Changing up its appearance gets their attention and interest.


Experienced sign designers and manufacturers know that a sign that’s not working for you is probably working against you. Worn, faded, damaged, and obsolete signs announce that somebody doesn’t care much. Signs like that do not inspire interest or confidence. A regular signage audit is a way to see things as others see them. The main ingredient is the discpline to schedule and conduct such review. In other respects, they’re cheap and easy. In short, the payoffs from keeping signage at the top of its game make it well worth it.



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