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Advertising Signage: Harnessing the Power of Visual Marketing

Uncover the subtle science and precise art of creating compelling signage that captivates your audience and propels your brand’s visibility.
Advertising signage including poster advertising and advertising banners

Visual marketing is an indispensable tool in our information-saturated world. Not only does it offer a method to convey messages quickly, effectively, and memorably, but in the hands of a savvy creative marketer, it can be used to create and forge an enduring brand identity.

Over time, advertising signage has evolved from simple hand-painted boards to the digital, interactive displays we see today. Despite these changes, the core aims remain the same – to grab attention, convey a message, and inspire action.

Whilst the digital era has seen a rapid expansion in the ways that brands can advertise their products and services, physical advertising media remains an effective method of reaching out to customers. And, despite the improved tracking and refinement options offered by digital ad media, there remain many benefits to utilising physical signage.

In this article, we’ll shed some light on the huge range of signage options available to the marketers today, exploring the benefits of physical signage and how to optimise its use for maximum ROI.

From billboard banners to window displays – learn how to get creative with physical signage and make it work for you. Explore ways to increase brand awareness, drive traffic, and inspire action with your customers.

The Evolution of Visual Marketing

The Birth and Early Development of Advertising Signage

The use of signage to display an advertising message can be traced back to the ancient civilisations of Egypt and Rome, where merchants would paint or carve signs on wood or stone to promote the goods they sold.

These rudimentary advertising tools gradually evolved during the Middle Ages, with signs incorporating more elaborate templates, designs and symbols to differentiate between different businesses and trades.

The invention of the printing press in the 15th century revolutionised advertising, making it possible to produce signage in larger quantities and with more complex designs. As literacy rates increased over the centuries, the use of printed text became more prevalent, paving the way for the banner and poster campaigns that dominated the advertising world in the 19th and early 20th centuries.

The Impact of Technological Innovations on Visual Marketing

The advent of technological innovations in the late 19th and early 20th centuries brought new possibilities for visual marketing. The introduction of electric lighting enabled businesses to make their signs visible both day and night – a development that saw the emergence of iconic illuminated signs and neon billboards.

Photography and television introduced more dynamic and emotive forms of visual marketing. Businesses were now able to depict their products more realistically and appealingly, and commercials could tell compelling stories that engaged viewers emotionally.

This marked the beginning of a shift from informational advertising to a more persuasive form of communication that sought to achieve brand identity and customer loyalty.

Modern Advertising Signage: The Rise of Digital and Interactive Displays

Today, advertising signage and visual marketing have entered a digital era, offering new opportunities for creativity and customer engagement.

The rise of the internet and digital technology has led to the development of interactive signage, with touch screens and augmented reality transforming the way businesses communicate with their customers.

Digital billboards and screens offer unparalleled flexibility, enabling businesses to upload their messages instantly and respond to different contexts and audiences. Social media platforms and online advertising have further broadened the reach of visual marketing, allowing businesses to interact with customers on a global scale and in real time.

As we look to the future, it’s clear that advertising signage and visual marketing will continue to evolve, shaped by technological advancements and changing consumer expectations. But even as the medium changes, the core objective remains the same: to connect with consumers and communicate a compelling brand message.

Despite the improved tracking and refinement options offered by digital ad media, there remain many benefits to utilising physical signage.

Types of Advertising Signage

Throughout history, businesses have harnessed the power of the most relevant tools available to create impactful and persuasive messages.

As advertising signage has evolved, so too have the strategies and platforms used to engage audiences. It’s important to understand that, even in today’s digitally dominated era, a broad array of advertising signage options exist. Each offers its unique blend of benefits and can serve as an effective piece of the advertising puzzle, when applied in the right context.

Let’s take a brief look at the present-day signage options, understanding their unique characteristics and how they can play an essential role in shaping the marketing landscape.

Outdoor Signs

Billboards

As the stalwarts of the outdoor advertising campaign, billboards provide large-scale canvases for brands to create a significant visual impact.

Typically positioned along motorways or busy city streets, billboards allow an organisation to capitalise on high traffic volume, raising awareness throughout the community.

Advertising Posters

One of the most popular forms of visual marketing is poster advertising, which has long been used by businesses to raise awareness or advertise special promotions.

Offering low production costs and a wide range of graphic options, posters are a great choice for companies looking to make their mark.

Street Furniture

This category includes bus shelters, benches, kiosks, and any other outdoor advertising media found along streets and in public spaces.

Street furniture ads have the advantage of being placed at eye level, often in areas with heavy pedestrian traffic, and can be perfect for a business with a limited budget.

Transit

Transit signs appear on buses, taxis, trains, and trams. They offer a mobile advertising solution that extends a brand’s reach across various locations.

One of the main advantages of transit advertisements is their ability to target specific audience groups. By selecting the right routes, advertisers can ensure that their content reaches their ideal customers.

Indoor Signs

Point-of-Purchase (POP) Displays

POP materials are strategically placed in shops to attract customers to specific products, usually at the point of purchase or checkout areas.

POP displays can significantly influence buying decisions at the critical moment, with research indicating it can increase customer response by a factor of 6 times.

Floor Graphics

These creative, underfoot ads take advantage of the often-overlooked floor space.

A common sight since the COVID-19 pandemic, floor graphics can navigate customer traffic, direct access at events, or highlight promotional offers in retail environments.

Hanging Banners

Whether suspended from ceilings or mounted on walls, hanging banners provide highly visible and flexible advertising spaces in indoor environments.

Thinking of marketing strategy on sticky note, post it paper for planning creative advertising idea

Digital Signs

Digital Billboards

A modern take on the traditional billboard, these digital signs forgo paper and print in favour of LED technology to display dynamic, changeable ads.

Digital billboards offer an elegant, high-visibility advertising solution, and speak to the style and quality of the brand.

LED Signs

From scrolling text panels to full-colour video screens, LED signs provide eye-catching illumination and movement, making them ideal for capturing attention in both indoor and outdoor settings.

Interactive Kiosks

These self-service stands, often equipped with touch screens, allow a new customer to interact directly with a business, providing a more engaging and personalised advertising experience.

Specialty Signs

Neon Signs

Neon signs provide a vintage aesthetic, offering a unique, vibrant glow that can create a mood or ambience as well as advertise a message.

Typically associated with bar and pub environments, neon signs are increasingly found at shop and retail site locations, providing a subtle but effective way of grabbing attention.

Architectural Signage

These signs blend with the built environment, harmonising with a building’s architecture.

They can guide, inform, and advertise while maintaining aesthetic cohesion with the surrounding space.

Vehicle Wraps

Transforming vehicles into mobile billboards, vehicle wraps offer a cost-effective way to create high-visibility advertising that travels the city streets.

As we look to the future, it's clear that advertising signage and visual marketing will continue to evolve, shaped by technological advancements and changing consumer expectations. But even as the medium changes, the core objective remains the same: to connect with consumers and communicate a compelling brand message.

Artistic Techniques for Optimal Signage Impact

As we’ve seen, the realm of advertising signage is vast and varied, presenting businesses with a wealth of options to choose from.

However, the effectiveness of any sign – be it a traditional billboard or a modern digital display – doesn’t solely rest on the type of signage itself. To work correctly, the right artistic techniques must be applied to the creation of the signage, ensuring it attracts attention, creates an emotional response, and ultimately drives customer action.

In this next section, we will explore the artistic strategies that can be leveraged to ensure your signage delivers maximum impact, perfectly aligning visual aesthetics with your brand’s unique message.

The Elements and Principles of Design

The artistry behind compelling advertising signage is deeply rooted in the fundamental elements and principles of design.

To achieve a visually engaging and effective sign, businesses need to have a solid understanding of these foundations.

Colour Theory

Colour plays a pivotal role in design, and is central to creating an immediate visual impact.

According to colour theory, each colour evokes specific psychological responses, thereby influencing how viewers perceive and react to the signage. For example, red is often associated with urgency or excitement, making it a popular choice for clearance sales or to catch immediate attention. On the other hand, blue can invoke feelings of trust and stability, often used by corporate or financial institutions.

Understanding the relationships between colours on the colour wheel (complementary, analogous, triadic, etc.) can also guide the creation of harmonious and aesthetically pleasing signage.

Typography

Typography, the art and technique of arranging type, is another critical component in sign design. The choice of font style, size, spacing, and alignment can significantly influence the readability and emotional tone of the message.

Serif fonts, for instance, often convey a sense of tradition and reliability, while sans-serif fonts suggest a more modern and clean look. Script fonts can lend an air of elegance and sophistication but must be used sparingly to ensure readability.

The overarching rule here is that the typography should enhance the message’s readability, not detract from it. Remember, signage has only a brief moment to capture the audience’s attention, so clarity is key.

Balance and Alignment

Balance and alignment refer to the distribution and arrangement of elements within the design. A well-balanced design can create a sense of order and harmony, making the signage visually appealing and easy to comprehend.

Designs can be symmetrical (elements are mirrored around a central axis) or asymmetrical (elements are balanced through contrast or visual weight). Both can be effective, depending on the message and the brand’s style.

Alignment, meanwhile, refers to how text and graphics line up along common edges or axes. Proper alignment helps to create a clean, organized design that guides the viewer’s eye through the message.

Visual Hierarchy

Visual hierarchy involves arranging design elements in a way that signifies their importance. This can be achieved using size, colour, contrast, alignment, proximity, and repetition. The most crucial information should stand out and be easy to discern at a glance.

In signage design, the company name or logo usually takes precedence, followed by the key message and any secondary information like contact details or social media handles.

Understanding and implementing these fundamental elements and principles of design can transform a basic sign into a powerful advertising tool that not only grabs attention but also effectively communicates your brand message.

Understanding Visual Perception and Readability

The success of an advertising sign depends heavily on how well it caters to the audience’s visual perception and readability. Understanding how viewers interact with signage from different distances, angles, and time spans is vital.

Sight Lines and Viewing Angles

When designing signage, it’s crucial to consider where your audience will be in relation to the sign – known as sight lines – and the angles from which they’ll view it.

A sign placed too high, too low, or at an inconvenient angle may not be seen or may be challenging to read. For outdoor signs, consider both pedestrian and vehicle traffic sight lines. For indoor signs, assess the layout of the room or area and identify the best possible placement to optimize viewing angles.

Legibility and Contrast

Legibility refers to how easily a viewer can distinguish individual letters or characters, while contrast is the difference in colour and brightness between the text and its background. Both are crucial for a sign to be effective.

High contrast, such as dark text on a light background or vice versa, enhances readability. As for fonts, they should be clear and large enough to be discerned from the intended viewing distance. Avoid overly ornate typefaces and ensure there is sufficient spacing between letters, words, and lines.

Viewer’s Distance and Time

How long and from what distance a viewer can see your sign directly impacts its effectiveness. Signs meant to be seen from a considerable distance, such as billboards, require large, bold designs and text. Conversely, signs viewed up close, like shop window signs, can include more detail and smaller text.

Viewer’s time is the duration a viewer has to see, read, and comprehend the sign. A motorist driving past a billboard at high speed has significantly less time compared to a pedestrian walking past a shopfront. Therefore, messages need to be concise, compelling, and easily digestible within the given time frame.

By incorporating these principles into your signage design process, you can ensure that your signs are not just seen, but also read and understood, optimizing their advertising potential.

Graphic design, website and marketing with an advertising campaign on the screen of a computer in a

The Power of Images and Iconography

An essential part of visual communication, images and icons play a significant role in advertising signage. They have the power to convey messages quickly, stimulate emotions, and create lasting impressions.

Selecting the Right Images

Choosing appropriate images for your signage is a crucial part of the design process. Images should be clear, high-quality, and relevant to the message you want to communicate.

Images that evoke emotions or tell a story can significantly enhance your sign’s impact. Ensure your chosen images are not offensive, controversial, or likely to confuse or mislead the viewer.

The Impact of Icons

Icons are a universal language. They’re used to represent actions, objects, or ideas without the need for words.

Iconography can simplify complex ideas, attract attention, and improve the readability of your signage, especially when space is limited. The icons you choose should be simple, intuitive, and consistent with the design’s overall style.

Integrating Brand Identity

Your signage is an extension of your brand. Ensuring that your brand identity is reflected in your signage helps increase brand recognition and build a stronger emotional connection with your audience.

Consistency in Branding

Consistency in branding means aligning your signage with your brand’s visual identity. This includes the use of consistent colours, typefaces, images, and messaging that reflects your brand’s values and personality.

Consistent branding across all your signage reinforces brand recall and strengthens your brand’s presence in the market.

Using Brand Storytelling

Storytelling is a powerful tool for engaging audiences and making your brand more memorable. Integrating elements of your brand’s story into your signage can help create a deeper emotional connection with your audience. This could include the use of images that depict your brand’s history, values, or mission.

Your signage should not merely inform, but also connect with your audience on an emotional level. By integrating your brand identity into your signage, you can make your message more powerful and memorable.

Unleashing the Power of Signage for Your Next Advertising Campaign

Staying Current with Design Trends

Keeping up-to-date with the latest design trends can keep your signs fresh and relevant, attracting more attention and making a stronger impact.

Regular Assessment and Refreshing

Signs should be regularly assessed and refreshed to maintain their effectiveness. This can involve updating the design, message, or placement based on performance data.

The Role of Signage in a Broader Marketing Strategy

While important, signage is just one piece of the marketing puzzle. It should be integrated with other marketing efforts, reinforcing the same message across different media to maximise the overall marketing impact.

To conclude, advertising signage, with its diverse forms and strategic placements, is a potent tool in the marketing arsenal. With the right mix of design principles, an understanding of visual perception, and consistent branding, your signs can create lasting impressions and drive meaningful engagements.

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