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Important Aspects of Sign Visibility

May 14, 2020

The most important aspect of a sign is its visibility, as it cannot be obscured by other objects and must be readable from a distance. Visibility can be analyzed in multiple ways. The most important factors, according to the International Sign Association, are the size of the sign, its angle, location, luminance, and contrast. Here are essential ways to ensure sign visibility.

Why Design Matters

The design of the sign must effectively convey the message by keeping the communication simple and direct. Contrasting colors between text and background is crucial for the text to stand out, such as black lettering on a white background. Bright colors contrast well with bold black text, just as white letters work with dark backgrounds.

Drivers associate sign shapes and colors with certain scenarios, as yellow means caution and red means regulatory, as far as MUTCD compliance states. OSHA uses similar standards in the sense that yellow means caution, orange means warning, and red means danger. The message must be conveyed from several hundred feet away to give the driver enough time to respond.

Sign Size and Angle

Usually the bigger the sign, the easier it potentially is to display the message to a wide audience. A billboard on a freeway, for example, has the potential to hold the driver’s attention for several seconds partly due to its size. Businesses advertise on freeways because it helps bring in customers if the message is easy to read.

Many drivers, especially those that travel from city to city on business trips, are not aware of all the choices in a neighborhood and are readily influenced by signs that appeal to travelers. Big signs help drivers decide from a distance if they want to take the exit to a restaurant or gas station. The angle of the sign plays a significant role, as drivers see objects that face them the most clearly.

Placement and Location

The manner in which the sign is mounted, such as to the ground or to a building, plays a role in the sign’s visibility. It often comes down to whether or not objects get in the way between the sign and the viewer. If the sign is placed near trees or other signs, there’s a chance the message will get lost. Freeway drivers need to see a sign about a minute in advance to give them time to make a decision. The best way to make the message noticeable and memorable is to repeat it through a series of easy-to-read signs.

Luminance and Retroreflectivity

Businesses have moved toward brighter signs so that they have greater potential to be seen by the widest audience. At the same time, too much brightness, such as when light is supplied by an electrical system, can raise energy costs. Studies have shown that combining brightness with contrast is crucial for luminance to attract attention. Signs are more visible at night if they are made of retroreflective sheeting material, which emphasizes the contrast in the color scheme. The manner in which the surface reflects light contributes to the sign’s luminance.


It’s clear that a sign’s effectiveness is enormously tied to its sign visbility. The more you follow the five main factors of visibility, the more people will see and understand the sign. Contact Zumar at our Arizona, California or Washington location to learn more about signs and their importance.

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