Signage and noise


A signage, refers to the design or use of sign and symbols to communicate a message to a specific group, usually for the purpose of marketing or a kind of advocacy.

The main purpose of signs is to communicate, to convey information such that the receiver may make cognitive decisions based on the information provided.

In general, signs may be classified according to the following functions:


Signs conveying information about services and facilities, such as maps, directories, or instructional signs.


Signs showing the location of services, facilities, functional spaces and key areas, such as sign posts or directional arrows.


Signs indicating services and facilities, such as room names and numbers, restroom signs, or floor designations.

Safety and Regulatory

Signs giving warning or safety instructions, such as warning signs, traffic signs, exit signs, or signs conveying rules and regulations.

The snippet above is a definition of signage taken from Wikipedia.


Visibility is very important in increasing consumer awareness and interest. It not only depends on the strategic placements of products in the market but also the location of the establishment and the attractiveness of the signage as well.

Simplicity is key

Attractiveness is obviously important to increasing consumer awareness but one must remember that it is not the only factor that matters. Here are some pointers to consider when designing ( signage):

Get their brand guide and follow it.

Big corporations take their brand look very seriously, as should all companies. Their colour red is a specific shade of red and the slightest variation in shade will not go unnoticed.

 Treat the signage as a communication tool

As an important communication tool, your signage should be able to efficiently convey the message you want to get across.  The signages should be big enough to read even from afar and even though the designer might not have any control over this, it is still your duty to convey a message. Make sure that even at a considerable distance, people will be able to read it.

Execute the brand

Even if this is not demonstrated in their brand guide, study the logo and how the brand feels and works. Make suggestions, and then design based on their feedback. Always ask yourself if the extra swirls and circles are paramount.

Is this necessary or creating noise?

Incorporate the qualities of the brand

A brand which views itself as simple, down to earth etc, will not appreciate loud colours and busy designs. Rather, go for more white with hints of their brand colours. On the other hand, certain brands appreciate the vivaciousness. Just remember that one way doesn’t cut across for every brand.

Go straight to the point

The challenge is how to keep everything short and concise and at the same time create the desired impact. Ask yourself how much someone driving past your sign will be able to consume. Always picture this when designing an informational sign:

“What is the most important message on this sign?”

I have come across several billboards with so much information that I always never get to the important information early enough till I have to move.

Yes, some clients are stubborn (and I hope some are reading this). It is the job of the designer to advise the client on what is functional and what is not. As a designer, you wound your reputation by associating yourself with the “that’s what the client wanted” sort of designs. Another client with a better appreciation of design will probably be turned off, not knowing you were only doing what the client wanted.


The era of pretty designs is over. The era we are in now is designing to convey a message and make an impact in the consumer’s mind ergo functional design; THE ERA OF MINIMALISM.

Save the crowded information for newspapers or posters or social media, where people will have the time to read. Save the fanciful designs for brands that actually need fanciful designs for their brand to work … and most importantly, give me less to things to laugh about on my way to work.


Signage and noise was written by Efua Dufu for the Thrive Blog.