Signs give communities their flavor. Whether it be Golden Arches, Wall Drug or The Happiest Place On Earth, a great sign can make your location iconic. When a sign has reached that level, it’s transcended solely promoting a business’ brand. It’s now part of the area’s scenery, promoting the community as a whole. It represents the locals there, who have in turn accepted the sign and the brand in their daily lives, perhaps even made it a part of their identity. In short, the signage has won people’s hearts and minds.
So, how does a sign attain this coveted state? Here are some factors that add up to create an iconic sign:
A Great Look
Visibility and aesthetically pleasing design can go a long way in making a billboard or a monument iconic. People will remember a head-turner, especially if it looks good, then they’ll be proud to have it in their community. This is why technical aspects like getting the sign colors right, legibility and color combinations, and customization, are pivotal in making a sign stand out in the right way. As with businesses, signs can show people a thing or two about communities, and a good sign tells them good things.
Does it do its job? If it fulfills its purpose – be it promoting a business’ brand or community’s identity, or even just giving travelers directions – then the usefulness of the sign will be appreciated. On the other hand, an avant garde masterpiece might become just as obscure as a dilapidated sign if it doesn’t convey any meaning.
Does it stand out? Is it different? It’s hard to miss Giant Donuts or enormous neon cowboys. People are probably going to remember such distinct works. And novelty doesn’t necessarily detract from functionality since a unique sign will still be giving the brand a lot of visibility. A sign can look funny or ginormous but still match the theme of a business or community, reinforcing or even contributing to their identities. Creative signs get noticed!
Permanence and Consistency
Is the sign still in good condition and standing after all these years, even when other signs have passed on? Chances are, it’s etched itself into the community’s popular consciousness, becoming a fixture in the area.
On the other hand, if the original has been replaced over time, but the new signs still resemble those that came before, then the memory still lives on. Nike, Coca-Cola, Burger King, they’ve varied their branding and their signage over time, but they’ve stayed true to their roots so the consistency still bolsters their iconic imagery.
Another part of consistency is how the sign fits with the rest of the establishment or community. McDonald’s Golden Arches fit with the red and yellow motif of the establishment, the logo is on its products, and the color scheme reminds people of cheese, fries and ketchup. Vegas Vic, the giant neon cowboy, works because it fits Nevada’s desert environment – it wouldn’t work in Alaska.
Good signage takes context into consideration. What is context? It’s the environment, from the physical surroundings to the circumstances of the area and the events of the era. For example, the Hollywood Sign isn’t exactly a technical marvel, but its location overlooking the city and how it has come to represent a neighborhood synonymous with the American film industry makes it unforgettable. Similarly, the Route 66 road signs are simple markers that have become symbols because of the highway’s historic importance.
This is how a sign’s elements come together. Do the aspects cohere meaningfully and contribute to the sign’s totality? Does the resulting work resonate with audiences? If a sign does, then we might just have a winner in our midst.
Of course, not all of the factors can be accounted for, such as context and circumstances. But a well-made sign that takes these elements into consideration will be well-placed to “click” with audiences on its own merit and capitalize on unexpected developments as well.
Great Brands and Great Signs
As a sign company, we have an obvious interests in how great brands have great signs, and vice versa. In upcoming posts, we will show you prime examples of groundbreaking signage – from monumental ones, to seemingly simple ones that have nonetheless achieved memorability. Stay tuned, folks.