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Finding your Font! Sign Design 101

When it comes to sign design, most people are hyper focused on color and placement but don’t slow down as much when they consider font choice.  In a recent study, Penn State conducted a study that involved 64 signs, 64 words, and 34 unique fonts.  The results were quite eye-opening or fuzzy depending on how you look at it.

Font for Neon Channel Letters
Neon Channel Letters

Size and Style

The study compared not only the font but the style of the font.  Upper case was compared to lower case and weight of the font for each type.  After looking at all the signs among multiple participants, the findings were that Gill Sans Uppercase was the most legible of the fonts and Mistral lowercase ranked the lowest.

The study was able to recommend that there should be at least 1 inch of letter height for each 5 ft. of viewing distance.  It also confirmed that uppercase was always more visible than lower case letters.

Key Takeaways for Font Selection

The study did give some key results for everyone to consider when designing signs and choosing fonts:

  • For both upper- and lowercase, Times Bold is significantly more legible than Times New Roman;
  • For both upper- and lowercase, Optima Bold is significantly more legible than Optima;
  • For both upper- and lowercase, Garamond Bold is significantly more legible than Abode Garamond.
  • Although font selection can significantly affect on-premise sign legibility, many fonts have relatively equal legibility;
  • Case (upper- versus lowercase) may sometimes impact sign legibility; uppercase often out-performs lowercase;
  • The choice of serif versus sans- serif doesn’t measurably affect legibility;
  • Font weight can dramatically impact the distance from which a sign can be read. Fonts from the same family can have dis-similar legibility;
  • Word selection can greatly impact sign legibility. Simpler and shorter words can be read from greater distances;
  • Matching a word to an image or graphic, generally, doesn’t enhance legibility.
  • The top five visible fonts following Gill Sans were Avenir Medium UC (46.37 ft.), Copperplate Gothic UC (46.29 ft.), Helvetica UC (44.86 ft.) and Kabel Ultra UC (44.14 ft.).
Multiple Design Channel Letters
Multiple Design Channel Letters

Font Choices

So when you get ready to build your next sign, make sure that you consider the font as much as the design.  For suggestions on fonts to consider, try choosing one of the following:

  • Adobe Garamond Pro
  • Arial Bold
  • Arial
  • Avant Garde Medium BT
  • Avenir LT Std 65 Medium
  • Brush Script MT Italic Copperplate Gothic Bold Country Gothic GT
  • Frutiger LT Std 55 Roman Futura Bk BT Book
  • Garamond Bold
  • Georgia
  • Gill Sans MT
  • Gotham Medium
  • Goudy Old Style Bold BT Helvetica Bold
  • Helvetica
  • Helvetica Neue LT Std 45 Light Helvetica Neue LT Std 67 Medium Condensed
  • Kabel Ultra BT
  • Minion Pro
  • Mistral
  • Myriad Pro
  • Old English Text MT
  • Optima Bold
  • Optima Regular
  • Palatino Linotype
  • Papyrus
  • Ribbon GT
  • Times Bold
  • Times New Roman
  • Trajan Pro Bold

If you ever need any help figuring out how big the size of your letters should be when designing your sign, give us a call.  We offer free consultations on any project.  View more information on font design from Penn State here.