Raising Brand Awareness through Effective Outdoor Signage
External signage has an important role to play in any company’s branding. Acting as a beacon to potential customers, it maximises a brand’s visibility everywhere from high streets to business parks. Surveys have indicated that a third of passers-by wouldn’t know a business was present without signage identifying it, while the subliminal brand recognition generated by regular exposure to signs can be unquantifiable.

However, when creating effective outdoor signage, there’s a lot more to think about than simply choosing the correct Pantone colour or sourcing a high-resolution bitmap of the company logo. When signage is positioned outdoors, a whole array of factors can affect its long-term performance. From sight lines and light sources to the attritional effects of our climate, there is plenty to think about in terms of design and specification.

The first factor to consider when creating external signage is where it will be positioned. A fascia board outside a high street shop should have dimensions that broadly match neighbouring units for uniformity, though it’s advisable to ensure a colour contrast if possible. Otherwise, a distinguishing bar or coloured vertical strip should be introduced, to differentiate the two units. Projection signs offer far more scope for creative shapes and approaches – some leading brands simply display a logo, rather than their name.


If the building in question is a standalone affair, such as corporate headquarters in an industrial estate, there is far greater choice in terms of where signage is positioned. There is an emerging fashion for installing signage on the corners of buildings and above main entrances, rather than going for a symmetrical and central position. Wherever it’s placed, the signage should be high enough to act as a beacon from neighbouring streets, without being so tall that pedestrians lose sight of it. Signage at different heights can help, such as a banner below the roofline and a totem sign at the car park entrance.

Since outdoor signage will have to operate all year round, illumination is critical for the months when we only have eight hours of daylight. Merson-ASG can advise about the various pitfalls to avoid, such as mounting spotlights directly above protruding letters – the resulting shadows may hamper legibility at night. Each section of signage should be evenly illuminated, and low-energy strips of overhead LED lights represent a popular solution. Illuminated light boxes can provide a diffuse glow, but are only recommended for bright background colours like yellow or white. Neon lighting retains a degree of popularity, though it can be more expensive than LED alternatives and its connotations are more showbiz than sophistication. Also bear in mind that even the most durable lighting elements will eventually need replacing, so maintenance access has to be relatively straightforward.

Another issue to consider involves local council planning regulations, which can affect some sites more than others. Conservation areas or buildings in historic locations are particularly likely to be subject to signage restrictions, which may relate to anything from their size and illumination to the degree of harmony with neighbouring buildings. Studying these local regulations in advance can streamline the process of obtaining planning permission.

The choice of materials and physical shape of external signage also require careful consideration, particularly if they’re not easily accessible. For example, protruding lettering will be subjected to all sorts of ambient assaults by ice and wind during the year. Signage should therefore be manufactured out of hardwearing materials like weather-resistant aluminium or wipe-clean vinyl, with minimal horizontal planes or exposed elements. Ground-mounted monoliths and totems should be firmly anchored with high tensile steel rods, or chunky lock nut plates capable of resisting storm-force winds. Anti-vandal coatings may be useful for low-level signage, while care should be taken to ensure that signs at ground level don’t clutter their surroundings or pose any health and safety risks due to unsuitable positioning.