Believe it or not, sign font is one of the most important factors affecting custom sign visibility. To help you choose wisely, we’ve gathered key findings from sign studies on font selection and letter case.
Read on to review the research, or call (410)-877-6011 to speak directly with a custom sign shop near you.
In a 2017 report for the Interdisciplinary Journal of Signage and Wayfinding, research lead John Bullough ranked all of the factors affecting sign visibility, conspicuity, and legibility, and font selection came out on top, beating out color, sign environment, and letter size.
Thus, if you want great results on your custom sign design, you need to choose the right font, and our custom design team is here to help.
Plenty of research has been published on which sign fonts work best, and we’ve summarized some key findings below:
In addition to selecting a font, you’ll need to decide which letter case to use. Depending on your unique brand vision and sign goals, you may choose uppercase (i.e. capital letters or majuscule letters), lowercase (formally known as minuscule letters), or mixed-case.
Using strictly lowercase letters, with no capitalization whatsoever, can create a sense of playfulness, childlike whimsy, and understated elegance, but it can also negatively affect readability, making it harder for viewers to identify brand names or the start of new sentences without the benefit of capitalization.
In contrast, using all uppercase letters can make your message seem more bold and commanding, but it can also give readers the sense they’re being yelled at, and studies have shown that majuscule messages are harder to read at-a-glance. One such study, conducted by Transportation Research Record back in the late 90s, found that messages written in uppercase were more than twice as difficult for drivers to read, compared to mixed-case messages (Garvey et al., 1997). This isn’t hard to understand, since the vast majority of text we encounter and read throughout the day, be it on websites, in books, or through text messaging, is written with mixed-case letters.
As a general rule, mixed-case sign copy is recommended for custom signs, but it depends on the individual. To get expert advice on which letter case would work best for your custom sign design, get in touch with our team—every consultation is free, and we offer 1-hour of free design time upfront for new customers who put down their deposit.
Call (410)-877-6011 or request a quote online to get your custom sign design started today!
Arditi, A., & Cho, J. (2005). Serifs and font legibility. Vision research, 45(23), 2926-2933.
Arditi, A., Liu, L., & Lynn, W. (1997). Legibility of outline and solid fonts with wide and narrow spacing. Trends in optics and photonics, series, 11, 52-56.
Bullough, J. (2017). Factors affecting sign visibility, conspicuity, and legibility: Review and annotated bibliography. Interdisciplinary Journal of Signage and Wayfinding, 1(2), 2-25.
Garvey, P. M., Pietrucha, M. T., & Meeker, D. (1997). Effects of font and capitalization on
legibility of guide signs. Transportation Research Record, 1605(1), 73-79.
Garvey, P. M., Eie, W. Y., & Klenna, M. J. (2016). The effect of font characteristics on large format display. Interdisciplinary Journal of Signage and Wayfinding, 1(1).
Erick Satchell II
Sam Palm (Palmtree)
Irvin and Deborah Herling