Focus on the yard sign’s readability and uniqueness. Research from the United States Sign Council (USSC) shows that it takes at least one second for a driver to detect a sign on a busy road and another two-to-three seconds for their short-term visual memory to digest the message. To get drivers’ attention, you need a design that’s big, bold, and head-turning enough to get noticed fast. Here’s how to design a political sign that works:
Overall sign size
The bigger your sign, the more visible it is. Big signs stand out. But the size of your sign depends on the location in which you will place it. A sign placed along the edge of a busy street with a speed limit of 55 M.P.H. will need to be much larger than one in a quiet neighborhood. Figure out where you want to display a sign ahead of time so you know how many of each size you’ll need.
You’ll also want to pick locations where there isn’t anything obscuring drivers’ view of your signs. If an area is particularly windy, make sure to have enough reinforcements, such as heavy wire stakes and ties, so that your campaign signs remain firmly planted in the ground. Moreover, always check with local regulations to see how big campaign signs can be.
Serif, sans serif, bold, italics—it doesn’t really matter what you choose as long as it’s legible. That means leave out thin or script typefaces. Stick with simpler typefaces like Garamond, Helvetica, or Frutiger. Each individual letter should be easily distinguishable from a distance. As a standard rule, every one inch of letter height provides 10 feet of readability. For political signs, however, it’s generally better to go bigger. The smallest your letters should be is 3 inches, but choose text sizes that are proportional to your sign’s overall size.
To test your font size, print out your message in different sizes on a piece of paper. Step back at different distances to see if your message is still readable at a distance. Think about how far your sign is from the curb and how far away drivers will be.
Copy and negative space
The fewer words you use, the better. Again, as with typefaces, think simple when it comes to your message. The most you need is your name and the office for which you’re running. To help people remember you at the polls, place emphasis on your last name.
Unless you have a catchy, easy-to-remember website, leave it off. URLs usually get squeezed in at the bottom of the sign and are never read by drivers. Drivers don’t have time to memorize or jot down your address, so it’s better to skip it altogether.
In terms of spacing, leave enough negative space around your content. Negative space plays a major role in sign legibility. A general rule of thumb is that negative space should take up at least 60 percent of your sign, leaving 40 percent for your copy. This illustration from the USSC shows how this should work — the copy is spaced well over the sign and there’s plenty of breathing room around each word.
Color and imagery
While the copy of your sign should be simple for readability, color and imagery can make the difference in making your campaign memorable. Use bold colors and gradients to help your sign stand out. Invest in four-color signs. Most political candidates use one or two color signs simply to reduce costs. Four-color campaign signs will look more unique among a sea of generic, red and blue signage.
To improve the legibility of your sign, consider the color of your copy and background. Contrast plays a crucial role – go for dark text on a light background or vice versa. If your font’s color is too similar to the background color, it will be difficult for drivers to make out your message from a distance.
A candidate headshot is an easy way to get noticed. People are experts at recognizing faces; there’s an entire area of the brain dedicated to the task. Having a face to associate with your name will help voters recall your campaign at the polls. Just remember that if you’re going to use a photo, it should look professional and not homemade.
Ultimately, a political sign’s success is determined by its ability to stand out in a field of competitors. Your signs only have a short period of time to make an impression, especially when you’re competing with other candidates. Once you find the balance between readability and uniqueness, you’ll see how easy it is to be memorable and find success on Election Day.
Katherine Halek is a marketing associate at Signazon.com, a leading online printer. The company produces campaign signs, banners, posters, and more. Katherine blogs about sign design, marketing, and printing. Connect with her on Google+.