The Importance of Good Signage & The Psychology Behind it

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Marketing wouldn’t be what it is today without psychology. Psychologists played a crucial role in developing methods and theories about advertising that are still being used.

With the help of their work, ads have become much better at making an impact. This has been extremely useful in designing and making signs a success.

No matter what your objectives are, you can apply psychological principles to make sure you get your message across.

In this article, we are going to discuss the importance of good signage in any business or business venture. We are also going to cover the psychological principles you can use to make your signs even better.

The importance of good signage

Signs can be used for a variety of purposes. There are endless possibilities. But in essence, it all boils down to communicating a message, whatever that message might be.

Remember that effective signs are signs that can change people’s behavior.

To get to grips with the purpose of signs in your business, here is a breakdown of the most common types of signage:

  • Persuasive: These are the typical advertisements. They are all about persuading and convincing people to become your customers. You want them to buy from you or hire your services etc.
  • Information: One key role of signage is to convey essential info. Do you want to tell people about your trading hours? Or when your business was established? These products are your solution.
  • Directional: You need some way to guide potential customers to and through your company. This is where these signs come in. You can use them to point out significant spots in the store or business complex.
  • Safety and warning: It’s a legal requirement that companies and public areas have safety signs that warn people about potential hazards. OSHA has set out standards about when which warnings are necessary. They are often bright and even reflective to increase their visibility.

It’s hard to imagine a business without any signs at all. They are such essential components of the day to day running of a venture. Not to mention their critical role in advertising.

Choose your objective

So enough about how fantastic signs are.

You can’t make a sign if you don’t have a clear goal. It might sound obvious to some, but this should be the first step that you take.

Ask yourself what behavior you want to change in people?

Here are some helpful questions that you can ask yourself:

  • Do you want them to buy a specific product or hire a particular service?
  • Are you trying to attract people to your storefront?
  • Do you want to increase your exposure?
  • Are there critical messages that you need to convey?
  • Are you planning on improving your reputation?

You might have answered yes to more than one of these questions. And that’s fine. You can have subgoals. However, there needs to be one overarching aim on which the signage is focused. Otherwise, you risk confusing and overwhelming the audience.

The importance of good signage can be seen in their ability to help you achieve all of these goals.

Once you have established your objective, you can use psychological principles to determine what the best way would be to use signs to achieve this.

Target audience

A vital contribution that psychology has made to the field is in assisting advertisers in identifying their target market. This is the particular group at which the specific sign or advertisement is aimed.

These are the people that you want to reach and communicate this.

So, one of the first steps in designing signage is to figure out who they are. To do this, you should try your hand at audience profiling. You need to assess the general demographics of this audience.

The following are some of the vital statistics that you need to consider:

  • Age
  • Sex
  • Occupation
  • Race
  • Location

Basic data is essential to creating a more detailed profile of your customers that can also be called the buyer’s persona. Beyond this, you should consider what their interests are and what appeals to them. Most importantly, you need to find out what their needs are and how you can play a part in fulfilling them.

Psychological research methods like surveys can be invaluable for gleaning this information about your existing customers. If you want to expand your customer base, you can work out their audience profile first.

You need to use these details throughout the design process. It will play a role in every aspect including the type of sign that you choose to the graphics that you will use.

Marketing tactics

Nowadays, there are a bunch of specific tried and tested strategies that business uses throughout their marketing campaigns. They are typically based on consumer psychology. These are also applied in their signs.

Here are three of the most popular tactics that you can use in your signage

1- Emotional appeal

Advertisements which can elicit feelings from their audience are much more impactful. That is why experts try to use signs and other ads to market products based on the emotional value that it can have in their lives.

For example, can the product make them happy? Could it make people exhausted?

Your sign can through words or graphics portray how it could possibly change their experiences.

According to a recent study, there are four basic emotions: happy, sad, afraid/surprised, and angry/disgusted. There are more nuanced feelings that fall underneath each category. These groupings can be a great place to start.

Take a look at these examples of ads that use emotions to their advantage.

2- Difference

Businesses often want to use marketing materials to compete with their top competitors. But this cannot necessarily be directly addressed in their signs.

One way to do this though is to highlight what makes your brand different. Your signage can be a fantastic platform to show off these features. This could include new products, services, or elements of your customer experience

3- Addressing problems and doubts

A fundamental principle of marketing psychology is that there are several possible reasons why consumers might be reluctant to buy your products or services. Businesses need to be aware of this to develop solutions to these issues.

Try to think of possible hindrances, like cost. One way to address this is to use the wording or graphics on your signs to dispel these doubts.


It’s vital to remember that without careful design, signs are close to useless. Some people make the critical mistake of assuming that this is just about making their sign pretty. But this is not true.

One demonstration of this is the Stroop Effect. In this experiment, participants are shown the names of colors in the corresponding color. They are then asked to name the shade. Testers record how long this takes. The test is repeated, but the color doesn’t match the word.

Participants took much longer to complete the second test as the inconsistencies cause conflict in your mind. This is a fundamental way to show how important it is that the design matches the message.

In advertising, it’s vital for the audience to understand the message clearly and as quickly as possible. Every aspect of the sign needs to work together to tell your story.

Signage now dominates so much of our environment. The competition is fierce. Therefore you might need the help of professionals to make sure yours stands out.

Contemporary design principles are based mainly on psychological theories. Throughout this article, we will cover specific guidelines.

All about vision

You can almost say that as humans we are typically visual creatures. Sight is undoubtedly one of the senses that we rely on the most.

To state just one statistic as proof the addition of images can increase the view rate of content by an incredible 94%.

Graphics don’t only generate interest. Our brains tend to process visual information much faster. A single well-designed image could potentially convey much more info and much more quickly than a line of text would.

Another benefit of graphics is that they are in a sense universal. There are some images which can be understood by people across the world. That is why warnings often only employ symbols.

So depending on the purpose of your signage, visuals could be indispensable.

Informational, safety and directional signs will probably work better with functional images which portray an action or a bit of info.

You will probably get better results if you use suggestive graphics in persuasive boards. These are ones which can elicit strong feelings or associations.

In advertising try to use any visuals on your signs to help appeal to your audience and persuade them. For example, let’s say you want to convince customers that your product could make them happier. Use graphics that convey this, like people who are smiling or laughing.

Color psychology

You can’t talk about visuals without discussing color. There are hundreds of statistics that you can cite to demonstrate how vital this feature is. Though two primary ones are that the use of color can boost both sales and readership by up to 80%.

Therefore, this is a brilliant tool when creating signs of any kind. The following are a few guidelines to keep in mind when deciding on which colors to use:

  • You don’t necessarily want it to clash, but the signs should contrast against the surroundings. This is necessary to make it stand out and get it noticed.
  • Don’t use a single color or shade of color. This will just look monotonous and make it tricky to read and understand.
  • The color of text should contrast against that of the background.
  • The scheme should match or in some way reflect that of your companies branding.
  • Various colors can have different effects on your emotional and mental state. For example, black can symbolize authority, elegance, seduction, and mystery.

One key point to remember is that there are usually rules and regulations which determine the colors of safety and warning signs.

Choose words wisely

Although visuals are essential, you shouldn’t forget about the text.  It can be critical in conveying the central message of the signs. This is also a way to portray other necessary details like the contact details of the business and so on.

If you only remember one thing about the psychology of text in signage, it is to keep it simple. Don’t use too many words and be selective about the words that you do use. Overall, the message needs to be precise.

A pro tip is to focus on emotionally powerful words. They will make the sign more impactful and more memorable.


We have a bigger chance of noticing anything new or different in our environment. Psychologists have found that we are subject to habituation. This means that we stop noticing things that we see often.

This is one reason behind the success of new signs. Because of this, you might want to consider changing all your signage every few months or so. It will help you to keep the attention of your audience.

When you are in the design process, you should try to think of features that can make your sign unique and unusual.


Talk about new, technology has opened exciting avenues in the marketing and general signage industry. Traditional forms of advertising are static and are creating the impression of being broadcasted to the audience.

While these are brilliant platforms and still play a crucial role, it can be a great idea to give the new platforms a try.

Many of these products allow customers to interact with the signs such as ones that are adapted for touch screens. This can give your audience a measure of control over them which can increase the impact that they have in the end.

Effective communication

It would be a huge mistake to underestimate the importance of good signage. From pointing out directions to attracting new customers, they are often a central part of helping a business to reach success.

Use the above psychological principles to your advantage to make your signage more powerful.

As you can see, signs are all about their design. This is as true for all thetypes. So it’s essential that you get this right. At Signarama we offer professional design services to help you make the best of the product.

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