Are you using the correct letter size for your signage?

How to avoid choosing the wrong sizes for your new signage

When it comes to choosing sizes, most people seem a bit lost.
I can see it in their faces.
They just don't know how to go about it mathematically.
So they take their best guess and hope the sign will turn out okay.

However, hope is not a strategy.

Here's a strategy you can use right now to properly size your new signage

Think backwards!
That's right.
If you want to size your new signage properly, it should be "reverse engineered".
Don't worry, it's easy to do, once you learn this simple secret.

The secret is to size your letters first, BEFORE you size your sign

After all, people don't read signs.
They read the words displayed on signs.
But only if the words are easy enough to read at a glance.
If the letters are too small or too difficult to read, most people just won't bother.

So focus on choosing the size of your lettering, first.
And then fit the sign - to the size of the letters.

Which factors determine how big the letters should be?

There are two primary factors that determine what size the letters should be.
Of course, there are important secondary factors to consider too.
And you'll have the opportunity to learn about those in our advanced guide.
But to keep things simple and on point, here are the two primary factors:

  1. Distance
  2. And speed (for signs to be viewed by passing motorists).

First, you need to know the viewing distance

The viewing distance equals how far away you want your sign to be readable.
Yes, I know it may take you a few minutes to determine the distance.
But guessing is outright gambling.
And there's really no point in taking an unnecessary risk here.

Once you know the distance, we have a new type of calculator you can use.
Specifically, it's a Letter Sizing Calculator.
(Another handy tool thanks to our computer wizard!)

This Letter Sizing Calculator is based on a joint research project regarding letter visibility by:

  • The Pennsylvania Transportation Institute
  • Penn State University,
  • And the United States Sign Council (USSC).

In other words, there's no need to guess at sizes anymore!

The Letter Sizing Calculator simplifies the math for you

Here's an example.
Let's suppose you need a new business sign.
And you are going to be placing this sign directly on the building.
How far away do you want potential clients to be able to read your message?

for this example, let's assume you need the sign to be readable at least 60' away.
The Letter Sizing Calculator will automatically give me 2 sizes:

  1. The minimum size the letters have to be to be readable
  2. And the size recommended for optimal visibility.

In this case, the minimum readable size is a 3" tall letter.
And the size recommended for optimal visibility is a 6" tall letter.
(For added advertising impact, businesses often go even larger).

This is the first Letter Sizing Calculator

All you do is put in the viewing distance.
And the calculator will automatically show you how big your letters should be.

feet


How far can you read a 4" tall letter?

Or any other size letter for that matter?
To find out the answer, just select the letter size from the drop down list below.
The 2nd version of our Letter Sizing Calculator will show you 2 things:

  1. The maximum readable distance of that letter
  2. And the distance that letter is viewed for optimal visibility.

Letter Size:

The speed of oncoming traffic is another factor that affects letter size

So here's another example.
Let's suppose the speed limit on your street is 45 MPH.
And you want your message to be readable for 3 full seconds by passing motorists.

A car traveling at 45 MPH for 3 seconds equals a viewing distance of 198 feet.
Again, the Lettering Sizing Calculator will automatically give me 2 sizes:

  1. The minimum size the letters have to be to be readable
  2. Plus the size recommended for optimal visibility.

In this case, the minimum readable size is a 6" tall letter.
And the size recommended for optimal visibility is a 20" tall letter.

This third version of our Letter Sizing Calculator takes speed into account

All you do is choose the Speed Limit on your road.
Plus, how many seconds of visibility you want.
And the Lettering Sizing Calculator will do all of the math for you!


Seconds of Visibility: seconds
we recommend at least 3 seconds

21 feet - Total Viewable Distance
Minimum Readable Letter Size: 1"
Recommended Size for Easy Readability: 3"

How do you use this letter size information to design your sign?

For the main text, consider using the size recommended for optimal visibility.
And then you can go as low as the smallest size recommended for the rest.
It's all according to the purpose of the sign.
And what you want it to look like.

Our SignMagic Online Design Center shows sizes, automatically.
Or we can create a sign design for you based on your size requirements, complimentary.