January '23

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1 6 G R A P H I C S P R O • J A N U A R Y 2 0 2 3 G R A P H I C S - P R O. C O M S I G N D E S I G N | M A T T C H A R B O N E A U S I G N A G E & P R I N T I N G Matt Charboneau started his career in the sign industry in 1985 as Charboneau Signs, later changing it to Storm Mountain Signs. In 2017, he published the "Pre-Sale Sign Survey Field Guide," and he also provides sign design training at his site: Learn- Contact him at matt@stormmountainsigns. com;; or 970-481-4151. Busy vs. Productive Staying busy with design work is different than creating busy design work W e have all heard the expression, "I wouldn't add any more graphics; it's already too busy." But what does "too busy" really mean? Some signs need every square inch of space to tell their story, and yet other signs seem to leave too much empty space on the table. Is "too busy" a subjective term that depends upon the situation, or is it a hard and fast rule that needs to be adhered to? Well, it's a little of both, and in some cases it's the only viable option. Let's review some conditions and assets you may need to manipulate while you are design- ing your clients' signs: Balance, white space, fonts, kerning, graphics, contrast, and color — these are the seven primary factors that we must be keenly in tune with as we design. Balancing these in accordance with their importance for the sign's job is key. Making one asset too visually dominant will abso- lutely take away the message that the sign is trying to convey. Let's look at these conditions and assets for what each of them represents, and how they can affect the visual clutter of the sign. 1. Balance (a condition) — How well does the information "puzzle-fit" onto the sign area? Does a graphic with heavy con- trast make the image feel heavy or crowded on that side? Are the lines of copy hard to read at the intended reading distances? Balance is very important and must be recognized and adhered to. 2. White Space (a condition) — Referred to as negative space or blank areas where nothing is placed. It can be said that effective white space is what balance aims to achieve. White space helps the viewer's eyes know where to go on the sign and makes every- thing more readable. 3. Fonts (an asset) — Some fonts are easy to read at a distance. Some fonts encour- age emotions, and some fonts are simply too ridiculous to even consider using. Always remember that using the wrong font can change the mood and emotions of the sign's message in the wrong direction. 4. Kerning (a condition) — Fine tuning the spaces between letters always improves readability. Most designers overlook this obvious feature (I have!). It's easy to miss. Take time to look for kerning opportunities. 5. Graphics (an asset) — It could be the main subject of the sign's message, or a sup- portive visual piece. It could be a watermark, or a full color, eye-attracting image that does the job in a three-second look, or an info- graphic that tells the entire story. 6. Contrast (a condition) — With proper contrast, the correct balance and relative visual importance of an asset are much eas- ier to achieve. Contrast can also help visually adjust the layout and balance of the sign as a whole. Contrast makes letters stand out and become more readable. Use contrast as a tool Original design.

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