You know what’s fun? When you stumble on a sign that just works. It grabs your attention and it sticks with you throughout the day. Maybe it was smartly designed. Maybe it was quirky or thought provoking. Either way, it worked.

Sometimes something just needs to be said. Examples of things that could be said in a sign:

  1. A location of something. (Wayfinding Signage)
  2. An expression of the heart and mission of an organization. (Missional Signage)
  3. An answer to a commonly asked question. (Informational Signage)
  4. A statement to clarify policy to streamline business operations (Informational Signage)
  5. Signage to promote an Event. (Event Signage)

I don’t think there is much of a problem with people making signs for these reasons. Most people intuitively seem to know if there is one of the above situations, that there is a need to communicate this information and oftentimes, the go-to method of communication is…signage.

The problem isn’t WHAT is being communicated. It’s HOW.

(I feel like I’m ahead of myself here and should have already talked about the communications filtering process before plunging into communication methodology….)

Oh well.

I was at a doctor’s office recently. The slide-y front desk window was literally wall papered with signage…on plain paper. I couldn’t even tell you what color the walls were. (Although, my guess is pale blue because all doctor’s offices are pale blue.)

There was signage regarding billing procedures…and waiting procedures…and insurance information…and where the bathroom was located…and how to get a key to it.


Here’s the thing. Signs should be pieces of art. You place one or two large ones in prominent areas with something memorable and fun to look at.

This might make some of you Type A’s a little nervous because I’m taking away your standard procedure of informing the masses. However, let’s be honest. How’s that working for you? You’ll capture all of the Type A’s that have the patience to sit there and read the signs… (Side note: This might actually be effective IN a doctor’s office because you’ll be in the waiting room for 83847289342309 hours with nothing to do but read the signs anyway….) … but everyone else… everyone will have information overload and stop reading. Kids will doodle on them. Type B’s will fidget with the corners of them while they are checking in and talking to you.

If your walls are papered with…paper signage and you still are verbally transmitting the information that is already on said signage, then you’ve selected the WRONG VEHICLE to drive your information.

Don’t forget the cardinal rule to signage: People don’t read signs.


Man Summary

Stop posting signs people won’t read and start posting (pretty) signs that matter.


I’m not going to take away your only vehicle without providing you with another. (A Volvo perhaps.)

Let’s go back to our list of things that COULD be said in a sign.

If you have more than ONE or two pieces of information for bullet point numbers 2 and 3, you need to drive that information to your audience using something OTHER than a sign. Take the signs down. Separate the piles into Frequently Asked Questions and Standard Business Operations/Policies.

Consider gathering each pile into a pamphlet or brochure…or a small booklet for your business. If it is critical information, then consider giving it to each patron to sign. This works well in an office setting, such as a doctor’s office or any other office that meets with people for long periods of time in relation to health or wellness.

A pamphlet at a deli obviously wouldn’t work, unless it details special services, such as catering or special orders. But the idea is the same. Find the vehicle that best drives the information to the people that need to know it. Consider also restating this information on a website, as well.

The point is…that you want your message to connect with your audience. If you have too many messages or they do not grab your audience’s attention, then you are communicating into the wind. And that might be okay with you… (As the irony is not lost on how that is okay with me…as I communicate this to the wind…) But if you want to reach your audience, gather your messages, find their vehicles and craft them memorably to inspire action.

If you are a genius at this and you already have got the right information going to the right people, in the right way…AND you have ONE quick message to give EVERYONE that would help maintain the ORDER of EVERYTHING, then sign away sign-y.

…because we all know if parents picked up their kids hyped on espresso and holding a puppy, it would be the last time they would un-attend them.

Driving on, Jnean