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What You Need to Know When Designing an Outdoor Sign

Outdoor display signage

Certainly, there are factors to consider when it comes to purchasing an outdoor signage.

Question:  Are there any special considerations when designing an Outdoor Display?

Absolutely yes. This is a pretty broad question in the way it’s stated, but let me give you some pointers on a couple different displays that would be used out-of-doors.

Signs, large signs, main I.D. signs for businesses, billboards would be one broad category. So what considerations would we give when giving you advice on these types of signs?

Durability of the Material

First, durability is a concern, as you don’t want to replace a sign real soon, as these types of signs can easily cost $10K to $100K and more. You’ll need to select a company with a good reputation bolstered by some good testimonials. If it’s a local firm, people that you can call, or even go look at their signs.

The Quality of the Material

The materials are important. If it’s an internally illuminated sign, what is the cabinet made of? Aluminum? Good choice, but expensive. Galvanized steel wrapping an angle iron frame is probably currently the most popular as the cost is lower than aluminum. It is also a durable material. We approve!

The Face of the Signage

For the face, you can use an impact resistant acrylic, either back-sprayed with a special paint, or decorated with digitally printed translucent graphics, which is becoming more and more popular with many shops who don’t want to have to mess with an EPA-approved spray booth and all the governmental requirements that go with the less expensive method.

However, I personally would recommend polycarbonate plastic faces that go by several brand names and come on rolls – usually around 76” and 100” or thereabouts, depending on the manufacturer. Polycarbonate plastic is virtually unbreakable, and is the same material “bulletproof” glass and airliner windshield “glass” is made from. We approve!

The Graphic Design

Large Format Billboard Display Of course, there are graphical considerations as well. Face it, you might hire me personally to write a decent marketing piece, a brochure, or come up with some good verbiage for your sign, but you don’t want me designing your sign, because, well, I suck at it! So whomever you retain to build your main ID sign should have a competent or better graphic designer on staff.

However, do not let the graphic designer have overall control of the way the sign will look. They’re great for making signs attractive, but they’re rarely good marketers, and the message may get lost in the design.

Consider Where You Will be Placing Your Sign

When you are having your main ID sign designed, you need to look at the location where the sign goes. Is it on a street where the speed limit is 35mph, or fronting an interstate highway where traffic whizzes by at 75mph. Either way, your traffic has just enough time to glance at your sign, so make your info brief and to the point.

For Small Business Owners

If you’re not a major brand company, say your company is Joe’s Carpet Cleaning, you may want to have a graphic of a person cleaning a carpet, “Joe’s Carpet Cleaning,” and www.JoesCarpetCleaning.com.” More than that will be more than people have time to read.

Get Your Phone Number Easily Remembered

Phone numbers are a pet peeve of mine on main ID signs. Numbers are hard to remember. Websites are not. Here’s a test. Do you remember 534-2366 or JoesCarpetCleaning.com more easily? Most people remember the latter more easily. You can always go to the site and find the phone number.

So now you can purchase your main ID sign with confidence. A good company. Quality Materials. Good references. A good design department. And a sign that’s easy to read. Your business should have a good shot at success if you’re any good at all!

Wide Format Billboard Signs

Another type of outdoor display sign that we are all familiar with is the billboard. Billboard signs are typically about 48’ x 16’ in our area, and most are owned by large firms that specialize in building the large structures, then renting out the space on these giant ads.

Writing Optimized Content on Your Billboard Ad

A billboard is similar, though, in design, if you want your advertising to be successful.  Most billboards have about a 5 second read time at best. Again, less is more when it comes to these signs. A succinct message like “Lose 40lbs by May” and a website “Lose40lbsbyMay.com, and here, maybe a toll free number. Keep it simple, and if you have something people want, they’ll go to your website or call. These signs can be an amazing generator of business if they’re done right.

For custom-made outdoor signs, view this. You can also leave any questions you have in the comment form below. I will take the time to answer them.


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Barry K. Brown

Barry Brown has been in the Sign, Banner, Decal and Display Business for over 20 years. It isn't what he thought he'd do with his life, but he says he knows too much now to do anything else!

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