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Here’s your sign: Right ad, big effect

August 07, 2013

When it comes to signage, there is a lot to know. And by not knowing, you might miss your sign from being seen when you want it to be seen. In a fast paced world, a fancy design or font might do more harm than good when you consider how long you have to get your sign read. Peggy Rosser, ASU-SBDC Rural Business Manager, decided she wanted to know more about the regulations and research regarding signage and found there is much more than what meets the eye…

SAN ANGELO, Texas — On a daily basis, mostly to and from work, I travel the northern section of State Highway 87 between San Angelo and Grape Creek.

Recently the Mega Lotto sign on this stretch of road was taken down and changed to a dual Lotto sign. When the sign company set the “numbers” portion of the sign on the ground, I was surprised to note those numbers were taller than my SUV.

I had seen those numbers every day and never once wondered how large they had to be for them to be easily read, across a lane of traffic and traveling at 65 mph. It spurred me to do some research about signs.

There is a sign association, the International Sign Association, ISA. This association is devoted to supporting, promoting and improving the sign industry through government advocacy, education and training programs, technical resources, stakeholder outreach and industry networking events. The membership of ISA is made up of manufacturers, users and suppliers of on-premise signs and other visual communications systems.

The ISA states, “Your mobile customer relies on your sign for guidance and information.

Thus, your sign must be allowed to communicate effectively — and to do that, it must be visible and readable from behind the wheel of a moving automobile.”

Other cross referenced data discusses the most effective size of letters and numbers depending on the circumstances surrounding a sign. Two factors for discussion here are the cone of vision and the size guidelines for on-premise signage.

The mobile customer will see your sign through the windshield of a moving car. The motorist has a 20-degree range or “cone” of vision. If your business has a sign which is set back from the road, it could be outside the driver’s cone of vision and your sign is in danger of being missed.

Richard N. Schwab’s, former program manager with the U.S. Federal Highway Administration, developed sign size guidelines for commercial on-premise signs. For discussion, let’s use the scenario of a mobile customer traveling at 35 mph, looking across two lanes of traffic, and your on-premise sign is perpendicular to the road. Schwab’s guidelines indicate the square footage of the sign should be 36 square feet with a height on 20 feet.

If a sign is mounted parallel to the road, the sign square footage increases to 75 square feet and the height remains at 20 feet.

The lettering size on the signs also varies with speed, time of day, complexity of font, distance from customer, and demands on the driver’s attention. For an intended customer in a vehicle traveling at 35 mph under ideal circumstances, at a distance of 153 feet, the letters could be legible if they were 6 inches in height. When the sign is placed in high complexity locations, the lettering would need to be figured at 1 inch for each 5.5 feet of distance.

With so many factors governing a sign, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce states a sign is responsible for 50 percent of a new business’s customers, as much as all other advertising combined.

As you navigate all the sign information, remember sign companies understand all the requirements for legal placement. At the Angelo State University Small Business Development Center, the staff can assist you with researching guidelines for signage.

Come visit with us in the Business Resource Center at 69 N. Chadbourne.

“Business Tips” was written by Peggy Rosser, Rural Business Development Specialist and Certified Business Adviser IV of Angelo State University’s Small Business Development Center. Contact her at

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