When Signs Need a Sign...

...usually it's a sign of bad things.

(I'm sorry about the bad pun)

Signs have all kinds of design problems. Signs for objects need to be short enough for a reader to pay attention to but long enough to convey enough information while the reader is paying attention. Shop signs in particular have the design problem of being accessible to drivers and pedestrians, which means variable passing speed and distance. But even though this sign solves that problem, it misses out on one key thing...

Bad Sign 1 - Your shop is called 'Convenience Store'? Really?

Bad Sign 1 - Your shop is called 'Convenience Store'? Really?

... and that's what the name of the store is. With the Mega Millions logo being repeated everywhere I'd almost think that the store is sponsored by it, but other than that I really can't tell what the shop is called. There's also too many things listed on the awning, which makes this convenience store look like every other convenience store. Sorry 'Convenience Store', I'm sure I wouldn't remember what you were called an hour later if you weren't located near where I live.

Sign 2 does a better job of telling you the name of the shop it goes with. However, depending on which way you're facing, there are seemingly two names for this shop. 

Bad Sign 2 - What's in a name?

Bad Sign 2 - What's in a name?

At the angle I took the picture you can see what the name of the shop is - Bagel Boss - but as I was walking down the street, I could see the tall 'Hot Bagels' sign and the writing on the awning. The name of the shop is on a sign that looks identical to the ATM sign with the red block text on a white background. If I didn't know, I'd think the shop is actually called Hot Bagels based only on the sign as seen from the direction I'm walking it; yet if I were walking across the street, I'd know that the shop is called Bagel Boss. 

Bad Sign 3 - Graffiti versus Graffitea

Bad Sign 3 - Graffiti versus Graffitea

I like this sign - it's very whimsical and a nice nod to Led Zeppelin (assuming that's what they're referring to), but if you look closely you can see that the sign spells it 'Physical Graffiti'. Yet the shop is called Physical GraffiTea? Spell check needed. It's also difficult to tell what the banner sign says from a distance - in a way it's smart in that you need to get closer to read the sign and thus might be tempted by the shop, but it also backfires if pedestrians choose to simply ignore it due to the illegibility and keep walking. 

And finally a sign I like - this is a sign I like purely because it does a good job of identification; aesthetically it's pretty straightforward and unmemorable but I could at least tell what I was looking at.

Good sign! Taken at Maker Faire

Good sign! Taken at Maker Faire

Right away I know what I'm looking at and what it does (identification). The taglines at the top tell me enough about the booth and even from a distance I could read the sign. The art is a little bland to me, but overall it's straightforward and legible.

Having said that, if I were to redesign the convenience store sign (according to Google it's called the 16th Street Deli and Grocery), I'd want something that is explicit in the name

Rough sketch of redesign

Rough sketch of redesign

I ignored the list of all the things sold and took out the Mega Millions logo - by showing just the name of the store it's pretty clear what the place is called. I also included the phone number for identification as well, but this could be replaced with the address to help with wayfinding. All ads were relegated to the windows so that people can still see what's available or on sale. There's still opportunity for branding with this redesign - I put the name in block letters for legibility but the store could establish a brand by choosing a unique font (this font should still be legible though so certain script fonts are discouraged)