Three Biggest Signage Mistakes

Kona Impact has been making signs in Hawaii for years. We’ve done boats, outrigger canoes, windows, harbor signs, vans, cars, food trucks, real estate signs–you name it, we’ve done it.

And since we’ve made a sign or two, we learned a few things along the way.

Here are our three cardinal rules for making signage for Hawaii:

Thou Shall Not Use the Wrong Material

Wood is cheap and easy to get on the island. It’s also the worst sign material you can use. Between termites, warping in the sun and being susceptible to wood rot and water damage, wood makes for horrible signs in Hawaii. We replace many poorly made signs a year made by other sign companies who cut corners (or just don’t know better) and use wood.

termite infested signTermite infested Wood Sign in Hawaii

Our favorites? Exterior grade building material, glass, aluminum, and steel. All will outlast any graphics we put on them. The surfaces are smooth, non-porous and not susceptible to termite or other environmental damage.

Thou Shall Not Make a Small Sign

Yes, bigger is better! I always chuckle when I see a person’s business name, email, phone number, website and logo on a small 1’ x 1’ vehicle magnet. You might as well have nothing on your vehicle because with that much text on a 1’ x 1’ sign, you need to be within a few feet of the sign to read it.

We always tell customers that the more you put on a sign, the less any one element is visible. So, put less on your sign–it’s a sign, not a business card–and it will be more effective. If you really need to have a lot of information on your sign, make it bigger, as big as possible.

Thou Shall Not Make What is Simple Complex

Contrast is one of the key ideas for sign design. White background, black text is high contrast, as is a black background with white text. Aim for maximum contrast between your elements, and you’ll do ok. Try to put too much, whether it is non-contrasting colors with the background and text, or placing text over a complex background, and you’ll move toward a design that will make your sign illegible.

Likewise, stick to your essential message and don’t obfuscate your message. What is the one thing you want people to get from your sign? It’s usually the name of the business or the main product. Your secondary message is probably some services or a way to contact you. Consider keeping to only two, possible three messages. Anything more and you’re probably trying to do too much with a sign.

At Kona Impact, we love to sell signs–it’s how we keep our lights on–but we don’t like to sell the same sign twice, because the first one has failed. We love working with clients to design effective signs and get the messaging just right. After hundreds of signs, we’ve learned that cutting corners on the material, size or design is a waste of time and money.