The Science of Signs
The visual process is one of the human body’s most reactive functions. What the eye sees immediately stimulates the other senses and the body acts accordingly.
Enhancement of the visual stimulus can make a tremendous difference. If we can see a picture of food in black and white, we may be interested, but if we see the same image in full color, we are stimulated and even more so if dimension or motion is added.
We are trained early in life to associate specific colors with certain things, such as: red means stop, danger, hot, etc., and green means go, or is related to safe movement of direction. We also recognize and respond to color combinations and movement. We can be soothed and comforted by certain images and colors and can be jarred and agitated by others.
Visual images are probably the most prominent part of our memory functions. Our ‘recall’ is stimulated by familiar sounds of smells or other sensory reactions. But having seen a place or an object provides a more sure association with that place or object or event and its location. We easily remember larger areas such as shopping centers or commercial districts, but when we have a specific want or need for a product or service, almost without exception, a sign provides the recall of the specific spot where it can be found. Again, using the visual trigger, when we see the sign, we know we have arrived.
It is not our purpose to complicate the way-finding process, but instead to point out how much we take for granted the everyday functions which simplify it. In years past, our homes were within easy walking distance of a grocery store or drug store or other neighborhood services. That is seldom the case in today’s world. Because we must travel longer distances for essential services, signs index the environment to identify where such services are available and to promote safe access.
The statement that ‘everyone knows where that is’ is no longer true. Average population turnover in almost any given area is near 25% a year. Added to the mobility factor for visitors and tourists, some 35% of people are to a greater or lesser degree, traveling in unfamiliar territory at a given time. These facts, coupled with a heavy increase in ‘Super Stores’ and shopping centers, which seem to spring up almost overnight, keep our communities in a constant state of change. Highway signs and directional information may get us to general areas and off premise signs provide advance information, but there is absolutely no substitute for an easily read, on-premise sign to get us comfortably and safely to our destination.
A sign must be conspicuous enough to be seen (design, size, color and placement) to be effective. A sign should be read by the viewer in, generally, a few seconds. Your sign will tell even casual viewers a lot about your business at first glance. Your sign will make them aware of the goods or services you have to offer them at your location, together with your identity for their immediate or future use.
Written by Kirk Brimley
Source: It Takes a Sign to Make a Sale by John K. Lamb