Archive for January, 2010

“Shades of Grey” or “What Goes with Grey????”

Monday, January 18th, 2010

Often, people come to me with question of  “What color goes with…?”

Usually, I will throw out whatever comes to mind, as in the past 18 years, I have lettered almost every color vehicle made. Some combinations are monochromatic-(the same color family), complementary-(opposing colors in hue, contrast and value) or unusual (purple, orange and green-which is a terciary scheme).

However, in these 18 years, there is always one color that scares me; grey (or silver).

Grey is a touchy color. If you put bright colors on it, they look dull. If you put dark colors on it, they fade out and you can’t read anything. Yellow on grey? Brown on grey?

Recently I had a client discuss lettering his fleet of vans. We talked and I got a good idea for the project. He gave me his business card which used a cute icon and a medium blue background. The lettering was less than stellar in font and layout, but was yellow with a black outline. I suggested we revise the lettering a bit and use his icon and setup the layout.

Now, I know the story that goes with “assuming” things. I “assumed” the van was either blue or white. I assumed wrong.

The vans were silver grey Fords. Hmmm….

I asked my client if he HAD TO HAVE yellow lettering. He responded by saying “You’re the sign professional; you decide. I’m sure it will look fantastic!”

As much as I love hearing someone toot my horn for me, I love clients who let you have somewhat free-reign.

Off the hook for the yellow lettering, I began to design away. Trying to keep withing his budget, I added some fades and removed them. Bevelled the letters and took it off. Hmmm….that yellow was still stuck in the back of my head. I then used a complementary blue as an accent and left the lettering alone. Perfect!

He came by yesterday and picked up the van. He has been in business for 20+ years and never had a lettered vehicle. He was very pleased with the results; clean and easy to read, used his icon, not “flashy or boastful” and within his budget. Traditional black & white lettering, in a block font, generally reserved for “newbie” designers, somehow make this a very attractive design.

And I think I might like grey now!


What is the best size letter for my sign?

Monday, January 18th, 2010

As sign professionals, we often “intuitively” decide letter sizes based on our own experiences and the space available for the message. We choose fonts that will be easily read and increase spacing between letters, heighten them or shorten them, outline them to make them bolder, modify letters that don’t quite “fit” the way we like.

Sometimes, our artistic eye needs to take a backseat to the purpose of the message. If it looks really great, but no one can read it, how effective is the message? Even further, if it can’t be read and understood, why pay for it?

Often our design enlarged on the screen, will not perform adequately in its application.

A design to be viewed further than arms length needs to have it’s “pulse checked” with a letter visibility chart.

Gemini Incorporated, a formed letter supplier to the trade, distributes a chart listing the letter size, the best viewing distance and the maximum viewing distance to assist designers and clients in determining the best size for the signage.

As shown below, this is an invaluable tool:

As you can infer, the best distance for viewing is 10’ per inch of letter height.

This is for static or non-moving viewing. See the entry on viewing letterforms and logos in traffic patterns.