Text Visibility and Signage 101

Text Visibility and Signage 101

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When crafting the advertising that will run on your electronic message board, many seem to gloss over the importance of text visibility and readability. Letter sizing matters!

If your audience is unable to read your message, they will lose interest or worse yet, not even engage with the content presented to them.

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Why is it important?

Letter size, also known as letter height, is the determining factor in how far away your message can be read by an individual with average eyesight. Getting this wrong will lead to your lettering being too small to be legible or too big. This greatly impacts the quality of your sign and it’s efficacity to spread a message.

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Calculate your lettering size

In order to say for sure what letter size you will need to use for your sign, you will need to have a good idea of what distance you expect your sign to be viewed from. Perhaps, 30 feet or 150 feet. A good rule of thumb is every 1 inch of letter height provides 10 feet of readability with the best impact. So for example, 30 feet would require a 3-inch letter height and 150 feet would require for the text to be at least 15 inches tall.

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How much can be read in a handful of seconds?

The average individual reads about 4 words per second, but this is only during normal reading. If your reader is driving a car, they will be able to read fewer words. This is why it’s important to keep your message right on the point. The faster someone understands what you are trying to tell them, the better. We recommend that you aim for more than two seconds of visibility for your sign.

Correct sizes for targeting people at certain speeds

Depending on your street and it’s respective speed limit, you may have to do some adjustments. You can either aim for minimum letter size, an in-between or the optimal letter sizing to increase the visibility of your message. Let’s assume that the street on which you placed your sign on is at a 45 MPH. For someone traveling at that speed and to see your sign for three seconds equal to roughly a viewing distance of 200 feet. In this case, the minimum readable size would be 6 inches but the recommended size would be 20 inches.

Approximation chart

Speed (MPH) Recommended letter sizing for best visibility (Inches) Seconds of visibility
40 11 2
55 16 2
70 20 2

Best font type for visibility

It is usually recommended to go with fonts that are based on Serif or Sans Serif. If you choose to go with another font type, it may be wise to increase the size of the letters as to ensure that their readability is not affected. Decorative fonts are simply much more difficult to read than block fonts.


An additional thing to keep in the back of your mind while designing your message: try to create strong contrasts with the environment surrounding your sign. Strong contrasts such as black on yellow, white on green, yellow, red, white on blue, and white on black work really well to grab the attention of passers-by.

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