Great Signage Keeps Phones Ringing and Workers Safe

Be clear and concise with all of your brand and safety communication, and realize English may be a second language for many of your customers and employees.

Great Signage Keeps Phones Ringing and Workers Safe

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Ben could hardly wait to set up his own business after years of working for a large company. Knowing the demographics of his market area, Ben wanted to market to the large Latino population there. So, he looked up the key words in Spanish and created a beautifully designed website and colorful, eye-catching signage to attract new business from the surrounding Spanish-speaking communities.

Then Ben decided to hire his former co-worker Carlos — who grew up in a bilingual home — to work with potential customers who felt more comfortable doing business in Spanish. The catchy bilingual sign Ben came up with turned heads, but not for the reasons he expected.

Business was underwhelming at first. Latinos who did stop in were genuinely surprised to find an employee who could speak their language because the sign out front contained “Spanish” words that were misspelled, missing accents or even nonexistent. For instance, the Spanish word “servicios” was spelled as “servicies.”

Ben didn’t think much more about it until a Spanish-speaking woman came by to say she was confused about one type of business offered because of a literal translation of “umbrella” as something to do with the device that keeps the rain off of you, not an encompassing service. While Carlos took the extra time to explain this to her, Ben suddenly realized that his seemingly minor mistakes were costing him business. As soon as he replaced all the signs inside and outside of his office — not to mention reprinting flyers and updating his website — at a substantial cost, Ben’s profits picked up tremendously.

Experienced signage professionals say some of their toughest jobs involve deliberately misspelled words — such as “Korner” or “Qwik,” which are meant to be catchy and attract attention — because they require extra quality-control steps. And if they’re making signs containing foreign languages, they usually ask their clients to have them proofed by a professional translator. Sign creators make sure the design is right, but most are not language experts as well.


As a business owner, your signage speaks volumes about you. It’s that first impression that will either encourage someone to either give you a call or click on your website to see what you have to offer. Here are some tips to make sure your signage sells:

Make the sign outside your business stand out. Your logo and/or trade name should attract attention. Be sure to fully brief your graphic designers about your target customer (a walk-in, passerby, drive-by, all of the above). Ask for their advice on the appropriate font style and size for each piece of information and each kind of sign they make for you. Remember to include your company name, phone number and website on the sign as well.

Be consistent. Brand recognition is key, and consistent signage will help you build a recognizable brand that people will remember. Make sure your branding is on everything — from the broad side of your vacuum truck tank to the portable restrooms you put out on construction sites and at special events. If your brand is consistent and memorable, more folks will recall your name for word-of-mouth referrals.

Show them the way. Design branded wayfinding signs that are concise and unambiguous. Make it easy for anyone to find you and less likely for them to find one of your competitors.

Speak their language. Do many of your customers speak English as a second language? Consider hiring bilingual staff and announcing loud and clear — on your signs — that your business can assist them in their native language. If nothing else, consult professional translators to ensure your marketing materials send the right message. Studies show that people prefer to shop in their native language.

Keep them safe. If you employ people with limited English proficiency or cater to customers with limited English proficiency, having safety signs printed in their native/dominant language will not only help prevent workplace accidents, but also win over staff and customers. Make sure to use professional translators with experience in occupational safety. They will not only ensure your signs send the right message, but also make sure that message fits the sign, as letter spacing and other nuances may need to change depending on the target language. Note that the Occupational Safety and Health Administration provides the “It’s the Law” safety poster in several languages for free at And don’t forget that some U.S. states and territories have their own signage requirements. Check whether yours is one of them at


As a business owner, the last thing you want is for your signage to turn people off before you even have the chance to meet them. Your signs say a lot about your business — your expertise, attention to detail and overall competency. A well-designed, consistent and flawless message across your print, equipment and digital media will build positive brand awareness, get people to call and ultimately boost your bottom line.  


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