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Using Your Target Audience to Design Your Sign

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One of the most important parts of distilling a brand–whether it’s a personal brand, a professional brand, or something in between–is defining the target audience. Finding your target audience helps you know where and how to focus your sales and marketing efforts; it’s much easier to create an image and message when you know who it’s intended for. Today, we’ll give a bit more detail about what a target market is, how to distill it, and three ways use your target audience to design your sign.

What is a Target Audience?

A target audience is the group(s) of people a business wants to engage with, aiming to eventually sell their product or service to the consumer (in B2C settings) or the purchase decision-maker (in the B2B setting). But the key to a successful definition of a target audience requires specificity. Usually, the parameters of a target audience fall within demographic or behavioral boundaries, such as male corporate businessmen aged 35-50.

Defining a target audience helps the business refine marketing and sales strategies and identify a buyer persona or the business’s ideal customer. The buyer persona is based on characteristics of the target audience, like age, location, income, marital status, etc. This information offers insight into the buyers’ psyche and purchase journey.

Defining a Target Audience

To be sure, defining a target audience and the accompanying buyer personas is not a short and easy process. But there are a few key steps that we will briefly review:

  1. Analyze your customers. Your existing customer base is a great place to start for information on your target audience. Find out their demographics, like age, gender, location, hobbies, income bracket, etc. Something you’re doing is already working—find out what it is!
  2. Research market trends and competitors. Knowing where the industry is going and what your competitors are successfully doing will help you figure out where you fit and which people need the products or services you offer. Google Analytics is also great for learning more about how users navigate your website.
  3. Decide who your target audience isn’t. Eliminating those people from your scope who clearly don’t fit your desired audience is a simple way to ensure you’re targeting the correct groups with marketing and sales efforts.
  4. Continue Refining. Once you’ve determined who your target audience is, make sure you continuously refine and alter your target audience when appropriate. For example, shifts in either industry trends or internal product/service offerings are a great time to reevaluate your target audience.

There are many online resources to help you define your target audience, including those from Hubspot, Marketing Evolution, and marketing guru Neil Patel,

How to Target Your Audience with Sign Design

When we speak about the target audience in regard to signage, we’re speaking primarily about the aesthetic or visual branding of your business. Your target audience should help define your business’s logo, color schemes, and preferred font. And it’s a no-brainer that you should include these design elements in your signage as it is your most crucial visual branding asset. There are many other design elements to consider as well. Check them out in our blog!

While your signage includes the primary sign you likely have outside your facility, it also includes wayfinding signs, ADA-compliant signage, window vinyls, and other on-site branding elements. Your visual branding standards must cover all of these signs.

Designing your signage with your target audience in mind will help ensure that your sign builds brand trust with your target audience. Consider the following elements during the design process.

Design Element 1: Color

Color psychology can dramatically impact your sign effectiveness with your target audience. The informational textbook, On-Premise Signs, places specific emotions with basic colors based on psychological research. For example, red is associated with excitement, which is why it is often used for warnings or alerts. Blue is typically paired with calmness, which is why banks and hospitals often use it.

A brand’s colors should evoke the emotions the business wants customers to associate with their brand.

Design Element 2: Font

The shape and size of a sign’s font have more of an impact than most would think. This is because viewers subconsciously associate certain fonts with specific emotions. Perhaps you can think of some? For example, seeing the Comic Sans font evokes my fond childhood memories. The rounded, sans serif letters of this font indicate almost childish lettering (though I wouldn’t recommend this font for most professional settings). On the other hand, a bold serif font, like Baskerville, makes me think of strength, confidence, professionalism, and decorum. A font like this might be more appropriate for a bank or law firm.

On-Premise Signs states, “An upward slant in a line of text is often associated with positive attributes and a downwards slant may indicate negativity.” The authors also suggest thin letters express simplicity, whereas thicker letters indicate self-confidence and boldness. Lastly, they suggest being wary of using all capital letters because it typically indicates pretentiousness. Considering the relationship between fonts and emotions increases the likelihood of attracting your target audience. What emotions does your sign’s font evoke?

HoneyCake's Bakery and Cafe
Honeycake's bakery and cafe






The font used on the left sign violates the capital letter idea. A bakery is not a business one typically considers pretentious. Because of this, the font on the right sign is more suitable for the business. Designed by Andy Zehner.

Design Element 3: Logo

Arguably, the most important aspect of a business’s visual branding is its logo. The logo is an important part of your sign because it helps the customer perceive what the business is and what it values.

The sign’s color and font are both crucial in catching your target audience, but it is the logo which often brings the “wow” factor. This is largely because, “symbols and logos are read much more quickly than words” (The Signage Sourcebook, 71). Logos enhance sign conspicuity because viewers don’t have to “read” the sign to understand it. A logo that accurately represents your company will increase your sign’s value for your business.

Quality Signage can Boost Your ROI

Visual brand standards aren’t the only thing to consider when designing a sign. The Sign Research Foundation has conducted extensive research on how signage design impacts your ROI. This study reported that 54% of participants failed to find a business because of poor signage, but signage had attracted 33% of participants to a store. Likewise, 38% said they make quality assumptions about the business based on its signage.

And one more key observation? Younger generations—those who will be chief consumers and purchase decision-makers in the near future—report making quality assumptions and being drawn into a business based on signage more than other age groups.

Knowing your target audience is the first step in designing a sign. From there, you can determine the main features such as color, font, and logo. Each of these elements communicates the brand’s purpose, values, and—as the kids say—overall “vibe.” Working with signage experts will help increase the efficacy of your sign and boost your ROI—because who doesn’t love a bit more bang for their buck?

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