Signage Design

All public sector buildings will typically have signage inside and outside of their establishments. This may range from signs for the toilets to health and safety signs. The following signage design guidance is based on the ‘Building for Everyone: A Universal Design approach’ publication from the Centre for Excellence in Universal Design (CEUD).

Under the Official Languages Act 2003, a public body has a duty to ensure that signs placed by it or on its behalf within or outside the state are in Irish or bilingual. If bilingual text is chosen, instead of text in Irish only, there are specific regulations that must be adhered to.

The guidance below is provided for sign design in indoor and outdoor areas.

Text on signs

  • Make sure the text on your sign is easy to read. Avoid fonts that are highly decorative, very bold, condensed or in italics, as these can be difficult to understand and may make the sign more difficult to read. Examples of easy to read sans serif fonts for signage include, Helvetica, Tahoma and Futura.
  • Wording on signs should be as simple as possible.
  • Avoid the use of unfamiliar abbreviations.
  • Information on signs should be listed alphabetically or grouped logically. For example, by floor level.
  • Use Arabic numbers (1, 2, 3), not Roman numerals (i, ii, iii).
  • A mixture of upper and lower case letters should be used. Avoid using BLOCK CAPITALS.
  • Align wording to the left.
  • Wording, font and images should be consistent throughout the building.
  • The size of letters on signs should be related to the type of sign and viewing distance.

Do not use block capitals, a mixture of upper and lower case letters should be used

The table below provides recommended letter height for a range of viewing distances.

Recommended letter heights in signage viewing distances.

Symbols and arrows on signage

  • Use symbols in place of text where the symbol is universally recognised. For example, public information symbols.
  • Use symbols to accompany text where possible. This is particularly relevant for dual-language signs, as they help people to recognise quickly the information being provided.
  • Use arrows to indicate directions.

Image has examples of universally recognised symbols which can be used instead of text

Design

  • There should be good contrast between the signboard and any mounting or background surface. This helps draw attention to the sign itself.
  • There should be good contrast between the text/symbols and background sign colour. This helps draw attention to the content of the sign.
  • Where colour coding is used, use colours that are easy to differentiate.
  • Signs should have a matt or satin finish. Avoid shiny and reflective surfaces to prevent glare.
  • Signs should be evenly illuminated, with a lighting level of 200 lux.

Examples of good and bad contrast between text and background colours. Signage with good contrast makes it much easier to read

Tactile signs

Embossed signs enable people with visual impairments to read by touch. When designing tactile signs consider that:

  • Embossed letters should be raised above the surface of the sign by 1 - 1.5mm, and have a stroke width of 1.5 – 2mm.
  • Embossed letters should be between 16mm and 50mm in height.
  • Where Braille is provided, it should be positioned below the related text.
  • Engraved and indented letters and symbols should be avoided, as they are difficult to read by touch.

Positioning of signage

  • Signs should be positioned at important points along a route, wherever routes intersect or diverge.
  • Tactile and Braille signage should be positioned within easy reach.
  • Position signs where people reading them will not cause an obstruction.
  • Make sure that directional signs help people to retrace their steps and identify alternative locations within a building, without having to return to the main entrance.

Learn more

Further guidance on the Official Languages Act is available on the website of An Coimisinéir Teanga

The Centre for Excellence in Universal Design’s (CEUD) ‘Building for Everyone: a Universal Design approach’provides guidance on designing signs.

The International Organization for Standardization provides guidance on graphical symbols and signage in ‘ISO 2013-01/3000 – ‘The International Language of ISO Graphical Symbols’.

For further information on colour contrast, see Document Design .

Customer Communications Toolkit for the Public Service – A Universal Design Approach

Written Communication Design Checklist

Signage Design Checklist

Signage symbols, contrast, colour, positioning Checklist