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Legibility and Min Text Size CUSTOM signs


LEGIBILITY The most easily read and understood signs are those that have

    • “less is better”… and easier to read , and
    • most people will not bother to read all of the text on a lengthy “wordy” sign
  • BEST COLOR CONTRAST (see our info sheet on the best color combinations for custom signs)
  • SYMBOLS Use standard symbols (dog on a leash etc.) instead of text, whenever possible
  • LARGEST SIZE (height) OF TEXT Some people CAN NOT, and most people WILL NOT try to read smaller print
  • “SIMPLE, Easy-to-Read FONTS”
    • “Fancy” and ornate fonts look nice, but they are often difficult to read. In many cases, the size of certain “fancy” fonts have to be made much bigger to be readable, and therefore increase the size of the sign which results in a higher cost
    • “Highway Font’ is required by the FHWA and all 50 state DOTs for Traffic signs because studies have shown that this font is the #1, easiest to read. Another good choice is Ariel, but like FHWA Highway Font, it is, admittedly, a ‘bit boring’… but the message is very easy to read.
    • We can suggest some fonts that are not the #1 choices for legibility, but have some “character” and are a good compromise between "ease of reading" and “not boring”

MINIMUM TEXT SIZE (height and width of the letters) for

    • The general “Rule of Thumb” is 1” text height for every 10’ between the sign and the viewer for the “small print”
    • If possible, “key points” should be larger
    • The ABSOLUTE MINIMUM text size should never be less than ¾” tall letters
    • 25-35 mph: 4” text height minimum *
    • 45-55 mph: 6” text height minimum *
    • At higher speeds: 8” text or greater *
    • * Notes to "mininum text heights" for moving vehicles:
      • The minimum text sizes shown above are for drivers/occupants in moving vehicles for signs with very little text, such as “Detour Ahead”
      • For signs with a lengthily messages, the text height must be MUCH larger to allow the occupant to begin reading sooner and at a further distance away. Otherwise, the vehicle will pass the sign before the entire sign can be read.
      • Consequently, signs with a lot of text require very large signs to accomidate the larger text.  Consider using less text if possible.


Whenever proposed signs havetext that is too small to be legible and easily read there are only 2 solutions to make the text larger:

  1. REDUCE THE AMOUNT OF TEXT thereby permitting the use of larger letters for the most important part of the message for the same size sign, and/or
  2. INCREASE THE SIZE (width x height) OF THE SIGN to accommodate larger text.   Larger text, of course, requires a larger sign and therefore the cost and physical size (having enough space to install a larger sign) may be factors

Hope that helps

ARA Signs, Inc.

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