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30+ Innovative Signage Ideas: How to Make Your Business Stand Out

30+ Innovative Signage Ideas: How to Make Your Business Stand Out

Signage plays a crucial role in marketing and branding for businesses. From storefront signs to window graphics, signage conveys your brand identity and helps attract customers. But with so many companies competing for attention, it's not enough to just have signage – you need innovative signage ideas that make your business memorable.

This article will explore some creative ways to make your business signage pop. We'll look at examples of unique signage from innovative companies and examine different materials and technologies you can use. We'll also provide tips on designing and placing your signs to maximise visibility and impact. Your signage can become an invaluable marketing asset with the right innovative approach.

30+ Innovative Signage Ideas

What Is Signage Design In Advertising

1 – Unique Sign Shapes and Materials

One of the simplest ways to make your signs stand out is to use an unexpected or distinctive shape. Consider other forms that align with your brand identity rather than sticking with a standard square or rectangular sign. For example, Starbucks is easily recognised by its circular logo signage above each store.

Likewise, you can use materials beyond the usual wood, plastic, or metal. Signs from unexpected materials like chalkboards, neon, or plants can capture attention. Some hair salons use old-fashioned scissors in their window displays. A pizza shop could have a sign shaped like a slice of pizza. Get creative with shapes and materials that reinforce what makes your business unique.

2 – Lighting Effects

Illumination is another excellent way to make signage stand out, especially at night. From neon to LED, lighting can transform ordinary signs into eye-catching attractions. You can outline critical elements of your signage with lights or even make the entire sign glow.

Targeted spotlighting on signs creates dramatic effects. You can also program LED signs to flash or change colours, adding dynamism that's hard to ignore. Just be sure lighting aligns with your brand identity and doesn't create distractions. The goal is to emphasise your signage, not overwhelm it.

3 – Kinetic Signs

Making signage move takes innovation up another notch. Kinetic signs feature components that rotate, swing, or move to capture attention. Even simple movements like flipping letters can make your business more memorable.

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Savvy companies are taking kinetics to new levels with digital displays and 3D elements. For example, Salata, a salad restaurant chain, has menu boards with a spinning salad bowl graphic. Some car dealerships have kinetic logos with moving car shapes or spinning tires. As technology advances, the possibilities for animated signage keep growing.

4 – Chalkboard Paint

Here's a straightforward DIY approach to innovative signage: chalkboard paint. Applying speciality chalkboard paint lets you turn any smooth surface into a chalkboard. This could be your entire storefront window, door, or a partial accent wall. Chalkboard paint creates a fun, antiqued look, giving you a surface you can write on with chalk.

The great thing about chalkboard paint is its flexibility. You can use it for permanent signage or constantly changing menus, sales, announcements, etc. It's an inexpensive way to make your business more approachable while showcasing your offerings. Just remember to keep the handwritten content looking neat and professional.

5 – Show Window Graphics

Milkbar Window Signage Design Ideas

An ideal place for innovative signage is in your show windows facing the street. You can turn your windows into “silent salespeople” with suitable graphics, luring customers inside. Window graphics can take virtually any shape and convey different messages.

Many coffee shops use window graphics to showcase their logo and menu offerings. Boutiques may have custom graphics with their brand name formed out of fashionable shapes. Or get creative, like Booksmith, a bookstore using literary window scenes with mannequins and real books to depict famous stories. The goal is to stop pedestrians in their tracks.

6 – Neon Signs

Neon signs may seem old school, but they stand out from other signage. The glow of neon commands attention, especially at night. Neon signs have a vintage, artistic aesthetic that complements certain businesses like diners and bars. But modern companies can also use neon stylishly.

Shake Shack has neon signage above its ordering counter featuring its logo and menu items like shakes and fries. Neon signage can be expensive due to the glass bending and vacuum sealing process. But it will ensure your business gets noticed. Neon signs also last for years with proper maintenance.

7 – Augmented Reality Signs

On the cutting edge of innovative signage technology is augmented reality (AR). AR signage appears normal at first glance – often just a logo or name. But when viewed through a smartphone camera, the signage transforms into an interactive digital experience.

For example, a restaurant could have minimal signage out front. But when seen through an AR app, the signage animates with moving menu items and memorable images. AR signs can display coupons, product visuals, navigation, and more. The interactivity provides a fun way to engage customers.

8 – Branded Sidewalk Stencils

Here's a highly inexpensive innovation for signage – sidewalk stencils. Many businesses stencil their logo and address right on the sidewalk out front. It's a clever way to catch pedestrians' eyes and reinforce your location.

Sidewalk stencils work exceptionally well for restaurants and shops in urban areas with plenty of foot traffic. The stencils can be created with letter/number templates and spray paint. Just use high-quality outdoor paint that won't fade or smear too quickly. Periodic touch-ups keep your branded sidewalk stencils looking fresh.

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9 – Digital Displays

Consider installing a digital display as part of your exterior signage for retail stores and restaurants. Digital displays allow you to showcase specials, promotions, new products, upcoming events, and any messages you want.

With built-in animation and video capabilities, digital displays are far more dynamic than static signs. They are continually changing, so passersby are more likely to take notice each time. You can easily update the messaging from a central computer as needed. And digital displays are often cheaper than printing new traditional signage.

10 – Sign Toppers

An easy upgrade for standard signage is adding a decorative topper element. Sign toppers sit above a sign and often feature embellishments that relate to the business. A bakery may have a plastic moulded cake or cupcake. A dog grooming business could use a 3D dog statue on their sign.

Different architectural flourishes can spruce up plain square signage even without a themed topper object. Arches, diagonal corners, ornamental scrollwork, a logo cutout, or a branded prop can transform boxy signs into distinctive landmarks. Sign toppers provide free advertising from above that catches the eye.

11 – Living Walls

Advertising Signage Living Wall Ideas

Here's an innovative signage idea that benefits the environment – living walls. Living walls are vertical gardens attached to building exteriors. They can contain a mix of plants, herbs, or vegetables planted in felt layers on a supporting structure.

Living walls provide natural beauty while also filtering air pollution. Signage can be incorporated right into the living wall or positioned in front. The plants form a lush, eye-catching backdrop and instantly convey a sense of freshness and health. Just be sure the plants are placed for optimal sun exposure so they thrive.

12 – Digital Window Displays

Consider installing a digital window display facing outward from your business like digital signage. Digital displays can show anything from product visuals and promotions to branded content and helpful tips.

The significant advantage of window displays is that pedestrians don't have to stop walking to see your messages and imagery. The screens are suitable at eye level. Digital displays also work well in low light conditions compared to printed signs. Just keep the imagery and information short and captivating.

13 – Invisible Ultraviolet Signs

Here's one innovative technology that reveals signage under ultraviolet light. Unique UV ink print designs, logos, or text that appears utterly invisible under standard lighting. But when illuminated with UV light, also called blacklight, the signage suddenly becomes visible, glowing brilliantly.

UV signage is ideal for bars, nightclubs, and other nightlife spots. The trippy glowing signs attract attention and create intrigue. Patrons will be amazed when portions of your establishment seem to transform before their eyes. Just be sure to have traditional signage for daytime visibility.

14 – Hanging Signs

Hanging signs above doorways or into pedestrian areas make excellent visual landmarks for businesses. The suspended signs attract the eyes of passersby from a distance. Hanging signs tend to be smaller than fixed signage on buildings, making them more intimate.

Materials like wood, metal, or glass work well for hanging signs. You can incorporate lighting effects for extra drama. Just be sure hanging signs don't impede foot traffic. The ideal height clearance is around eight feet. And take precautions to secure your hanging signs against wind and weather properly.

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15 – Creative Use of Typography

Vintage Typography

With standard rectangular signage, creative typography is one way to improve the visual impact. Avoid bland fonts and play with different weights, styles, sizes, and positions of the type. Use stylised fonts, all caps, small caps, underline, italic, varying space between letters, etc.

You can form logos out of customised display type. Or try stacking words vertically or at angles—overlay type on imagery or textures. Incorporate stylistic-type elements like character repeats or abstract backgrounds. With online tools, designing innovative typography is easier than ever. Just keep it legible.

16 – Window Clings

For digital-free window signage, consider using semi-permanent vinyl clings. These thin vinyl decals stick to glass surfaces using static electricity – no adhesive is required. They can display logos, hours, phone numbers, coupons, etc. Clings are easy to remove and change as needed.

Compared to paper signs in windows, clings look more polished and professional. They help brand the business and highlight vital information for passersby. Window clings work exceptionally well for restaurants, cafes, boutiques, salons, and other retail establishments. Just switch them out to keep the messaging fresh.

17 – Sculptural Signs

Most business signage sits flat against buildings. But you can create more intrigue with 3D sculptural signs that add artistic flair. Even relatively simple moulded signs catch the eye better than flat ones. Or go all out with large kinetic sculptures doubling as signs.

Some options for sculptural signs include:

  • Carved wood shapes and symbols
  • Metalwork silhouettes of logos or products
  • Objects like bikes or cars holding signage
  • Digital clocks or tickers built into artistic structures
  • Branded shapes protruding from buildings

Sculptural signs work best for experience-focused businesses like hotels, wineries, galleries, and entertainment venues. But any company can benefit from signage that ascends into creative 3D art.

18 – Signage Incorporating Nature

Combining live plants or natural elements with signage is an innovative trend. Real planted moss words grab attention. Beloved Coffee in Austin has its logo framed in an imported ficus tree. Or signs can be nestled in planted areas or vertical gardens.

Natural components surrounding signage help create an oasis effect. Signage emerges organically from its environment. The mix of fixed signage with changing natural features keeps the imagery fresh and appealing. Just be sure the landscaping is maintained correctly.

19 – Car Wrap Signage

Real Estate Branding Vehicle Wrap

One prominent place for signage is directly on your company vehicles. Complete vehicle wraps let you transform vans, trucks or cars into mobile billboards displaying your branding everywhere they go. Today's printing technologies allow for full-color, photo-realistic vehicle wraps.

The key is keeping the vehicle wraps tasteful with your logo and concise messaging, not bombarding the design. Nicely branded company cars or delivery vehicles subtly market your business around town all day long as they drive. Its signage is always on the move.

20 – Digital Sign Toppers

Earlier, we discussed decorative physical toppers to enhance standard signs. Another option is digital sign toppers, also called blade signs. These narrow digital screens mount to the top or side of the main sign.

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The ancillary digital screens can display rotating specials, advertisements, or promotions. They work well for theatres, hotels, gas stations, or anywhere with frequently changing information. The slender digital blade signs add high-tech dynamism while the main sign stays consistently branded.

21 – Illustrated Window Murals

Large, custom illustrations painted directly on storefront windows create fun artwork that entices customers inside. Whimsical window murals might depict products, characters, or scenes from your business. The hand-painted quality makes a refreshing change from vinyl decals.

Just hire a talented artist who can smoothly render imaginative window murals. Avoid anything too intricate or complex—bold, simple illustrations with your branding work best. Window murals are also brilliant for seasonal changes–switch to new holiday-themed art.

22 – Branded Umbrellas and Awnings

Pay attention to the shading elements outside your business as prime real estate for signage. Umbrellas and awnings provide excellent visibility from a distance. The repetition of your branded awnings along a shopping district multiplies impressions.

Logos and messaging can be digitally printed on awning fabrics for a crisp, clean look. For umbrellas, high visibility colours complementing your branding make them walk billboards. Consider placing branded umbrellas and seating in front of your business to draw pedestrian eyes.

23 – Mirrored Signage

Here's an innovative approach using reflections for attention-grabbing signage. Mirrored surfaces contain your logos and graphics while duplicating views of passersby and surroundings. The reflections amplify your signage while making it highly interactive.

Mirrored signs work incredibly well in places with heavy foot traffic – visual interest increases as more people pass. Extra lighting directed at mirrored signs casts reflections farther to extend the effect. Just beware of potential glare if positioned toward traffic. Mirrored graphic panels are also popular at trade show booths.

24 – Inspiring Quote Signage

Some innovative businesses forego overly salesy messages and instead opt for inspiring quotes on signage. Short, poignant sayings catch the eye and communicate the company's values and priorities beyond profit.

For example, Patagonia displays thought-provoking environmental quotes on its store bags and signs. Apple highlighted the phrase “Think Different” in its marketing. Quote signage works best when the sentiments align with your brand story and ideals. Refresh the inspirational sayings seasonally for renewed impact.

25 – Laser Projection Signage

Laser Projection Signage Ideas For Advertising

One high-tech innovation in signage is using laser projectors to display logos and messaging. Laser-projected signs can have significant, crisp image projections unsuitable for standard projected lights. The imaging works even outdoors in daylight.

Projecting directly on buildings eliminates the need to install permanent signage. Messaging and graphics can be changed instantly. Some restaurants use laser projections on sidewalks to help lead patrons to entrances down alleyways. Wherever projected, laser signs magically appear and then vanish like ghosts.

26 – Signage Incorporating Local Elements

Including hyperlocal touches is an innovative way to make signage connect on a deeper community level. Work elements of local significance into the design. This could be landmarks, historical references, foliage/crops, nostalgic architectural details, etc.

Signage with familiar local ties helps businesses feel more approachable and ingrained versus outsider chains. Customers also appreciate signs that reflect regional or neighbourhood pride and character. Just ensure the local elements subtly enhance signage rather than overwhelm brand identities.

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27 – Purposeful Handmade Imperfections

Signage conveys that a business is established and professional. But surprisingly, slight intentional imperfections can also boost likability. Minor flaws make signs appear handcrafted with love versus mass-produced.

Subtle ideas like faux drips or smears, uneven text kerning, paint globs, patched distressing, or faded edges build character. Just keep the imperfections looking intentional, not sloppy. Imperfections are especially effective for businesses promoting craftsmanship and personalisation. Each “flaw” becomes a charming mark of humanity.

28 – Digital Menu Boards

For restaurants and food businesses, digital menu boards present an opportunity for innovative signage. Digital menus allow you to display mouthwatering photos and videos of dishes rather than just text descriptions. You can also easily update menus and pricing.

Many fast-casual restaurants now have exterior digital menu boards and interior screens highlighting their offerings. Digital menus help attract more passing traffic. And order accuracy improves when customers can see exactly how each item looks. The versatility of digital also allows for testing menu layouts.

29 – Concrete Signage

Concrete Signage Design Ideas

Signs crafted from textured, stained, or creatively shaped concrete are modern and artful. The hefty material provides a sense of substance and permanence. Concrete's grey tones also pair well with other natural materials in contemporary designs.

Possibilities for concrete signage include etched logos, sleek raised lettering, and even dramatic cantilevered forms. Concrete can also be cast into custom artistic branded shapes. If going for a weathered look, use techniques like exposing the aggregate or sandblasting. Sealing is required to prevent cracks and fading.

30 – Signage Showing Product Provenance

Customers today care deeply about product origins and responsible sourcing. Innovative signage provides transparency by showcasing where ingredients, components, or materials are sourced. Diagrams can map supply chains. Images and stories about artisans bring provenance to life.

Provenance signage is compelling in food establishments. But any business can benefit like clothing stores identifying fabric origins. Telling the story behind products through signage boosts trust while making things feel more substantive. Just keep explanatory signage focused and easy to digest for passersby.

31 – Directional Signage

Make sure to consider interior directional signage when seeking innovative ideas. Chances are you still use basic clip art arrows and typed text to direct customers. But branded environmental graphics can make navigating more intuitive while enhancing aesthetics.

Some best practices for innovative directional signage:

  • Use original icons and illustrations rather than cliché clip art
  • Incorporate branded colours, fonts, and stylistic flourishes
  • Group sign types (directories, department IDs, arrows) for visual coherence
  • Use a modular system allowing signs to be changed/moved as needed
  • Add accent lighting or illumination for aesthetic and accessibility

The goal is to make directionals less institutional and more intriguing. Signage that tells an immersive story feels welcoming while still effectively guiding visitors.

Wrapping Up

Signage is an art and a science. It's about grabbing attention, conveying information quickly, and making connections. The signage ideas in this article are innovative ways to make your business stand out. But more importantly, they represent a mindset – a willingness to do something different and take risks.

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Great signage doesn't just happen. It takes imagination, iteration, and guts. You have to try new things and be willing to fail. Every great sign has ten failed drafts behind it. Treat signage as an ongoing experiment. Track what works and double down on it. Let your signs evolve.

And understand that signage is just one part of experience design. Focus on crafting a remarkable customer experience across all touchpoints. Signage sets the stage, but your people and processes must deliver. Surprise and delight customers at every turn. Make signage weird and welcoming.

The only absolute failure is letting your business blend into the background. With the ideas in this article, you have no excuse. Take a chance and set your business apart. The bolder, the better. As Godin says, “Be remarkable!” That philosophy applies to everything, especially signage. Your signs are your flag – plant it proudly and let it fly.

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Stuart Crawford

Stuart Crawford is an award-winning creative director and brand strategist with over 15 years of experience building memorable and influential brands. As Creative Director at Inkbot Design, a leading branding agency, Stuart oversees all creative projects and ensures each client receives a customised brand strategy and visual identity.

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