The older I get the harder it is for me to see; I am sure in that I am not alone. No one really cares about what I can or cannot see while sitting at my desk minding my own business or going about daily tasks, however, if I am at a trade show, or driving down the road, folks who have a message to get across should care about their sign visibility for average folks like myself.

If you are getting ready to design a new promotion with retail signage or you are planning graphics for your next trade show exhibit, you might want to brush up on your font facts. It could mean the difference between being seen and understood or just being overlooked.

In the article “Penn State Study Assesses Font Legibility”, Signs of the Times summarized a report, entitled “Legibility of Different Fonts”, conducted by researchers at Penn State University. Findings included a few facts germane to most signage and display projects.  Research found that font legibility varied greatly, but a few fonts outperformed others from greater distances.  Of the 64 fonts tested, findings indicated the top 5 visible fonts were as follows:  Gil Sans (49.64 ft.), Avenir Medium (46.37 ft.), Copperplate Gothic UC (46.29 ft.), Helvetica UC (44.86ft.), Kabel Ultra UC (44.14 ft.).


A good rule of thumb, determined by this study, is that fonts require one inch of height per each 5 ft. of desired viewing distance.  So, for example, if you want folks to see your words from 10 ft. away, minimum height should be 2 inches. Larger of course would be better but this is a great ratio to help you be realistic with your design expectations and implementation.

Another revelation worth noting is that upper case letters were found to be more easily visible; in over half of the fonts tested, the uppercase versions added more than 5ft in viewing distance! GO CAPS!

Of course font weight affected visibility too – bold improved visibility in most fonts but curiously not in Helvetica. The study also noted that shorter words can be read from greater distances and that related graphics only minimally impacted legibility.

Understandably, the study’s stated purpose was to “help designers and sign buyers to make informed decisions about the fonts they choose for sign communications” (Need to see the full article? Click here). Data like this can and should serve as a foundation for design on your visual communication projects.

At Mark Bric Display we want you to be able to make informed decision regarding the retail signage, trade show and exhibit projects on which we partner together. We have experienced graphic production staff and creative exhibit display designers to assist you with all of your signage and display projects.  Our hope is that you don’t create alone but will contact us to maximize your return on investment for your next project.

Check out the breadth of our capabilities here:

Know you have a trade show and exhibit design need? Start here: then contact us!

– By Stacy Poole, Marketing Professional for Mark Bric Display Corp.

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