interior signage design

Do’s and Don’ts of Interior Signage Design For Today’s Commercial Environments

Published on: September 12, 2019

Interior office environments aren’t what they used to be. Even as recently as ten years ago, corporate developers made millions producing nearly-identical office environments with grey walls and grey carpet, and companies didn’t think anything of it. At the time, offices weren’t intended to be unique. Decor was unobtrusively standard, finishes were subtle but sophisticated, and visual branding was limited primarily to outside identification signs. 

Today’s commercial environments require much more from all departments, including interior signage design. Companies are facing a pressing need to be unique, special, and different in order to attract and retain talented employees. The most impressive corporate headquarters have been branded inside and out, including all decor and interior finishes as well as wayfinding and identification signs. Interior signage is one of the most crucial branded elements of an office environment and it goes a long way toward helping your company stand out from the crowd.  

The Top 6 DOs and DON’Ts of Interior Signage Design 

Interior signage turns your entire office environment into a fully-branded experience for staff members and visitors alike. If you’re looking for an effective way to rebrand an office, consider soliciting bids for a new interior signage program⁠—and don’t forget to keep the following DOs and DON’Ts in mind. 

DON’T put too much information on your signs.  

One of the most common signage mistakes is including too much information on every sign. According to wayfinding best practices, your signs should be designed on the basis of “progressive disclosure”⁠—meaning you only reveal the specific details required at each decision-making step in the navigational process. No more, and no less. Too much information on signs only serves to confuse people and make them tune out along the journey. 

The main reason companies end up making this mistake is because their signage consultants don’t design with content in mind from the very beginning. Signs affect how people interact with the environment and actually influence user behavior. What you put on the sign, how much you put on the sign, and the order in which you place that information, is more important than most people think. Yet some signage firms don’t put enough emphasis on the importance of information in design. 

DO prioritize information design in your signage program.  

The best signage consultants begin with a thorough analysis of your property’s body of navigational information. They consider which key destinations need to be featured on each sign, and strategize which directional cues will best influence how people circulate and use the space. All sign content gets simplified, streamlined, and organized within a proper hierarchy in order to make navigation more efficient and effective. For best results with your new corporate signage program, make sure that your signage designer considers information design just as important as visual design.

When Cadence invested in a wayfinding program for the newest building in their San Jose headquarters, they took a similar “big picture” approach to signage. Both the monument signage and interior/ exterior wayfinding signs were retrofitted to match the quintessential Cadence visual brand. Branded directory signs were added to help facilitate navigation through the multi-building complex. Each sign, both inside and out, presented streamlined directional information in line with progressive disclosure principles⁠ so that staff and visitors to the Cadence headquarters were able to navigate the buildings easily and efficiently.  

interior signage design

DON’T waste your money on over-designed signage elements. 

Some signage designers have a penchant for overdesigning their corporate programs. In some cases, every sign includes visually stunning elements that are, unfortunately, contradictory to the sign’s ultimate function. If you implement signs that are too fancy, too ornate, or too “out of the box,” the reality is that most end-users won’t be able to utilize those signs to navigate effectively. 

For example, let’s say that your signage program relies on arrows to direct foot traffic through a complicated environment. If your signage consultant presents a stylistic abstraction of an arrow that’s both futuristic and avant-garde, you might want to raise an objection. That pseudo-arrow isn’t going to communicate directionality in a way that staff and visitors to your building can interpret at first glance. There’s no reason to sacrifice the success of an entire wayfinding program for the sake of one artistic element.   

DO emphasize function over form. 

Every great interior signage design balances beautiful visuals with solid functionality⁠—and great signage consultants know to express their creativity within these expected norms. By partnering with the right company, you can invest in an aesthetically pleasing signage solution that still emphasizes function over form. Your signs don’t need to be boring or visually bland. But they do need to work. 

Workday’s signage program for their new Pleasanton headquarters exhibits the perfect blend of pleasing design and flawless functionality. Each of their directional signs involves an inspired combination of real wood accents, bright white backgrounds, and clear blue arrows. The signs also include universal iconography for elements like restrooms, coffee rooms, and other unique amenities, giving each sign a sense of playful creativity. These signs are 100% clear, while also communicating the unique Workday brand.  

interior signage design

DON’T base your interior signage design on temporary branding initiatives. 

Many companies choose to invest in new signage when launching a logo, a new style guide, or some other visual branding initiative. It only makes sense to rebrand your property along with your company, and signage is one of the best ways to communicate your new identity

Start by implementing new outdoor identification signage, and consider updating the entryway signage in your lobby—but be cautious about branding every single interior sign with your new standards. Companies update their visual brands more often than you might realize, and signage programs aren’t always cheap. Don’t waste your money on a heavily branded interior signage program that could soon become irrelevant.  

DO create timeless signs that will last for years to come. 

The best interior signage designs are timeless. They’re not bound to current trends, or to a fleeting interpretation of a fleeting brand ideal. They’re created to remain cohesive and consistent with your company’s brand while other decorative elements, like office decor, get updated according to the constantly changing trends. Invest in a signage program that’s appropriate, attractive, and fully integrated with your built environment⁠—but not necessarily dependent on a fleeting brand refresh. 

Timeless interior signs save money, time, and effort, especially in a market where companies are merging and changing rapidly. For example, when the original Barclay’s Global Investors building got rebranded as BlackRock, new identification signage was obviously needed. Consultants implemented impressive exterior monument signage to reflect this change. However, because the interior signage design was timeless and relevant, they were able to leave the interior signage untouched, saving Blackrock tens of thousands of dollars. 

Optimizing Your Interior Signage Design Investment

The truth is, most interior signage programs are fairly straightforward. Yes, every company maintains unique color schemes, font choices, and materials for their signs. But from office to office, nothing is wildly different. The best interior signage designs are built on the same foundational principles that create a successful wayfinding experience for all users. While the artwork may look different in the end, the overall canvas is the same.

Still, even though interior signage design is a fairly routine step in the development process, that doesn’t mean you should put it off until the last minute. Even the best signage consultants require 6-8 weeks of fabrication time, on top of the in-depth planning and strategizing stages that come before a design is even complete. Give the design process the time it needs and include interior signage design as an integral part of your development schedule. That way you can take the time to properly evaluate proposals and select a signage company that follows all the important DOs and DON’Ts.


We’ve been designing and implementing corporate sign programs at GNU Group for long enough to develop a never-ending DOs and DON’Ts list. If you’re looking to revamp your office environment with high-quality signage, let an expert handle all of those technical details. Connect with our team today.