Technology That Puts Information at Our Fingertips – Free App to Help with Signage

Over the last few years, the emergence of smart phones and the associated apps has exploded. Ben Robinson, one of our signage experts in New Zealand looks at one such app that can help determine the right size font for signage.

by Ben Robinson

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I was surprised to recently hear my father tell me that the fax machine had added a lot of time pressure to the construction business he ran when it was introduced in the 80’s. It is hard to imagine that the move from the letter to the fax did this as we all wade through our inboxes.

It made me think of how the proliferation of smart phones and apps is transforming our ability to have the information we require at our fingertips, which I find is now freeing up some of my time.

A great example of this is the Font Size Calculator App, which you will find by searching for Font Size on the Apple App Store. It provides you with a suggested font size for signage depending on the viewing distance required. It lets you apply variables like High or Low light conditions, as well as a readability percentage between 1% and 99% (this refers to the percentage of the population that will be able to discern the suggested font size at the specified viewing distance). You input the viewing distance into the feet or meters field and it displays font size in points, inches or cm.

The skills of a designer or wayfinding expert are still required to insure font styles with less readability than others are suitability adjusted in size to achieve readability.

readability-vs-readability

Font and background colours also need to be considered so they provide sufficient contrast to achieve readability.

readability-2

As do sign positions which require legibility due to whether people are viewing the sign from a moving decision point like a car in an area with a lot of visual competition verse a static decision point with very little visual competition.

These and other aspects still need to be factored in, but it’s a big step forward that signage experts, designers, and clients alike can have this information at our fingertips with a free App.

Yes it’s free. So when you compare it to the historic alternative of $125 book I bought in the 80’s plus human factors, I have to say I am enjoying this technology. Especially considering the book I bought back in the 80’s probably now costs $200 and involves the cutting down of trees. So technology is putting information at our finger tips and providing a better environmental choice.


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  1. I just gave three sign workshops, and of course covered the ADA Visual sign character size chart that is now legally required for directional and informational signs within facilities, in the United States.

    This ap sounds as if it would be of great assistance, and I’m very curious to see what sizes it gives for people with vision impairments, in comparison to our chart. Back when Ken Etheridge and I first devised the chart as a suggested ANSI Standard, we unfortunately had only a few facts to go on. We used the sizes that had long been suggested for normally sighted people, and then applied the current ADA requirement for 3 inch characters when mounted above 80 inches, to extrapolate larger sizes for letters mounted lower on the wall, and viewed from various distances.

    I’m hoping that this ap is going to vindicate our work, but also refine it. I’ll be attempting to download it and maybe I can report back.

  2. The app was great, but seems they haven’t updated it as software updated. Any thoughts on how to get them to update it? I haven’t been able to track them down.
    -Nina

    1. Hi Nina,

      Ben Robinson, our National BDM, who originally wrote the article has said “I’ve noticed this app has not been updated. All I can guess is the company that produced it decided they were giving too much away? I would love to know how to get it to work again myself.

      Thanks,

      Kim @ Programmed

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