June 23, 2011

Sign language

U-turn.Here’s a piece of simple advice that I hope will help your next event: Invest in decent signage.

You can have the best piping/drumming competition, your Highland games might be a wonderful little gem, your gala evening might ultimately be great fun, but your first chance to impress is with a well-made sign.

I cringe every time I see hand-written directional signs on flimsy pieces of paper at otherwise high-profile piping competitions. Or, how many times have you driven to a Highland games and barely detected a wobbly board with spray-painted lettering and maybe an arrow for where to turn? Or, worse, tried to find an event that completely forgot to make signage?

It’s unprofessional and immediately implies that the organizers forgot to sweat the details. It makes me want to go home, and, I would bet, not a few people opt to do something else instead of take their chance on this apparently amateur event.

And, while it’s pretty easy to do-it-yourself, it’s an even better choice to set aside a few dollars and some time to invest in signage designed and made by a professional company. By making them reusable, your small investment will be a one-time effort with long-term results.

Signs. Good signs. Simple. Effective. Inexpensive. Professional. A lasting first-impression.


  1. …but always tell the pro designers how exactly you need your posters/ads, and always cast a careful checking glance at them before printing/airing. For instance, whoever designed the logo for Glasgow’s Piping Live! – a black long-haired silhouette with a white set of pipes – did not know that we pipers do NOT stick our heads between the middle tenor and the bass drum… At least not while playing!

  2. Well said. As you know, judges are expected to be “on site” fairly early in the day. I don’t know how many times the stress level has gone up a few clicks as I tried to find my way to a games location. If the judges (and most likely the competitiors) have difficulty finding the site, no wonder the “curious” general public might consider turning around and going to a Greek or Italian or whatever festival instead…

  3. Fred, the “through the bass drone” issue was well discussed on the dunsire forum, and it’s just an illusion due to the flatness of the image, the original photo was posted, basically her hair is covering the drone and it looks a little bit off in the logo…but at least they have a recognizable logo that communicates something with energy and interest.

    I wholeheartedly agree with this post. I’m so frustrated when Highland Games have bad or no signage. There are occasionally good signs, but no follow-through…meaning the final turn isn’t marked with a sign, or one of the turns along the way isn’t marked. The marketing budget (if there is one) really has to have good signs as part of it. Signs from every major intersection within a half mile or mile of the event would be amazing. SIgnage from the expressway or freeway would be remarkable.

  4. Thanx Todd. I first noticed that in 2007, when we played at George Sq as part of the Piping Live! thing. The logo is indeed so good that it took us a ten-feet banner to realise it. The ‘through the bass drone’ illusion thing escaped us totally in the pint-sized stickers! Anyway my band is organising a highland gathering for April/May next year, and the ‘designated designer’ I already foresee a nightmare involving Photoshop layers and Illustrator formats – but hey, at least they won’t be handwritten!



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