Toolshed Tips: All About Signs!

All About Signs!

By Libby Weiland, Statewide Network Coordinator

Presenting…the long awaited Toolshed Tips…(wait for it)…on GARDEN SIGNAGE! Okay, you may be rolling your eyes right now or perhaps you’re just as excited as I am, but either way I think you’ll find something useful in this month’s tips and accompanying garden signage examples.

Why do I get so excited about signs? A great sign can give guidance when people are feeling lost, it can educate and communicate so people have the information they need to be successful, it can help to get people on the same page and avoid miscommunication common to shared-use spaces, and it can set the tone so that people get a good feeling and understanding about what you do (i.e. feel welcome, interested, want to participate).

That said, a poorly made sign can be just as ineffective as a well-made sign is effective. I’ve included a few highlights below from an article “Tips for Creating Effective Signage,” plus some extra tips from my tour around the community-based gardening world, for creating signage that is readable, appealing to the eye and carries the most impact.

Consider where your sign will be located–specifically where your reader is most likely to get the message and what obstacles may be in the way (literally!).

Chose a size for your sign and its lettering that is appropriate for the distance you expect your sign to be viewed from. Determine what size lettering is needed for your sign based on distance viewed by using this chart found in the above mentioned article.

Northeastern Vermont Regional Hospital Community Garden, St. Johnsbury, VT

Keep your message short, so that your sign is easier to see and read at a glance.

Habesha Gardens, Atlanta, GA

Avoid crowding your sign with too many words, lines of text, or pictures. 30-40% of the sign’s face area should be left as empty space for optimal readability.

Pick clean, crisp, easy-to-read lettering styles. Also, studies have shown that use of upper-and-lower-case-letters increases readability from a distance (rather than relying on all-capital-letters).

Green Street Community Garden, Hinesburg, VT

Use bold to give priority to certain parts of your message.

Manchester Community & Education Garden, Manchester, VT

Add a border–shown to increase reading speed by up to 25%.

Community Teaching Garden, Burlington, VT

Use color to brighten your message and attract the reader.

Highgate Apartments Community Garden, Barre, VT

Pick colors that contrast well so that your text is most legible from a distance. Read the full article for results from a study by Outdoor Advertising Association of America (OAAA), ranking the most legible to the least legible color combinations.

#1 legibility = black on yellow (Alexandria, AU)

see how different color-combos are easier or less easy to read (Cheltenham School Community Garden, Denver, CO)



Consider literacy and language limitations of your readers. Translate, use commonly understood words, and include pictures to illustrate when possible and appropriate.

La Plaza Cultural Community Garden, NYC

Include contact info where appropriate, so that people have a way to follow-up with questions or to get involved!

Growasis Community Garden, Denver, CO

Step into the shoes of your reader when considering what information to include. What do they need to know to be successful and to understand what you are trying to communicate? Is there too much information or too little?

Edible Brattleboro gardens, Brattleboro, VT

Freeport Community Garden, Freeport, ME

Check out our photo gallery for more examples of garden signs from around Vermont and beyond; plus a separate photo album dedicated to community composting signs. Also, check out Life Lab’s own compilation of favorite youth garden signs.

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