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AdminSep 23, 2020 10:18:06 AM7 min read

Retail Signage Ideas to Market Your Business

The lease is secured, the website is almost finished and you’re getting ready to open the doors.You want to create as much awareness as possible and start brainstorming retail signage ideas.

However, what does it take to create an experience that attracts customers and is authentic to your brand? First, we wanted to share an interesting statistic from the Sign Research Foundation.

Statistic from Sign Research Foundation

From visual merchandising to literally hanging graphics from the ceiling, there are many types of retail signage to consider. And many articles on the web that cover the subject. However, we had not found many with insights or tips from designers that had worked on these types of environments.

So we contacted our friend Stephen Killion and he let us pick his brain on how to generate retail signage ideas. Stephen is an associate creative director at Leviathan, a creative design studio in Chicago. Their team has worked on numerous retail and experiential projects. More on Leviathan:

“With such varied backgrounds as motion design, architecture, software engineering and brand strategy under one roof, we bring a unique perspective and increased efficiency to solving complex problems for branded environments, themed entertainment, public spaces, events and retail.”

Retail Perspective from Leviathan and Stephen Killion

So, how do you start to think of retail branding and signage?  

Who Are You?

As the Who once sang: Who are You? It’s a good question and great place to start. And gives me an excuse to add a video to this blog of one of my favorite bands.

“A signage package should reflect the ethos of the brand itself,” says Stephen. If the brand is quiet or reserved, consider an understated or minimal design. Big and bold brand? Then go for super scale storytelling. Killion points out there is no one sign that fits all:

“A shake shack and a jewelry store are not going to have the same type of signage. And that’s OK.”

However, this doesn’t mean you can’t get inspiration from other businesses. Firstly, see what bigger companies are doing. Walk into a Target. Observe what’s working and pay attention to what isn’t.

“Don’t find inspiration on the internet,” Stephen says, “Go see a movie or go to a museum.” Yes, really.  Just don’t forget your mask and hand sanitizer. “Get away from yourself to be inspired.

Above all, step away from your computer and leave the phone.

Stephen Explains Where to Get Inspiration for Retail Signage Ideas

Secondly, branding and experience design is a balance of messaging and interior design decisions. Therefore, “Material selection and detailing say a lot about who you are as a company,” Stephen says. “Wayfinding and placemaking should have a personality, and not just be an afterthought.”

In other words, what story you are selling? Luxury? Lifestyle? Excitement? Incorporate it.

Just be clear.

“Impactful content and motion graphics should elevate the story, not create clutter,” Stephen says.

Resource: Check out Anagrama.

Above all, make it a memorable experience. Surprise your customers. 

“Create unexpected branding moments,” Stephen says. For instance, Stephen points out the Bloomingdale’s brown bag, which is iconic.  It’s hard not to think of the Bloomingdales brand without thinking of the bag. Many people may not know it was designed in 1973 by Massimo Vignelli.

Now that you have some ideas on how to stay true to your brand, let’s talk more about actual graphics and tips for making the most of them.

Get Subscribers (and Customers) BEFORE You Open

Windows are a marketing tool and on every day, 7 days a week. Build a client base before the doors open. Don’t just install “Coming Soon” window signage.  Add a “call to action” to get people to follow on social channels such as Instagram or Twitter. In addition, list promotions. For instance, the Salons By JC graphics give you so many reasons to take a closer look.


Retail Signage With Phone Numbers and Website URL

List Promotions and Contact Information

After that? Consider adding your newsletter signup url. For instance, and encourage people to subscribe.  As people do, tease out your open date. Write a blog on products you’ll carry. Ask people to tell you about their favorite brands or stock they would like to see.

More Retail Signage Displays

In addition, list your site in a font that won’t be forgotten. There are many to choose from and we’d be remiss to list just one option (just as there is not one sign that fits all environments, as Stephen mentioned.) However, here are some resources Stephen shared for font ideas:

Websites for Ideas on Fonts To Use

And live links to each:


Unique Signage Investment  

You’ve invested time and energy in your unique concept. Therefore, forgo stock photos. In Mark Schaefer’s insightful Marketing Rebellion, he quotes a marketer named Fabio Tambosi, who works for Adidas. While there are many takeaways in the book (too many to list in this blog post), Fabio’s quote pops into my head at least once a month:

“Today marketers can’t just be in a city. That have to be of a city.”

Isn’t this true for entrepreneurs as well? For your business signage, how about an authentic visual of your neighborhood? Or images that reflect your connection to the city’s culture or the essence of your brand? Why settle for stock photography when you could work with a commercial photographer in your city. 

Logo for Wonderful Machine

Use Wonderful Machine to connect with photographers around the world. The art production agency has a network of 600 photographers in 44 countries. Read up on talented creatives and make a connection. Retail graphics don’t have to be limited to your windows, either.


Bill Cramer CEO of Wonderful Machine

Capture photos from your region or town, print them to canvas, and add to your walls. Or install wall graphics that incorporate original photos into a design. By using a local photographer, you’ll support a fellow small business owner too. You’ll be growing your local community. Once the work is complete, write a joint announcement detailing the partnership. In addition, contact local media. Maybe a publication will write about your unique collaboration.

Be Accessible

Yes, ADA is about accessibility. It also creates a welcoming experience for all customers. It’s not just the right thing to do: it’s a federal law which celebrated 30 years in 2020. Many times your general contractor will not be able to turn a space over until it’s fitted with ADA compliant signs. Nothing to panic about: many sign companies know the details on ADA and take the stress out of the process. 

Americans with Disabilities Act Celebrates 30 Years

It’s not just public spaces. For instance, websites are following suit and there are companies focused on this niche. In many cases you won’t need to redesign a website.  These software companies offer artificial intelligence which scans your website to re-purpose your content to align with ADA standards. In other words, create a website and retail experience for everyone!

Around the Shop

Prospective buyers in your shop? Awesome. You have done the hard work, gave them a reason to step inside, and they are steps away from making a purchase. Therefore, engage them! Use in-store signage to get them on your social channels, tell them about your website, and upcoming promotions. You don’t need limitless budget.

Back to Stephen: “If you have a small budget, do more with less,” he says. “Instead of trying to brand the entire space – use a mural or approach the high impact accent wall – which brings the whole place to life.”

Stephen Killion Discusses Retail Signage on a Small Budget

In conclusion, how does the environment line up with who you are and your goals? Will you need to create corner branded moments or add shelf talkers to drive attention to product? “Bucketfeet is a very smart local story. Their retail shops have a boutique feel and artists create the designs.” On the flip side are large brands in large spaces. “I started out designing point of sale graphics for Foot Locker,” says Stephen. “It’s a high foot traffic space, and you need to drive attention to the product as soon as possible.”

What’s Next?
Think about your goals and what you hope to accomplish in your retail space. No matter what, keep your customer in mind. What are some other ways you have engaged customers in store or online? We’d love to hear from you. Leave a comment or get  in touch at marketing AT