You’ve seen it before: embarrassing mistakes on signs that leave you wondering what the business owners were thinking. It’s good for a laugh, but not if you’re the butt of the joke. Sometimes it’s clear how the mistake was made. Perhaps it was a poor translation attempt, or maybe the business owner isn’t up to speed on the latest slang.
Ideally, the company creating your signage will clue you in if there’s a spelling error or potentially embarrassing detail. After all, that’s what you’re paying them for: their experience and professionalism. However, sometimes details slip through the cracks, or businesses go with a signage company with dismal customer service. Research the company and quadruple-check your design, but also follow these tips to avoid future shame.
1. Use a certified translator
If you’re creating a sign that’s in a language different from your native tongue, always get a certified translator. Visit South Korea and you’ll notice a number of women and children sporting T-shirts adorned with four-letter words. The meaning of the F-word in South Korea has been wrongly “translated” to mean something akin to “really good.” Don’t rely on your friends, online translation tools or strangers on Facebook for help.
2. Ask for multiple opinions
If you’re spending significant money on a sign, make sure it reads well to everyone, especially your audience. Ask your colleagues, employees, friends and family, and even consider a focus group or online poll for big decisions like new storefront signage. What you think reads as funny, punny, professional or standout may actually look amateurish.
3. Think like a vandal
Would it be really easy for a vandal with a can of spray paint to turn your sign into something lewd or offensive? Some things are just way too tempting for some low-level criminals, and their handiwork can completely destroy your brand-new sign. You might become famous for all the wrong reasons and end up on one of those “Most Ridiculous Signs” list, which isn’t the kind of marketing you’re looking for.
4. Think twice before putting up your picture
It can be really alluring to think about seeing your face plastered across signs, but don’t let vanity get the best of you. That professional photo might not be as appealing as you think—and some passersby might believe you’re begging for a moustache, blacked-out tooth or horns. Many times, a different image or a logo is a better choice.
Particularly for smaller businesses, it can be appealing to save costs by skipping translators, graphic designers and editors. This is a huge mistake, and one you don’t want plastered on a sign in front of your business.