5 Things Every Church Needs to Know About Signage
Proper signage and branding are critical to a positive experience at church, especially for newcomers or first-time visitors. Think about it. How could we possibly navigate a large airport or hospital without relying completely on the signs around us? It would be a terrible experience.
It’s the same for a church. We’re already excited when new visitors are willing to come through our church doors. But how do we get them to come back again? Their first experience has to be easy and comfortable. New attenders typically prefer to blend in and navigate a new building without feeling stress or confusion. They should be able to find their way around without having to ask for directions. Aspen’s research with Barna validates that first-time guests—especially young adults—want visual clarity.
Create Third Place spaces in your church where people can connect and deepen their relationships with God and each other.
We asked Aion Solutions, a branding and signage company based in Valparaiso, Indiana, for the top things every church needs to know about signage and branding. Here’s their list of five key aspects of signage:
1. Put yourself in the shoes of a first-time guest
When Aion works with a church, they first evaluate the space for its general flow and determine where the problem areas are in the building. “We ask, ‘How are people going to move through the space?’” says Kevin Delahunty, president of Aion Solutions.
“Put yourself in the shoes of a first-time guest,” he says. “How would they feel if they were entering your church for the first time? How can you make them feel more welcome? How can you make them feel more comfortable?”
Your church signage should answer questions about where to go, where to park, which door to enter, where the restrooms are located, and where the kids should be dropped off.
“People make a decision in the first 15 minutes if they’re going to come back to your church,” says Delahunty. “The sooner you can make them feel welcome, safe, and comfortable, the more impact you’re going to have, and the more opportunity you’re going to have to be able to minister to that person in your church.”
Take a look around your church. Is their visual clarity? Can people clearly tell where to go and what to do?
2. Use signage to tell your church’s story
Apart from its functional benefits, signage, combined with good branding and design, can help convey the story of who you are as a church.
“When you combine both pieces—functionality and message—you have the ability to create something really special,” says Melissa Griffin, director of project management at Aion Solutions.
Griffin says the key to understanding how to produce good signage is to take time to look and listen for the authenticity behind the church.
“Our role is to find out what’s important to the church and what its mission is. Then we can create signage that translates the church’s mission and values into a visual story.”
Griffin adds that consistent signage and branding are even more important for multisite churches. “With one brand spread across multiple campuses, the need to maintain consistency and unity in your story is vital.”
3. Keep signage subtle and simple
Signage design is complex because you have to work to appeal to all generations. Factors like style and font can add to or take away from the look and feel of church signage. “The biggest challenge is actually simplifying signage,” says Delahunty. The goal, he says, is to strike a balance between design that’s fun and sophisticated, youthful but not childish.
“Your church signage shouldn’t be a big ‘Bam!’ in your face,” says Griffin. “Try to create something subtle, that you don’t even notice, but that your mind still processes and can easily follow.”
“With proper attention, striking the right balance is possible and will ultimately lead the building to become an extension of the ministry.”
4. Budget up front for signage
Churches often view signage as a secondary or optional design element in their church. It can be difficult to justify spending money on something that doesn’t feel like it’s giving you anything in return.
“Proper signage and branding isn’t fluff,” says Delahunty. “It’s a strategic way to minister to people so that they can find a place in your church.”
Instead of relegating signage to the bottom of the budget, it should be viewed as an investment that helps reap Kingdom returns.
“The experience you offer guests is invaluable, and ultimately, the more people that have a good experience, the more people return,” says Delahunty. “Once regularly attending your church, these people have an incredible opportunity to encounter the Lord and experience salvation and community within your church.”
5. Prioritize signage spending
If you know you can’t afford to do all signage, branding, and theming at once, Aion recommends prioritizing your spending. “Start with wayfinding, and then prioritize all other signage after that,” says Delahunty.
“The wayfinding part is the most critical, because if people don’t understand where to go, or they’re unsure how to get back to where their kids are, they’ll be preoccupied. They’re not going to hear what you have to say,” he says.
“One time I saw a mother who was crying at church,” he adds. “She couldn’t find where she dropped off her child for Sunday school. Better signage may have helped relieve her anxiety and helped her have a better first-time experience at this church.”
After wayfinding, Aion counsels churches to focus their spending in a few key areas to add graphics or a visual punch.
“If you’re going to spend money on one thing,” advises Griffin, “make sure it’s either the brand, like a logo or your name, or highlight your mission statement. That’s going to be what you convey to someone the first time—who you are. It’s the one thing that people will see when they first walk in.”
As you consider these top five keys to signage, how does your church measure up? Do you need to create more visual clarity in your building to help newcomers navigate your facility more easily? Are there simple, short-term fixes you can make to improve wayfinding throughout your building? Is signage and branding an afterthought at your church, or a key component in how you tell your church’s story?
About Shannon Jirik
Shannon Jirik serves as assistant brand manager for Keyhole Marketing.