If a store is the body of your business, a sign is your business' face. People will recognize and make value judgments about your store based on their impressions of your sign. To make a positive and profitable impact with a sign, step into the shoes of a consumer. Consider which signs draw you to certain businesses and which drive you away from others. Designing your own shop sign, besides drumming up more business, also can be a satisfying artistic exercise.
Calculate how big the sign will be, based on the space available, your budget and the minimum size needed to capture and hold the attention of potential customers. Measure the proposed sign location with a tape measure and consult sign manufacturers' price brochures. Significant Signs suggests that for every 10 feet of viewing distance, the type size should be 1 inch high. For example, if you want your sign to be visible from 30 feet away, make the lettering of your sign at least 3 inches high.
Make a scale drawing on paper that represents the shape and size you have calculated. For example, if you want a rectangular sign that's 2 feet wide by 4 feet long, draw a 5-by-10-inch rectangle.
Write notes on and take pictures of signs for shops similar to yours. For example, if you own a doughnut shop, take photos of signs of doughnut shops that compete with yours locally. Also, study the logos and graphic designs of websites with doughnut themes, such as Dunkin Donuts.
Sketch copies of the designs you like best, then lightly circle particular elements of those designs that seem essential and think about why that's so. For example, you may note that the bulbous lettering of the Dunkin Donuts logo evokes the essential roundness of a doughnut.
Make new sketches that preserve the essential elements you listed in the previous step while eliminating the non-essentials. For example, you might render the name of your doughnut shop in a rounded font.
Darken the sketch you like best. Stand back at least 10 feet from it and jot down impressions from this more objective viewpoint. In particular ask, "Does this sign communicate instantly that my shop has what a potential customer needs?"
Revise the sketch based on your notes from the previous step. Repeat the evaluation and revision process until you're satisfied with the sketch.
Scan the page into a design program such as Photoshop, Gimp or Inkscape, then make a vector tracing of the scanned image. Use instructions from your program's documentation to guide you.
Send the image to your sign manufacturer using the instructions it provided to you.