If you’re already a Microsoft 365 subscriber, Word is an excellent application for creating your business’s signage. You can create signs that range from basic to intricate depending on your goals and needs. The best part? With Microsoft Word, you don’t have to be an expert graphic designer to create a professional-looking sign.
How to make signs in Word
Because there’s such a wide variety of possibilities, there isn’t a step-by-step guide that can encompass every type of sign you might need to create. Instead, there are a few key considerations to keep in mind that will help you make your sign as successful as possible.
One of the easiest ways to make a sign in Microsoft Word is to use one of the included templates. You can find pre-made examples of signs, flyers, brochures, and other marketing materials in the Word template library. Instead of creating something from scratch, use a template as a starting point to create a customized sign without spending a ton of time on formatting.
There are also third-party websites that create templates you can download and add to your Word template library. These templates usually have more intricate or modern designs than the ones Microsoft offers, so might have an easier time finding one that matches your design taste.
If you choose to start with a blank document, the first thing to consider is page orientation. Portrait orientation is best for signage with a lot of information, like flyers, posters, and infographics. Landscape orientation is ideal for signs that have minimal text but are intended to grab someone’s attention. Certificates, yard signs, and maps typically use landscape orientation.
New documents in Microsoft Word are set to portrait orientation by default. To switch to landscape orientation, navigate to the Layout tab on the ribbon toolbar, then select Landscape from the dropdown menu under Orientation.
As with most design materials, color plays a major role in the effectiveness of what you create. Color psychology—how the human brain responds to certain colors—can help guide you if you’re not sure what colors to use in your signage. For example, green signifies health, nature, and affluence, but it isn’t as eye-catching as red or yellow hues.
Similarly, contrast can be a big factor in whether your sign sticks out. If you use several colors with the same tone, your sign will lack the “pop” factor that grabs someone’s attention. For the best results, use a color palette that has a balance of bright and dark colors and creates visual interest.
The easiest way to find this balance is to pick colors from different rows in Microsoft Word’s color selection menu. The top row of light shades in the screenshot below would provide a good contrast with the shades on the bottom row, for example.
Ultimately, printing costs may be the biggest consideration when using color in your signage. Black and white print jobs are usually less expensive than printing in full color, so color might not be an option if you’re trying to stretch your budget. In this case, pay careful attention to the other elements of your design: shapes, space, lines, and typography. You can still have a successful design without color if you use these elements strategically.
You don’t necessarily need to include typography in your sign if your goal can be accomplished by using symbols like arrows, emojis, or icons. However, sometimes text is needed to provide context or clarification. You should use enough text to get your message across, but not too much that it clutters the sign. If you have a lot of information to include, consider putting it on a web page and creating a QR code or shortened URL that someone can access from a mobile device.
Typography font, size, and formatting are also important considerations. For example, a lightweight script font can connote elegance and sophistication, whereas bold block lettering can signify urgency and importance. Play around with different typography styles like the ones in the screenshot below to create balance and guide a viewer’s eye across your sign.
Especially if your sign is limited in terms of typography and color, graphics can make your sign more effective. Shapes, icons, and photos are examples of simple graphic elements that can elevate your sign without much effort. If you really want to take your design to the next level, consider using a 3D model, Smart Art, or chart to create a visual representation of the information you want to communicate through your sign.
You can find all of these options under the Insert tab of the ribbon toolbar:
Similar to typography, however, too many graphics on a sign can be overwhelming and detract from your ultimate goal. In general, it’s best to reserve thirty to forty percent of your design for empty white space.
Alternative graphic design tools
Microsoft Word is a versatile tool that can help you create a wide range of signs, but at the end of the day it’s still a word processing application and not specifically intended for graphic design. Thankfully, you don’t need a professional graphic design application like Adobe InDesign to create advanced signs. There are a number of design tools like Canva, Crello, and Snappa that are specifically for non-designers.
As you can see in the screenshot above, these tools offer bigger libraries of professionally-designed templates. Some, like Canva, also offer high quality printing services. If you step outside the Microsoft suite of tools, you can create signs that are even better than what you can create with Word.
This article was originally published on November 4, 2009. It was updated by Kaiti Norton.