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I'm not a designer (as is probably obvious from the vague question), but I'm being asked to design the signage that will go on the front of our offices. Our logo is deliberately simple, blocky white text on black, with blocky black text on white below. The people we share an office with have a similar logo, but with somewhat thinner text.

Logo
Logo

Our front door is glass, and the area behind it is well lit. We'd like to print the logos / text onto transparencies and stick them to the glass, but this brings up some design issues that I'd like some professional opinions on. There's some slack in terms of what we do with the logo, in terms of what we make transparent, partial opaqueness, etc., and too many options to make test prints for all of them (the transparent print paper isn't cheap!)

My first thought was that we make the white parts transparent, and rely on the lightness of the background to shine through in place of the white. That works okay for us, because the blocky font still allows it to be readable. But our neighbours' logo uses quite thin black text on a white background, so I'm worried about readability.

Should I instead be trying to print in white/transparent, to allow the light behind the logo to diffuse through the white parts (instead of being blocked by the black)? That's obviously not possible on a standard printer so I can't test it, but the printers who'll be doing the final job will be able to I'm sure.

So, to be more succinct about the issues:

  • Should I be avoiding using black on transparent?
  • Is there any way to make thin dark text on transparent more readable?
  • Would partial transparency help me at all?
  • Are there any general design tips for making logos that work well on glass that might be relevant here?
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5  
Before investing in signage, invest in fixing the kerning on that logo first. –  DA01 Jun 25 '12 at 19:12
    
Duly noted, we've made do with the logo till now, its not something I really noticed consciously. We're not investing in the signage however, our landlord is getting the signs made, I just have to tell them what to get made up. –  MrCranky Jun 25 '12 at 20:09
    
What kind of budget are you working with? Could you instead of just doing a flat sign do a small lightbox and place the entire unit on the glass? That would probably be the slickest solution but also the most expensive. Also you can buy transparency paper in 8.5x11 at lots of stores to do test runs on a home printer. –  Ryan Jun 25 '12 at 23:42
    
Sounds like your logo is the easy case while your neighbours' logo (which if I read right, has to match?) is the difficult case - it'd be good to see the neighbour's logo –  user568458 Jun 26 '12 at 16:13

3 Answers 3

up vote 2 down vote accepted

Black on glass is pretty difficult to read unless you are right in front of it. This is why most transparent stickers you see are white. Black works if you're one or two feet away, but that's about it.

Partial transparency would most likely be a detriment and not helpful. It would further blur the lines of definition between the opaque areas and transparent areas. Since most of these stickers are created via a slik screen processes, you won't get smooth transparencies. You'll get halftone effects. And even witha very fine silk screen the results will never be the same as setting an object to 50% transparent in a software application.

If it were my logo, I'd simply reverse it and print the black areas in white and the currently white areas as transparent.

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Thanks for the feedback. I'm guessing if it were your logo the kerning would be better too :-) Seriously though, I know it's a weak logo, but we've made do with it till now. The black being the dominant colour was deliberate for the name of the company, but given that's not a key factor for the office door your suggestion of inverting the logo is probably a better options. –  MrCranky Jun 25 '12 at 20:06

You could be using a vinyl decal for the logo - that type of which only the black parts would be a sticker, without a transparent sticker surrounding it. If you are concerned with readability, you could add a white sticker to the other side of the glass, this would give it a nice 3D effect to it.

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For a simple decisionmaking process i find it helpful to at least mock it up in Photoshop. Take a picture from an angle that represents most views and try out the different options.

Personally I think your first approch sounds good as the letters as well as the whitespace look very readable. But try it out.

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