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What are the colors of informational signs?

What are the colors of informational signs?

Informational signs serve an important purpose in providing guidance, warnings, and other useful details to people in public spaces. The colors used on these signs are carefully chosen to convey different meanings and make the signs easily recognizable. In this article, we will explore the common colors used on informational signs and the meanings behind them.

Regulatory Colors

Regulatory signs give instructions that must be obeyed. There are three main colors used for regulatory signs:

Red Used for stop, yield, do not enter, and wrong way signs
Black Used for one way directional arrows
White Used for regulatory text like speed limits

Red is universally associated with stopping and danger, so it grabs people’s attention on critical signs where adherence is required for safety. Black contrasts clearly against the sign’s white background. White stands out well against green guide signs.

Warning Colors

Warning signs alert people to possible hazards and dangers ahead. There are two primary colors for warning signs:

Yellow Used as background color on warning signs
Black Used for warning text and symbols

Yellow is bright and eye-catching, universally understood to signal caution. Black provides clear contrast against the yellow. Warning signs may also have a black panel at top, bottom, or both with yellow letters conveying supplemental information.

Guide Colors

Guide signs provide information to direct people to destinations, facilities, services, and more. Guide signs predominantly use these colors:

Green Used as background color on guide signs
White Used for text like place names, arrows, and mileage

The green background stands out distinctly from the surrounding environment. White text and symbols contrast sharply against the green for excellent legibility. Additional colors like blue, brown, or orange may indicate types of destinations like hospitals, cultural sites, recreational areas.

Other Informational Colors

Some additional standard colors are used on signs providing other types of information:

Brown Used for signs to historic sites and parks
Blue Used for signs to roadside rest areas, hospitals, and service stations
Orange Used for signs in construction zones and work areas
Purple Used for signs indicating lanes restricted to high occupancy vehicles

These colors visually communicate the type of information presented even before reading the sign’s text. They help attract attention to important informational details.

Accessibility Standards

In addition to conveying meaning through color, informational signs also adhere to accessibility standards to aid people with visual impairments or color blindness. Key considerations include:

– Contrast levels between text/symbols and sign background colors
– Use of uppercase for major words and lowercase for prepositions on text-heavy signs
– Symbols designed for quick recognition and understanding
– Tactile texturing and Braille incorporated

Meeting accessibility requirements ensures informational signs can be read and understood by all people to safely navigate spaces.

Sign Illumination

For increased visibility at night and in low light conditions, many informational signs are retroreflective or illuminated.

Retroreflective coatings reflect light back towards its source. This makes signs appear lit up when headlights shine on them. Overhead lighting can provide similar illumination.

Some signs are internally illuminated, meaning they have their own built-in light source. This ensures they are conspicuous 24/7. Illuminated signs are commonly powered by solar panels and LED lights for energy efficiency.

Material Durability

Informational signs are constructed from durable materials suited for long-lasting outdoor exposure and use. Common materials include:

– Aluminum – Resists corrosion, remains legible despite weathering
– Fiberglass – Impact resistant and virtually maintenance free
– Polycarbonate – Withstands high sun, heat, and cold extremes
– Reflective vinyls – Provide reflectivity for retroreflective signs
– Porcelain enamel – Extremely scratch, fade, and graffiti resistant

Sign substrates and coatings protect against wear, fading, and vandalism over years of service. Their durability retains the legibility of colors, text, symbols, and illumination.

Importance of Standardization

It is essential for informational sign colors and designs to be standardized. Consistent use of colors, symbols, placement guidelines, illumination, and accessibility features helps signs effectively convey meanings safely to all pedestrians and drivers navigating an environment.

Standard manuals like the FHWA’s Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices provide unified criteria for all traffic signs on roadways across America. This aids sign recognition, understanding, and compliance. Similar standardization principles apply to other informational signage applications.


Informational signs employ colors strategically selected to convey regulatory, warning, guide, and other messages to the public. Standardized colors like red, yellow, green, black, and white make signs easily recognizable. They allow people to quickly understand the meaning and importance of the message before them. Accessibility adaptations and sign illumination further aid legibility. Durable materials retain legibility across years of service. Consistent use of colors and design standards helps informational signs provide for public safety and effective wayfinding.