Last week, I was walking in Boston when I came across this sign. There was nothing special about the sign that grabbed my attention, I just happened to be looking in its direction. However, once I saw it, I stopped. I read the top line, “2nd Time,” and was (for a split second) instantly puzzled by the bottom line. The upside down characters in “around” were calling for me to reorient myself relative to the sign to parse out its significance. It wasn’t until precisely my second attempt at reading the sign, that I fully processed its meaning. I felt as if I had been duped by a couple of design consultants who created this sign years ago for the company, but nonetheless, it made me ponder what makes up a well-designed storefront sign.

It’s obvious that the sign should express the purpose of the store. This sign is an advertisement for a clothing resale business, so it makes sense that its logo describes this secondary market with the slogan, “2nd time around”. Additionally, a good sign should engage the viewer beyond the visual level and maybe make the viewer stop in front of its store. Well this sign did that to me. Perhaps, the designers took advantage of my love for puzzles, and the initial confusion — from the upside down letters — was enough bait for me to spend the next moment rereading the sign. But I was impressed that this simple object and clever design so concisely expressed this dual purpose: state the company’s mission and attract potential consumers.