Since Social Distancing Isn’t Going Anywhere Soon, It’s Time to Refresh and Rebrand Your Safety Signage


Let’s start with the good news: the third surge has subsided and a wider rollout of COVID vaccines is a real source for optimism that the worst of the pandemic is behind us.

Now for a slightly less pleasant dose of reality: a fourth surge, in some form, is likely and, according to a recent modeling study published in the journal Science, the effects of the pandemic and the mitigation strategies deployed to control will be around for some years yet.

One of the most burdensome restrictions, social distancing, will unfortunately be with us at least until 2022 and possibly longer.

Still the Best Defense

We’ve learned a lot about this illness over the course of the pandemic. Some guidance from the CDC changed over time, but one top-line recommendation remains: “Limiting close face-to-face contact with others is the best way to reduce the spread of coronavirus disease.”

People are social creatures. It’s just not in most individual’s nature to completely avoid others, which is why social distancing has been so difficult both emotionally and logistically. Keeping six feet away from anyone not from your household is particularly challenging in venues that were designed to hold crowds like office buildings, retail outlets, schools, auditoriums, and hospitals.

But, when practiced in combination with other proven prophylactic measures like masking and routine sanitization, social distancing prevents the spread of the virus so that businesses and other organizations can still safely let people gather.

Restrictions Ease, but Aren’t Gone Entirely

Across the country and the globe, countries, states, and municipalities are gradually adjusting or removing some of the restrictions they put in place in the early months of the pandemic. Schools are letting kids back in, and the CDC reduced its social distancing recommendation for classrooms from six to three feet. Some states like Texas and Arizona eliminated their mask mandates almost entirely.

All these changes are very much still in flux and subject to further modification as conditions on the ground fluctuate, but, in general, there are signs of movement back towards allowing large gatherings. Even baseball season will look a little more normal this Spring as stadiums permit thousands to attend in person for opening day.

Top of mind for leaders preparing for these changes and the return of in-person shopping, working, learning, and play should be ensuring that their guests and employees are not only protected but that they feel safe in their environment. A secondary, but still important goal, should be using this opportunity to enhance their brand experience by sharing their values and personality in their signage, communications, and practices..

Here are five smart tips for optimizing your safety signage in preparation for the next phase of the pandemic:.


Handwritten, dogeared flyers hastily scotched-taped to your window may have been acceptable in the mad dash of the early days of the pandemic, but by now there has been more than enough time to upgrade to something a bit more professional, polished, and fitting with your brand.


Research by the Portland Bureau of Emergency Management found that social distancing signage was most likely to be followed when the instructions were:

  • Short
  • Upbeat
  • Easy to Understand

If there is a ton of fine print you feel should be included, consider adding a QR code linking to a landing page or portal addressing your safety protocols in-depth.


Unless your brand is truly no-frills, strait-laced, and all-business, you should look for opportunities to express your unique characteristics in your safety signage. Customers are tired of boring and plain signs and are increasingly likely to tune them out. Make your message known but use interesting, unique, and evocative language and imagery to call attention to it and make it memorable.


Though they are primarily serving to keep everyone healthy and protected while in your facility, your social distancing and other safety signage is also there to represent you and serve as another small but important touchpoint in the overall customer experience. Match your signage to your visual and verbal brand language, with special attention to details such as:

  • Color
  • Materials
  • Location
  • Size
  • Tone of Voice
  • Logos

You’ll catch more flies with honey, as they say. Scary and brusque warnings often have the unintended effect of reducing adoption of their guidance. Individuals are much more likely to adhere to restrictions when they are presented as a helpful suggestion rather than a stern demand.

“Top of mind for leaders preparing for these changes and the return of in-person shopping, working, learning, and play should be ensuring that their guests and employees are not only protected but that they feel safe in their environment.”

Plus, using language, colors, and imagery that aren’t excessively alarming or stress-inducing can go a long way towards instilling a sense of common purpose and making your facility feel welcoming.

Finish Strong!

This pandemic has brought on once in a century challenges. It has upended our normal routines and reshaped the way we work, play, shop, and live. Still, we must remain resilient and adaptive. Progress is being made, the world is opening back up, and we are slowly starting to see signs of the end of the pandemic coming into view.

Now is precisely the wrong time to throw caution to the wind or become complacent about maintaining safe and welcoming environments. Rather, it’s a moment to reflect on the insights we have gained to optimize our processes and messaging. With smart design choices, we can continue to provide safe, functional, thoughtfully branded, welcoming, and gratifying experiences for employees, patients, customers, fans, and guests.


Hanlon and its subsidiary Branded Spaces specialize in designing and implementing strategically branded safety, wayfaring, and other signage that promote positive, prudent, low-friction brand experiences. Reach out to today to discover how we can enhance your facility and brand experience.