OUCH! ANSI Safety Signage & Graphic Design Basics


Warning Sticker Hair Caught in Machine

Yes, I will keep the cover closed!

Not a very attractive image but it certainly makes me want to stop and consider how not to wind up in that position. The graphic design of workplace safety signage is built around the need to be instantly understandable, not subtle or creatively compelling. They want you to get your hand out of the way – NOW! – not necessarily admire the design of the warning itself. Good design in the safety sticker world is less about aesthetics and more about what speaks universally in a loud and direct way.

So we took a look around our shop: presses, cutters, folders, inserters, laminators… all with their own safety manuals and inherent accident risks. Finding a few warning signs was no problem. As the machinery is manufactured in various places both in the US and internationally, the signage varies somewhat although most follow the recognizable ANSI guidelines. ANSI, the American National Standards Institute, is a non-profit organization that oversees standards and guidelines in nearly every economic sector.  Their work helps ensure consumer safety, environmental protection, and promotes the US position in a global economy. Their standards for safety signage in the workplace were adopted by  OSHA (the Occupational Safety & Hazard Administration) in 2013. These ANSI Z535 safety sign standards strive to make all safety signage more instantly understandable by combining standardized headers with explanatory text and an increased use of pictograms.

Judging by the warning signs in our shop, hands seem to be in the most danger.

Warning stickers in the workplace


Workplace warning stickers


Workplace warning stickers


Workplace warning stickers


Know Your Objective

Safety signage is graphic design at it’s most elemental: get instantly noticed, understood and influence behavior. Pain and the avoidance of bodily harm are generally easy selling points, so ANSI signage relies on the basics of color coding, bold typography and straightforward text. When evaluating more complex, sophisticated design projects, discerning the objective and the most straightforward means to relay that can often be a good starting point to both begin the design and later to evaluate it’s effectiveness.

Of course, there’s always that one that could use a little more work:

Warning sticker on machinery



Adhesive vinyl labels, contour cut lettering, wide format printing, removable wall graphics and murals, floor graphics, window signage: all available from Imagesmith.  ImageSmith always provides you with the latest information, inspiration, technical advice, and innovative ideas for communicating your message through print, design and typography, signage, apparel, variable data printing and direct mail, integrated marketing and environmental responsible printing. We work with you to solve any marketing problems. The best advice, always, is to ASK YOUR PRINTER. Ask Imagesmith!
Call us at 828.684.4512. ImageSmith is a full-service print and marketing provider located in Arden, North Carolina. Contact us at ImageSmith for quotes on all your print and marketing projects, and more useful tips on how to create custom, effective, high impact marketing solutions.