Look around your place of work. What do you see at every significant location? People, departments, even décor changes everywhere but one common feature is visible wherever you turn. We are talking about the signs of course. Directional and information signs are a staple of all workplaces and places that serve customers but this post is to reveal the deep thought and complexity hidden in this world of signs.
First, though, you may be forgiven for taking them for granted, but have you thought about the key role signs play in a place of business? Indeed, signs perform some very key functions.
- They improve productivity by enabling efficient navigation from place to place. People save valuable time in transit and more time doing what they must do. This is especially crucial for large establishments with multiple departments.
- They play an important role in customer service. More often than not a visitor to the premises comes with a specific purpose in mind. Helping them find their way to the right location and to accomplish that purpose with the minimum of inconvenience is a sure way to delight the customer.
- They convey a professional and structured image to visitors and employees alike. Use of the appropriate colours and fonts has been found to be a crucial element in aligning the feel of the workplace with the visual branding of the company. Employees also feel a sense of pride in a professional and classy workplace.
- Workplaces and places that serve a reasonable volume of visitors are also mandated by law to provide specific facilities. Different regulations demand different provisions and the appropriate signage is a key element in being compliant with these regulations.
It’s clear that several factors must be considered when designing signs so they can perform these functions effectively. What are these factors?
- How do they incorporate your company’s branding and corporate identity? Communication and branding guidelines will usually be very specific so you may need to use specific colours, fonts, language selections, and logos. How easy is it to achieve that with the signage systems you choose?
- Do the signage systems match your company’s image? This is not just about the text but the overall visual impact for eg. a design company may need extremely visually appealing signs, an ad agency may need signs that are more fun or light-hearted. How would you make that work?
- Visibility and legibility is key. The signs must be designed in such a manner that they can be understood from a reasonable distance. They must provide clear directions. They must be accurate and efficiently laid out to ensure minimum repetition. Some locations are harder to find than others and some locations see more footfall than others. Factors like these come together to define which locations should be identified by signs and how often. An optimal balance is necessary between too many signs, which are redundant and can confuse, and too few, which would defeat the very purpose of having them.
- An important factor is the changeability of signage graphics. This is a key criterion in certain environments like hospitals, where doctor lists and locations keep changing, or certain corporate environments where cabin signs need to be changed. Ask yourself the question, how easy will it be to change the signs, once made?
- Locations of business and of service must comply with several fire and safety regulations. Apart from the provision of appropriate fire-fighting equipment, chief among the requirements is the proper marking of the locations of the fire-fighting equipment, escape routes, assembly areas, and applicable safety rules. Adequate signage, appropriately placed, and reviewed regularly is key to compliance. Consider just how your signage system will help you comply?
- Many corporations, especially those with an international footprint, have very clear and specific workplace rules regarding Accessibility. Standards like the ADA specify norms for signage systems to follow –for eg. regarding providing directions in braille, specifying the heights for posting the signs, and so on. If your corporation follows these norms or wishes to follow these norms how compliant will your signage systems be?
- Responsible corporations around the world are paying greater attention to their environmental impact. This translates into a specified emphasis on the materials they use across the enterprise, including in their signage systems. You may already be considering questions like what is the carbon footprint of the signage systems you are using?
It is clear that there is more to corporate signage systems than just the writing on the wall. We hope that through this post we have been able to give a glimpse of what goes into the making of a creative, efficient, and compliant system. Does your signage system tick these boxes?