Working with a signage company – a guide for creative agencies and designers

A key priority for creative agencies and in-house designers when briefing any type of signage project is accuracy of implementation. Finding a team that you can trust to manage the whole project lifecycle and take away any headaches is fundamental. We regularly work with designers to bring their design vision to life and make sure the end-product is a faithful interpretation of the brief. Here we outline our tried and tested process:

1. Understanding the design brief
Interpreting a design and manufacturing it in three dimensional format is a specific discipline. The first step is to fully understand the brief; the type of signage needed, suitable material options and how it could be manufactured to the standard required. This discussion can help our experts advise on any potential colour or material issues. For a designer, it’s often useful to see samples of the different materials and finishes available, look at brand colour schemes and view similar projects.

2. Budget consultancy
Based on the brief, the project manager can make recommendations for the signage solution and advise on the budget. Technical knowledge is needed to either select the highest quality materials, or suggest more cost-effective alternatives to suit the budget, while keeping to the designer’s vision.

3. Concept and specification
At this stage, we outline how the elements of the project will be fabricated to meet the design intent. A 3D graphic visualisation allows designers to view proximity, heights, colour schemes and all necessary details and helps to flag up any tweaks needed in the design. It can also be used as a basis for a planning permission application if required. Next, the materials are selected with structural integrity, cost or longevity in mind and a quotation will be generated with detail of the size and material selected itemised.

4. Site visit
Sometimes we’re sent a set of design sketches or initial graphics, but a site visit gives a true feel for the project, potential limitations or opportunities, and sparks ideas about formats and materials. During the visit, we’ll assess exact requirements, taking the target audience into account. The assessment will cover potential signage locations, substrates and ground conditions for posts and footings and accurate measurements to confirm signage dimensions.

The surrounding environment is also an important consideration as site location can be diverse; it’s important to consider elements like anti-graffiti finishes in a city centre, durability in a busy public space or wind-loading calculations on an exposed rural site. If signs are being fitted at height and specialist equipment is needed, a technical survey will highlight any issues like accessibility, power supply, terrain, vehicle access and the structure of the building supporting the sign. This is an opportunity to scan the area for underground services and cables so we can advise the install team about potential hazards. We also consider flora and fauna and ensure we protect the environment where possible when installing.

5. Design and prototyping
Accurate interpretation of the design is something we’re fastidious about and we often create prototypes to make sure the designer or client is happy. Sometimes brand colours look different depending on the substrate, so we test this to ensure accuracy. In a recent customer survey, 92% of respondents said we met the requirements of their brief ‘extremely clearly’ or ‘very clearly’: getting the design right through prototyping is key to this.

6. Approval
A final PDF visual for client approval is always sent before the manufacturing process begins. These drawings contain dimensions, materials and sometimes an annotated image of the installation location. Once approved, the job will be issued, and the manufacturing begins in line with any timescales identified.

7. Manufacturing
We manufacture a large amount of our projects in-house, using our state-of-the-art printing EFI VUTEk LX3 Pro printer and computer numerical controlled routing machines, which are operated by highly trained staff. Some projects require outsourcing to specialists, and we have a wide network of trusted suppliers to cherry-pick from if that’s the case.

8. Installation
Ensuring every project is installed safely, securely and will stand the test of time is paramount. Install teams operate in multiple environments; on a construction site, at height, in public spaces or on waterfronts. A risk assessment is always carried out and a method statement provided for approval, which is read and signed by the installation team. 

On completion, we create a picture database as evidence of every installation, which ensures consistency across multiples sites or if identical signage is needed. We can arrange professional photography to share if required for the designer’s portfolio or marketing materials.  Removal and disposal of any temporary signage is also possible.

When we work with designers, our priority is helping them deliver the project smoothly for the end client. We can work as part of your team or as a stand-alone preferred supplier. If you have a signage or wayfinding project you’d like to talk to us about, please contact Joanna Goodchild at [email protected] or call 01252 336 000.

Reade Signs achieves Gold membership with Constructionline

Working in the property and construction sector, we need to maintain extremely high standards and ensure we adhere to health and safety regulations. We’re very pleased to say that we now have Gold membership status with Constructionline.

The process of certification required validation checks using a pre-qualification questionnaire. Our credentials were assessed for environmental management, quality management, equal opportunities, modern slavery act adherence and anti-bribery and corruption policies. We were also assessed for SSIP and were ‘deemed to satisfy’ SSIP certificates for health and safety – something that all construction buyers look for in supplier selection. 

Existing clients also had to provide testimonials about the quality of our work.

Please view our other accreditations here. For further information about our range of services for the property and construction industry, please get in touch on 01252 336000 or email [email protected]

Manufacture and installation of 400 wayfinding signs at the V&A

Image courtesy of Sam Bush and dn&co

The V&A is the world’s leading museum of art and design, with a permanent collection of over 2.3 million objects. The Museum engaged award winning designers, dn&co to design a new wayfinding scheme. Developed in collaboration with allpointswest, the new system helps guide visitors through its vast 145 galleries, inviting them to explore the lesser-known parts of the museum collection. 

Reade Signs won a competitive tender to supply the signage for the entire scheme throughout this iconic building. The project was recently featured in Design WeekCreative Review and Wallpaper.

As part of the project, we manufactured and installed over 400 directional signs made from Valchromat – a type of MDF. We selected this material because it’s uniquely dyed all the way through and cuts very well. The edges of all the sign panels were chamfered, so we needed a material that would give us a crisp cut. The signs were then faced with beautiful tulipwood veneers, which were dyed black. Tulipwood is pinkish yellowish wood, which is very light, but also very strong. This makes it a perfect choice for quality signage that will stand the test of time.

The hanging signs had to be very light, due to the physical constraints of the building, so we used another unique material called Banova plywood. This is a material made from sheets of laminated balsa wood and is very strong and unbelievably light. These signs were also faced with dyed tulipwood veneer.

When the Victoria and Albert Museum was founded in 1852, the buildings were intended to represent the best of contemporary architecture and design. Victorian parts of the building have a complex history, with additions made by different architects over the years. Many of the wall and ceiling materials were unknown to us, so we had to research and create multiple bespoke fixings that both protected the listed building and made it safe for visitors.

Philippa Simpson, Director of Design, Estate and FuturePlan at the V&A said: “Installing wayfinding at the V&A was an ambitious and enormously complex undertaking, and relied on excellent communication and collaboration. Reade Signs were a pleasure to work with throughout, showing sensitivity to the demands of the Grade 1* listed building as well as a full understanding of the design intent. They were quick and innovative in proposing solutions to any challenges, and made sure any disruption to the day-to-day operations of the museum was kept to a minimum.”  

The finished signs look fantastic and help visitors to make the most of their experience of this iconic and beautiful museum

All Images courtesy of Sam Bush and dn&co

What’s the most impactful signage to help promote your new housing development?

Over the years we’ve learnt a lot from our work in the property sector. We often get asked about the best site signage options to help new developments stand-out and the most effective ways to capture buyer interest from passing traffic. Head of key accounts, James Herbst, specialises in the property sector and here he identifies the six most effective types of signage and the things to consider for each option:

1.      Development site hoarding

All building sites must have site hoarding to protect the site and the public. This is the best and most cost-effective form of advertising for the development. It provides a large space for advertising and is reasonably priced, compared to other types of advertising media.

Printed ACM is the most popular means of installing graphics onto the hoarding structure and is also very effective in making the construction site more attractive – a big positive for local residents.

There are several ways that hoarding graphics can be enhanced to accentuate certain messaging or branding, as well as provide night-time exposure too. This includes:

  • Built-up 3D letters with LED internal illumination or halo illumination
  • Lightboxes – either flush inlaid or surface mounted
  • Reflective vinyl graphics
  • Raised hoarding sections
  • 3D or protruding elements
  • Creative or unusual surface covering.

Depending on budget, the site hoarding can be fully or partially clad. It’s vital to have a good understanding of the phasing of the development at design stage; taking a considered approach allows for flexibility with messaging or future project updates.

2.      Printed site banners

Most developments will at some point have scaffold structures in place as the building progresses. The scaffold structure also provides a huge area for advertising or to mask the construction site. Printed banners can be fixed to the scaffold structure with a perimeter stand-off frame that will ensure an even, flat surface for a well-tensioned banner.

Generally, a printed mesh PVC banner is the popular choice, but the readability is often compromised due to too much natural light from above or below. There are good, lightweight and solid PVC products that are better suited and don’t affect the wind-loading on the scaffold structure too much. It’s always a good idea to have discussions around banner requirements ahead of the scaffold structure being erected. We can then guide the scaffolder in designing the scaffold structure to be able to withstand the weight and wind-loading of the banner.

The banner can be further enhanced with the addition of LED flood lights on projecting arms from the top and bottom.

3.      Site gates

Due to the volume of traffic entering and exiting the site gates, branding on the gates can start to look tatty quite quickly. Hoarding contractors also often supply gates that are not designed to take the load of timber ply and printed ACM. Printed mesh banners are a good option in these instances, as this eliminates the weight concerns and is reasonably inexpensive to replace if it’s damaged by site traffic or becomes dirty. This ensures that the site entrances look neat for the duration of the build.

4.      Banners and flags

These are a very effective and inexpensive way of branding a site. They are often used to direct people towards the sales and marketing suites, site entrances or strategically placed along the hoarding line at the rear. Lightweight aluminium poles are available off-the-shelf, which are already structurally calculated and are very easy to install, whether it’s being braced to the rear of the hoarding or planted into the ground with sleeves.

It’s worthwhile getting the best quality flag as in windy and dusty conditions, the flags will need to be replaced from time to time. We recommend knitted polyester flags that are hemmed.

The flags can drape, which gives a level of movement and animation as they blow in the wind. Alternatively, banner flags will ensure the flag retains its shape and that the logo and core marketing messages are always visible. There are several off-the-shelf options available in standard sizes and where there is a requirement for a larger banner or flag, bespoke steel-fixed arm banners can be produced. These are more expensive and harder to install due to the increased weight but are very effective and can be re-used on future developments.

5.      Gantry signs, totems and monoliths

These signs are suited for sales and marketing suites and will usually be bespoke. Using this type of signage would very much depend on the timeline of the development and available budget.

Printed ACM panels are a great low-cost option and these types of signs have steel or aluminium posts or frames, which can either be planted in the ground with sleeves or secured with post mix. For the larger signs, you may need a concrete foundation, including a ground cage. In all instances it’s advisable to ensure that there are structural drawings and engineer’s calculations in place to maintain the integrity of these signs.

Sizing and positioning will be very much site specific and you should consider factors such as viewing distance and any obstructions like trees, lamp posts and landscaping.

These signs can be enhanced with the addition of 3D elements, back-lit logos and text, feature lighting or even up-lighting and down-lighting with the use of LED spotlights.

6.      Façade and building signage

This signage is used for marketing and sales suites and the client’s marketing team would generally have considered the inclusion of any external signage in the suite’s design. We can provide expertise regarding material specification that would best show off the brand. The choice of materials will completely depend on the design and could be anything from ACM and stainless steel to aluminium and acrylics.

Once installed, Reade Signs provides a maintenance service throughout the lifecycle of the build and we also offer responsible recycling of signage materials too. If you’d like to find out more about what signage would have the biggest impact for your new property development, please get in touch with Joanna on [email protected] or call 01252 336000.

How to provide a great visitor experience with museum wayfinding

Wayfinding plays a crucial role in ensuring museum visitors get the most out of their entry fees. Excellent wayfinding signage encourages exploration, engages visitors in their surroundings, increases dwell time and improves accessibility. And wayfinding is one of those elements of a day out that’s hardly noticeable if it works well but is irritatingly obvious if it doesn’t. A positive experience boosts word-of-mouth recommendations, reviews and repeat visits, so it needs careful consideration. Here we share our advice on enhancing the visitor experience with signage.

There are two core wayfinding elements to consider. Firstly, functional needs like refreshments, toilets, cloakrooms and lifts. And secondly, the emotional side of ensuring each visitor gets the most out of their visit. Wayfinding is a great way to help people quickly understand what they can find on different floors and direct people to certain highlights or feature galleries.

Museums are often situated in historic or listed buildings and some will have been extended and adapted over the years, so it’s important to make sure the spaces connect. Any museum looking to create or improve a wayfinding scheme, will need to provide an appealing welcome and give a snapshot at the entrance so visitors quickly get their bearings. Here are ten elements to consider for your museum wayfinding:

  1. Simple signage – signage must be highly legible, using bold text, but without overpowering exhibits to maximise readability.
  2. Colour matching – assigning colours for each gallery or floor is a great way to help visitors find their bearings and follow the natural flow of exhibits.
  3. Pretty as a picture – simple pictograms or symbols, clear photography, symbols or numbers can be easily understood by lots of different audiences, including non-English speaking and young visitors.
  4. Keeping it fresh – building in some flexibility in the wayfinding scheme means you can easily refresh signage as exhibitions change. Environmentally friendly and sustainable signage materials are a good option to reduce wastage and cost.
  5. Magic materials – wayfinding must be functional, but if it’s also fun and educational you can really bring the brand personality to life with signage materials that reflect your museum’s theme. 
  6. In the zone – large spaces can benefit from being split into themes, zones or wings to make them distinct from each other and provide pointers to treasures within.
  7. Styling it – visitors tend to have two main navigation styles; museum wanderers who prefer the freedom to discover themselves, and structured explorers who want more of a guided explanation. It’s important to take both these audiences into account.
  8. Stay grounded – signage doesn’t always have to be positioned up high; vinyl graphic maps and directional signage on the floor is a cost-effective wayfinding solution. For larger museums, active digital floor plans are also an option.
  9. Handle with care – the fabric of your building may be delicate, so the use of innovative fixing solutions will be needed to protect the building as well as adhere to regulations and public health and safety. Installation is often completed in stages or throughout the night to avoid disruption.
  10. Test and flex – if you’re working with a wayfinding consultant, they’ll use their observations and mapping to test visitor behaviours so you can adapt recommendations to ensure the journey is simple for all audiences.

There are so many elements to perfecting the museum experience; from curation, knowledgeable staff and interactive apps to wayfinding, digital signage and pocket guides. The same often applies to wayfinding and signage around historic sites. We work collaboratively with a range of specialists, including wayfinding consultants, brand experts, curators, project managers and visitor service professionals to design, manufacture and install wayfinding signage.  We recently installed 400 wayfinding signs at the V&A.

If you would like to find out more about our wayfinding signage services for museums and heritage buildings or other wayfinding projects for public areas, please get in touch on 01252 336000 or email [email protected]

What are the most effective marketing channels to achieve footfall for your marketing suite?

The days of the deals-on-wheels style portacabin as a place for negotiations have well and truly vanished. And the property industry is leading the way in developing beautifully designed marketing and sales suites to create a customer experience that reflects a new housing or apartment development. Developers are essentially selling a lifestyle and to do this, they need to make their customers feel special.

Marketing suites play an essential role in communicating the look and feel of a finished site; ensuring all touchpoints are spot-on by creating an immersive and interactive experience. They can also incorporate show apartments, 3D models, private meeting rooms, refreshment areas and closing rooms. An effective marketing suite makes potential buyers feel a connection to the development and its surrounding environment, as well as gaining trust in the developer and their service levels.

We recently conducted our annual customer satisfaction survey; essential to us to ensure our reputation and service levels remain strong. Our customers include nationwide and local property developers, housing associations, construction companies and creative agencies. As part of the survey, we also asked them to share insights into the channels that achieved the most footfall to their marketing suites. Here are the top three results:

Online and signage top the charts

First – Website (29%)
Second – External signage (24%)
Joint Third – Hoarding and Social media (both 17%)

The top spot isn’t entirely surprising, since we’re naturally used to interacting with digital technology for research and other practical purposes. Marketing focus is now, crucially, targeted at digital channels and making sure your website and social media channels are optimised and regularly updated is critical to maximise conversion rates.

It’s also interesting (and of course pleasing to us!) that one of the oldest forms of marketing – signage – is still considered vital in prompting the desired audience action… getting people through the door of your selling space. It shows that offline brand touchpoints are just as important when creating a marketing strategy across multiple channels.

If you’d like to find out more about creating a great customer journey, please visit our marketing suite page, our site signage page or our site hoarding page. If you’d like to discuss a project, please get in touch on 01252 336000 or email [email protected]

Five steps to the perfect marketing suite

Marketing Suites

Most new developments will require a dedicated marketing and sales space in which to engage with potential buyers. A marketing suite is your showroom – possibly even before you even have anything to show. We know that creating the perfect environment and optimising selling space is central to generating more leads for a new development, so we’ve put together our top five steps to creating a relaxed and comfortable environment for prospective buyers:

1. Start with the customer journey – during the planning phase, carefully consider how you’ll lead potential buyers through to your marketing suite. Elements like clear external signage and hoarding, the path around the site, inviting directional signage, a convenient car park, external lighting and landscaping can all be used to lead people in. 

Once inside, incorporate a reception and refreshment area with development models, interactive displays and brochures. When people are further along in the customer journey, they’ll want to view finishes, such as kitchens, carpets and tiles to get a taster of the style of the development and help them in their selection, so make sure you include space for this. 

Consider the route you’ll take to get people to the show house or apartment when it’s ready – this needs to be just as appealing to make sure they don’t feel like they’re stumbling through a building site. Finally, make sure you have an appropriate space in which final negotiations can take place.

2. Showcase the development’s brand – for a great first impression, the interior décor must be warm and comfortable – as well as an attractive and aspirational environment – to appeal directly to your demographic. Whether the finish of your marketing suite is luxury or affordable, or has quirky or traditional styling, will depend on the target audience. To maintain brand consistency, the choice of elements like furniture and technology should also reflect the development.

3. Tell your story – alongside your website, a marketing suite is a crucial tool in telling your development’s brand story. Make sure you do this with clarity and consistency. Intrigue the audience with informative wall graphics, interactive displays with CGI images, or a 3D development model to answer key considerations. You’ll need to communicate information like: the size of properties, how many are available, what the site plans look like, how far the nearest station is, what schools are in the area, the selling points of local amenities and restaurants, the development story, or the history of the area. 

4. Function as well as form – marketing suites aren’t always the largest spaces, so don’t forget about practical considerations to working effectively. If your sales team has a good experience of working in the space, this will translate to buyers. Avoid clutter with built-in storage for bags or brochures. Think about formal and informal areas – you may need a relaxed seating area, as well as a private room for sales negotiation. Keep staff facilities, like the cloakroom, kitchen or toilet out of sight. You should also provide hi-vis jackets and hard hats and keep them in a tidy area.

5. Meticulous project management – working on a live construction site is not always easy, so excellent project management will be key to the success of your marketing suite build. Depending on the size and scope of the marketing suite and fit-out, from instruction to design, survey, artwork, production and installation can take anything from three weeks to six months. A good project manager will build strong relationships with the site and construction teams and maintain clear channels of communication. 

This will be a public space within a building site, so make sure you work with a company that adheres to strict health and safety guidance for peace of mind. Finally, it’s important to choose a consultative partner you can trust to find practical and cost-effective solutions to any issues that occur – rather than promise you they won’t happen in the first place.

Reade Signs project manages the design and build of marketing suites to help customers visualise their new home. We do this for leading housing associations and property development companies – both one-off projects or nationwide roll-outs. Please visit our dedicated marketing suite page if you’d like to find out more. If you’d like to discuss a project, please call us on 01252 336000

 

How to make an impact with extra height hoarding

Extra height site hoarding is a great way to help your new development stand out on a busy street. 

Each standard site hoarding panel is 1220mm x 2440mm. However, adding height at high footfall points and corners is a great way of achieving additional stand-out, especially alongside flagpoles and gantry signs.

Using materials like Foamex to extend the canvas of the hoarding up to double height really helps to highlight messages above daily traffic and is very cost-effective. Make sure you consider factors such as health and safety, wind loading and structural calculations.

If you’d like to find out more about extra height building site hoarding and any considerations that need to be taken into account, please call us for a chat on 01252 336 000.

Top ten site hoarding design tips

construction site hoarding
When it comes to advertising hoarding, simple messaging and bold design is the key to attracting attention and generating enquiries. We’ve put together our top ten site hoarding design tips to help you maximise awareness of your new development and boost visits to your marketing suite: 1. Establish a budget – this will help to guide your creative team from the outset and means your designers can tailor the hoarding design to make the most of your budget. It’s also important to consider which cladding you’ll use to reflect your development. Dibond cladding is ideal for most developments and vinyl wrapped ply is excellent if you want to achieve a more polished look. 2. Site survey – to make sure the hoarding fits in well with the surroundings, we recommend you have a site survey. This will consider gradients and permanent elements, using exact measurements that can be built into the design: you don’t want a web address obscured by a post box, and any horizontal designs might look messy on a hill. Make sure your survey also incorporates factors such as health and safety, wind loading and structural calculations. 3. Consider the target market – awareness of the target audience for your development will guide any imagery and graphics you select to represent your brand and help them visualise themselves in their potential new home. 4. Less is more – your key messages should pop out of the hoarding from a distance, so it’s important not to clutter hoarding and leave some space. Great images will support your brand and make sure you include key contact information and a call to action. You will need to convey messages in seconds, especially if people are driving past. 5. Brand consistency – keep hoarding design consistent with other channels and marketing, such as site signage, flags, gantry signs, your marketing suite, website or advertising. 6. Keep it fresh – refresh hoarding periodically with bold colour changes to emphasise development phases, such as plots reserved, or sales achieved. Make sure it’s kept well maintained and repaired if it suffers any damage. 7. 24/7 advertising – consider day and night-time passing traffic – both on foot or in vehicles – and make sure your hoarding design works hard at all hours and drives people to your website and marketing suite. Header and kicker LEDs can help this, as can lightboxes that showcase the décor. 8. Spotlight your logo – whether you’re a national developer or specialise in high-end bespoke builds, you need to make sure your logo is at the right scale to aid recall. As part of the design, you may consider having your logo in illuminated letters or a light box, both of which are very striking. 9. Sell the location – being sympathetic to the local area and considering the surrounding buildings when designing your hoarding is also important. Complimenting the neighborhood through your creative – whether the development is in an urban location or set within a historical market town – can help to sell what’s unique and attractive about the area. 10. Reach for the sky – standard site hoarding panels are 1220mm x 2440mm. But within your design it’s worth considering adding height at high footfall points and corners – a great way of achieving additional stand-out, especially alongside flagpoles and gantry signs. If you’d like to find out more, we have a dedicated page about building site hoarding. Please call us for a chat if you’d like to discuss a project on 01252 336 000.

From paintbrushes and ply: the evolution of a signage company

Since Reade Signs was founded in 1980, the once time-intensive craft of sign writing has changed beyond recognition. Hand-made signs have morphed into large-format branded graphics produced using the latest printing technology. Hand tooling has been replaced by CNC machines. And health and safety requirements mean ladders are out and cherry pickers are in. Here, we look back at the early days of Reade Signs and reflect on what has – and hasn’t – changed about the signage industry.

£100 and a few tins of paint

Andy Reade, CEO, founded Reade Signs from his spare bedroom with £100, a few tins of paint and a couple of sheets of plywood. After leaving school he became an apprentice sign writer for a local one-man-band sign company, eventually moving to the Royal Aircraft Establishment in Farnborough. A lack of fulfilling work spurred Andy into action and he started to take extra jobs at the weekends and evenings, soon building a customer base and eventually setting up on his own.

Sign writing is a true skill. In the early days, Andy hand-painted timber signs, shop front fascia signs, vehicles and all types of different surfaces, including glass, painted timber and metal using specialist paints and traditional techniques. There were cut vinyl letter systems available, but back in the 1980s, these systems were basic with limited fonts and slow production times. However, the systems improved quickly, and the writing was literally on the wall for hand painted signage as a mass production method.

During the first three years, Andy moved from back-bedroom to garden workshop crafting signs for shop fronts, vehicles, job boards, builders and pubs – enjoying the variety of jobs and clients. As the business grew, Andy took on an apprentice himself and after ten years, Reade Signs moved to its first premises in Ash Vale, followed by several more moves as the business quickly expanded.

Roots and wings

It was during this time that Andy Fergus Smith joined, bringing a complementary set of skills to the team to help the company grow. Originally a graphic designer, he ran his own screen print business for 12 years before joining Reade Signs in 2002 as production manager. He was involved in graphic design, account management, operational and general management before becoming Director and shareholder in 2008.

In 2003, Reade Signs moved to its current two-floor office space and factory at Holder Road in Aldershot. At the time there were 15 employees, and this has now grown to over 40; with specialist teams bringing wide-ranging skills, qualifications and knowledge and including some loyal, long-standing employees and members of the Reade family.

Rapid developments in technology meant that sign writing evolved and expanded. The lines blurred between print and sign making and the possibilities for large format outdoor graphics to suit all budgets opened up new markets for sign makers. Full colour, photographic printing onto vinyl was a real breakthrough. All of a sudden you’d see images on vehicles, building site hoardings and temporary banners, where previously it would have been prohibitively expensive to have graphics on these platforms. Direct-to-media flatbed printers marked the next step enabling bigger, faster and higher quality printing onto substrates as diverse as ply and glass. Reade Signs invested in direct-to-media technology in the mid noughties and as the company continued to grow, so did the size of the clients. It was the booming property sector that Reade Signs really gained expertise in and today site signage, hoarding, marketing suites and directional signage remain at the core of our offering.

The signage industry – what’s changed

1. Signage rebranded

The signage industry has changed beyond recognition and the terminology used has had a bit of a rebrand in recent years; signage is now seen as a core channel in the marketing mix and an important part of achieving brand consistency. Knowledge of marketing and brands is vital to understand unique brand requirements and innovate. It’s frequently referred to as large scale brand implementation, brand activation, wayfinding or large format branding… or just plain signage.

2. Super graphics

Sign making has always been a craft, but in terms of scale, the industry has blossomed. There are very few screen printers and only a handful of artisan sign writers today; work centres more around implementation and management of projects, with multiple stakeholders and suppliers. From local beginnings, clients now come from all over the country. A baffling array of different formats are available for all types of signage, banners, hoarding, events and exhibition graphics, retail branding, vehicle graphics and marketing suites. Professional, quality signage is now available to any organisation and to suit any budget. The art of sign-making still requires a specialist skill-set, but the skills needed are very different.

3. Specialists – all under one roof

Over the years, as sign requirements reached a larger scale, a finished sign would require several specialists at different points throughout the process. You’d get the signage artwork agreed, then go to a sign writer, then an artist for the pictorial part, then you might go to a screen printer.  Now, technology and an expert in-house team means this is all under one roof. We have a large pool of skills, qualifications and knowledge from a team expert at quoting, sourcing and project managing to meet client demands and be increasingly competitive. 

4. Choice and demands

As larger companies and brands realised the importance of making a splash with signage, expectations become higher and lead times got shorter. Reade Signs now works with so many more materials – it’s not just ply and paint – there are hundreds of materials that can create different effects to represent a brand and grab the audience’s attention. It used to take weeks to apply undercoat, paint the ply, route-out posts – it was all quite laborious.  But now, full colour capabilities mean we have no constraints – we can print onto almost any material. Last year we produced six miles of panels for property developers, handled over 2,500 jobs and every day we have up to 20 installers out on the road. And from receipt of final artwork to installation on-site, we can fit 20m hoarding in just 72 hours.

The changing face of business and the economic impacts of the last 30 years mean clients are far more cost conscious and demand value for money from their marketing spend. The good news is that modern materials and printing techniques enable us to provide high-end finish using cost-effective materials to maximise any budget.

5. ‘Up a ladder in shorts and flip flops!’

There wasn’t much in the way of health and safety when Andy founded the company. He’d install signs ‘up a ladder in his shorts and flip flops – you would make things happen!’ For a long time now, though, we’ve been finding solutions to make it happen safely and observe strict regulations, taking regular advice from our own health and safety consultant. Training and accreditation is so important to being highly professional and maintaining high standards at every stage of the design, manufacture and installation process.

The signage industry – what hasn’t changed?

1. It’s all still marketing

Essentially, signage is still marketing; we might use more elaborate brand and marketing terminology, but it still serves the same purpose. ‘Brand activation’ is the art of driving consumer action – and was the same intention when creating a hand-crafted sign for The Red Lion! Our purpose is to make brands and messaging stand out, the industry sometimes just uses different terminology.

2. Reputation

As a business, our reputation still supports us in the same way it did from day one and has helped us grow our work with many national property developers and corporates. The service level requirements and quality control are still as high as ever and reputation enables us to continue to be creative and branch out into other exciting fields – beyond shop fronts to large-scale architectural signage projects and complex wayfinding solutions.

3. Apprenticeships

Andy started out as an apprentice sign maker and that’s something we continue to embrace as a company; it’s vital to invest in the future and pass skills on to a new generation. Continuous development and training is very much at the heart of the business – not just our passion to do a job well, but also the necessity to keep up with changing technology. Continuing the family theme of the business, we currently have two brothers working in production department, who joined as apprentices and show a real aptitude to learn, improve and work as part of our team. In fact, one of them recently won Young Sign Maker of the Year!

4. Passion for design

Andy Reade has always had a passion for design and this still is a driving force within the company as the market for large scale graphics and digital signage grows. While the business is unrecognisable from the company Andy founded, he’s keen to see it grow and progress to the next generation. It’s this passion, being flexible and constantly evolving that’s always been essential in the signage industry. For us, constantly improving and trying new things means short deadlines can be met, problems can be overcome with creative solutions and adjustments to changing situations can be managed smoothly.