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.

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. 

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]

Wayfinding project wins global SEGD award

A project that we supplied and installed over 300 separate vinyl and painted wall graphics for has been awarded a Merit Award for wayfinding in the prestigious SEGD Global Design Awards 2018.

The vinyl and wall graphics of varying sizes were created for Here East. Spread over two huge buildings at the former press and broadcast centres of the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park in Hackney Wick, it is now a thriving space that offers state-of-the-art facilities in an awe-inspiring environment.

We worked with brand and design consultancy dn&co, who created a wayfinding system to navigate the 1.2 million sq ft, to fabricate and install the inspiring and intuitive wayfinding. Find out more about the Here East wayfinding project.

wayfinding system

An overnight sensation for Gravesend

When the good people of Gravesend went about their business one morning they were met with a surprise – five way-finding monolith signs had sprung up across the town “overnight”. But who was responsible? A team of Reade Signs fitters, going the extra mile to give our clients exactly what they want.

Municipal signs pointing to the post office or the park can just be functional or they can add something to the environment. At Reade Signs we always enjoy working with local authorities who want to make public spaces more attractive while providing a public wayfinding service.

Gravesham Borough Council asked Reade Signs for a series of monolith signs, which feature historic images and inform the public about Gravesend’s rich historic connection with the Thames.

five way-finding monolith signs

The council wanted the monoliths to be put in place with as little fuss or disruption as possible in the run-up to last Christmas. So, rather than spend weeks fencing off pedestrian areas one at a time to install the concrete foundations and signage, we did all the groundwork first, setting a custom ground cage and frame into concrete foundations at the various locations around the town. We then fitted a temporary cover plate over each one so that pedestrians could safely walk over them.

Our fitting team installed all the monoliths in one day, simply “plugging in” and bolting them down into the waiting sockets so they seemed to appear overnight to the public.

five way-finding monolith signs

Senior project manager Howard Beckman said: “The signs look really great and we’ve had some good feedback. They will last a long time as well as they’re powder coated and use stainless steel fittings.”

Not only did the plan add to the wow factor but it cut down inconvenience to the public and saved the council money by avoiding the need for expensive route closure licences.

We also refurbished the town’s existing 11 tourist finger-posts and added seven more with a modern sign system incorporating a beautiful finial on the top of each one in the shape of a Thames barge.

tourist finger-posts

The council commissioned the unique sculpture and we then developed several prototypes for a custom mounting point and corresponding base plate for all of the signs, coming up with a design that allowed the two parts to come together seamlessly.

tourist finger-posts

If you’d like more information or advice about how we can help enhance your local environment then please contact us, email [email protected] or ring 01252 336000.

Broadgate Quarter: Refurbishing in the heart of London

Reade Signs were asked by London-based branding firm Socrates Communications to work with them on the rebranding of Broadgate Quarter – a landmark building in the heart of London’s newly fashionable East End.

The 10-storey office block was undergoing a major refurbishment so we were expecting some artistic, innovative and technical challenges within a tight timeframe – and that’s exactly what we got.

The brief

We were given a comprehensive brief:

 

  • Remove the original stainless steel letters from a marble wall and clean it up
  • Apply floor graphics and stunning digital wall murals
  • Apply a striking, toughened 2.9m x 1.9m painted back glass and vinyl directory.

 

Challenges

rebranding of Broadgate Quarter - a landmark building in the heart of London

Removing the old letters from the marble was difficult and left some visible holes across an area around three metres across. These all had to be filled to match the contours of the original marble.

On top of that, due to the weight of the glass, we weren’t happy just relying on the fixings to hold all of the weight in place. After a bit of careful consideration, Reade’s Installation Manager and his team used their technical background and experience to excellent effect with a bit of on-the-spot problem solving. Their solution was to design steel bars across the fixing holes to counterbalance the weight of the glass.

design steel bars across the fixing holes to counterbalance the weight of the glass.

Digital Murals to a deadline

Digital Murals to a deadline

The artwork was approved by the client on the Wednesday evening of the job, leaving us just two working days to upload and prepare the artwork ready for printing. We supplied the digital mural artwork on the Thursday morning, and the first installation was done on the Monday evening.

More than 230 metres of digital wall vinyl was printed, turned around and fitted within two working days!

More than 230 metres of digital wall vinyl was printed, turned around and fitted within two working days!

But it was worth it – the walls have a striking appearance with a radical graffiti design across the building’s 8th and 9th floors – not only serving the purpose of standing out from the crowd but ultimately, selling the space.

“Reade Signs were tasked with providing exterior signage and window manifestations at 9 Appold Street as well as printing and installing wall and complex floor graphics over two floors for the building launch.

The exterior signage installation was challenging and required a fair amount of planning plus the deadline for completion of the project was extremely tight which necessitated working after hours.

Reade Signs completed the work on time, as per quote which they have done for all the projects they have undertaken for us and we would happily recommend them for similar projects”.
Bambi Montgomery – Head of Special Project, Design & Production, Socrates Communications

Reade Signs were tasked with providing exterior signage and window manifestations at 9 Appold Street as well as printing and installing wall and complex floor graphics over two floors for the building launch.

If you have an artistic challenge for us that needs completing to a deadline, contact Adriaan at Reade Signs or call 01252 336000 and let us impress you.

Growing old gracefully: the beauty of vitreous enamel signs

Wayfinding vitreous enamel signs

Reade Signs products can be found on display to the public all across the south east, but passers-by rarely admire them for the works of art that we think they are.

However, that may change after we became involved in a public art project as part of a regeneration development in south London. We were asked to create lectern-style interpretation signs for two sculptures and a water fountain in public spaces.

Wayfinding vitreous enamel signs

It’s great to be associated with art, but this project set us the challenge of coming up with signage that would look good, stand up to the elements and be appropriate next to some high profile pieces of artwork.

We worked alongside the designers to create the wording and images to go with each piece of art in order to create an interpretation scheme for each of the installations.

We also visited the sites, not only to look at the practicalities of installation and how best to relay the information required, which was obviously important, but to also get a feel for the place and for what would look right in these environments.

As a result of our site visits, we decided to use a vitreous enamel finish to the signs because this time-honoured technique would give the signs a real heritage feel.

Vitreous enamel (VE) has been around since the Victorian times and many of London’s most iconic street signs, including Downing Street, and London Underground’s station names are made from it, so there can be no question over its longevity.

Wayfinding vitreous enamel signs

VE is made by fusing coloured glass powder to metal to give a tough glazed surface that will resist weathering for decades. The result is pleasing to the eye and very resistant to graffiti and impact damage.

However, this is a complex, skilled and time-consuming process and we work with one of the few specialist factories in the country that still uses the traditional processes that allows us to deliver VE signage. During the process, the metal base is coated with layers of glass grit, with subsequent layers of colour added using silk screen printing methods. Each layer is then heat-treated at up to 800 degrees centigrade.

Although vintage, it’s still a popular finish and we’ve used VE signs on a range of different, contemporary subjects, from town centre wayfinding to marketing suite signage, in locations from Manchester to Kent. It’s a very adaptable material.

Why use Vitreous Enamel?

Using VE enhances the look and feel of any sign. With its resistance to fading, longevity and the ease with which graffiti can be removed, it’s an ideal product for signage and interpretation in an urban environment.

If you’d like more information and advice about creating vitreous enamel signage to your design, then please contact us – email [email protected]or call 01252 336000.

Great Malvern’s route to the hills

Great Malvern Route to the Hills

Working alongside award winning experiential design company Outside Studios, Reade Signs were instructed to design and engineer a range of interpretive signs and structures throughout the historic spa town of Great Malvern in the West Midlands, famous for its 15km of ancient rocks and hills that surround the town and attract a wide range of visitors year round.

Most commonly known as The Malvern Hills, the dramatic landscape offers walks and routes for both beginners and experienced walkers across its 160km of footpaths.

The objective of the ‘Route to the Hills’ project was to create an interpretation trail between the Malvern Hills and the town itself, showcasing its heritage and migrating walkers from the hills and into the town through a series of bespoke plaques, artwork and signage. It was imperative that the series of signs complemented the Malvern Stone exposed throughout the town. The client’s original vision was to use bronze, but being notoriously expensive and prone to degrading and tarnishing, Reade Signs’ experienced team suggested a more economical and practical alternative – using aluminium panels coated with Verometal, a thin painted coating containing bronze – to achieve the desired effect at minimal cost with even greater usability. Committed to absolute customer satisfaction, the Reade team then conducted a thorough proto-typing process to ensure the perfect patina was found and agreed upon. We also advised that a suitable lacquer be applied so that all signage was weather resistant and graffiti-proof.

Great Malvern Route to the Hills

As the signs and structures were to be installed partly on council grounds, a stipulation was that they needed the ability to be easily removed, leaving a finished and risk-free surface once extracted. The knowledgeable Reade team decided that Nal Retention Sockets would be the ideal solution, enabling the structures to be effortlessly installed – and removed – as opposed to using traditional foundations. A template the size of the actual signs was then manufactured and used to ensure the Reade installation team plotted and fixed the Nal Sockets with 100% accuracy and precision. By the time it came to fitting the actual signage, it was as simple as slotting the structures into place.

With Safe-contractor and Quality and Environmental Management accreditations, our client was in the very best hands as our capable team worked closely with the Council’s Ground-worker and ensured a seamless installation.

Great Malvern Route to the Hills

The result? A strong, clear and branded wayfinding scheme that reflects the town’s quirky personality and connects its rich history with its natural surrounds using inspiring, bespoke and quality signage. Reade Signs’ expert knowledge and experience enabled the customer’s visions to become a reality; saving money without compromise, using the best materials and providing the utmost attention and care throughout the entire process.

Reade Signs – Applying Knowledge. Creating Visions. Delivering Value.

Here East – Innovative Thinking at Innovation City

Here East architectural wayfinding signage

Reade Signs recently undertook an exciting wayfinding project at the former press and broadcast centres of the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park in Hackney Wick, home of the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games.

The Reade Signs Team were challenged to supply and install over 300 separate vinyl and painted wall graphics of varying sizes throughout the two huge buildings that were used as the Main Media Centre, International Broadcast Centre and Main Press Centre during the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games. Now home to the likes of major telecommunications companies such as BT Sport and Infinity SDC, as well as Loughborough University and University College London campuses, it boasts a thriving space that offers state of the art facilities in an awe-inspiring environment.

A comprehensive pre-installation site visit was carried out two days prior to installation commencing where each location was identified and temporarily marked on the wall with a unique sign code. Production and deliveries were divided by building, and then by floor, to avoid any mixing up of the numerous wayfinding items. The Production Team manufactured the items throughout the installation process and ensured Reade Signs’ on site teams were continually fed with work during the tight installation window.

Here East architectural wayfinding signage

Jake Ellis, Assistant Property Manager, expressed his admiration of both the execution and look of the completed job, stating:

“Reade Signs were great to work with from start to finish of this job. They were very thorough in undertaking such a large project and were flexible as the project changed and evolved. Feedback on the wayfinding has been excellent”

The finished result is a vibrant wayfinding system that is clear and memorable. The project was also featured in renowned Architectural, Interiors and Design Magazine “DeZeen’ – Click here to read the full ‘DeZeen’ article

A day of wayfinding in Amsterdam

Amsterdam Wayfinding Signage

David Gerrard recently participated in the Sign Design Society’s trip to Amsterdam which was organised for the Sign Design Society by Sander Baumann from leading wayfinding designers “Designworkplan” in Amsterdam who have implemented innovative wayfinding schemes around the world.

A number of noteable signage projects were visited by the group who were a mix of design professionals and suppliers from the UK and Holland. The day included a visit to the University of Amsterdam’s Special Collections Museum where they were shown iconic book designs and some of the first maps produced in Holland. The group also visited the headquarters of the BNO (Association of Dutch Designers) and listened to informative talks from Sander and some of his associates from the Dutch design fraternity.

It proved to be a great day and a fascinating insight into the art of wayfinding.