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 wayfinding signage for the entire scheme throughout this iconic building. The project was recently featured in Design WeekCreative Review and Wallpaper. Read the full case study.  

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.” Philippa explains the V&A wayfinding project here.

The finished wayfinding signage looks and fantastic and help visitors to make the most of their experience of this iconic and beautiful museum. 

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

All Images courtesy of Sam Bush and dn&co

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.

From apprentice to award-winner: celebrating young talent in the UK sign industry

Last week I made my way to Leicester with my colleague Marc Kisko to attend the British Sign Awards 2018. The awards celebrate some truly remarkable achievements that demonstrate the wealth of skills and creativity that make the British sign industry world class. Marc, who is 22 and has been with Reade Signs for four years, was shortlisted for the Young Sign Maker of the Year category. And I’m absolutely thrilled that he won the award!

From the outset, Marc has shown dedication; he completed his apprenticeship in 12 months – instead of the usual 18 – and demonstrated real development and problem-solving skills ever since. This approach has continued throughout Marc’s time at Reade Signs. It is his attitude that really drives him forward. Marc is a naturally quiet and reserved person, so it’s understandable that coming in to join an established team might be daunting. However, Marc has really demonstrated a thirst for knowledge, a drive for personal development and he works brilliantly as part of our team.

Marc has continued to learn and recently trained to use our state-of-the-art EFI Vutek LX3 Pro printer. Amira Bouchiba from CMYUK, who trained Marc told us: “Marc has been what I would call ‘the perfect student’… although he was not my only trainee, Marc stood out.”

Since qualifying, he’s really made this his mission and pushed himself ahead. This epitomises the drive and flexibility that has been at the core of the growth of Reade Signs and our founder, Andy Reade’s philosophy since he started his career as an apprentice sign writer.

Marc recently met MP, Leo Docherty, who visited us to learn more about Reade Signs and how we develop apprentices. Marc’s younger brother Kyle has also completed his Sign Makers apprenticeship with us, and our Assistant Account Manager, Jerome True has recently finished his Business Administration apprenticeship.

I’ve been thrilled by the rapid progress made by Marc. He’s just got his head down and got on with it. He is very conscientious and a pleasure to work with. Congratulations from all of us at Reade Signs!

“The Young Signmaker of the Year award is designed to highlight how vital training and apprenticeships are to the sign industry. Young people are the future of the industry and unless we provide them with the right training, the industry will struggle in the years to come. This year, we had a record entry for the award, demonstrating that enlightened companies continue to invest in young people, but it is essential that more sign businesses follow their lead. Our congratulations to Marc and to Reade Signs for showing the way.”
David Catanach, BSGA Director.

Another great year – it must be a sign!

Another great year - it must be a sign!

It’s been a big year for Reade Signs. We’ve produced everything from pearlescent vinyl hoarding, contemporary marketing suites, giant mesh banners and concrete and steel canal side benches, hospital wayfinding and Santa’s grotto!

And we’ve worked with some fantastic clients on exciting property and architectural projects, including: Linden Homes, Salford City Council, Berkeley Group, Dartford Borough Council, NHS and L&Q.

Our team has expanded, with 17 new team members and we’ve certainly been keeping ourselves busy:

  • We’ve produced an incredible 32,146 feet (that’s six miles!) of panels for property developers
  • Our production team has handled over 2,500 jobs
  • Every day we have up to 20 installers out on the road
  • In our busiest week, we ramped up 730 installation hours
  • We’ve worked with a huge variety of materials and formats – from ACM to acrylic, stencil cut to scaffold banners and vinyl to vitreous enamel
  • And we’ve travelled approximately 127,920 miles on clients’ behalf to ensure our signs look great once installed.

Next year, we’ll be ramping up our work using our shiny new EFI VUTEk LX3 Pro printer! This is a great investment for us and we’re excited about the difference it’ll make for clients: even larger formats, higher resolutions, powerful LED technology. This will mean superb quality, quicker turnaround and the ability to print on new and unique materials.

In the new year, look out for our newsletter, Sign Language, as we’ll be sharing our best-practice advice, highlighting the latest in innovative formats, showcasing some of the projects we’ve been working on and including the odd special offer.

Thank you to everyone we’ve worked with in 2017; we’ve really enjoyed the variety of different projects and we look forward to creating more striking signs and helping clients to stand out in 2018!

Good weather and excellent company make for a great day at Sandown Park

Good weather and excellent company made for a great day when the Reade Team and other contractors joined Berkeley Southern at their annual karting event at Sandown Park on Thursday 15th June to support the Berkeley Foundation.

The day didn’t come without its dramas, with one Reade Team participant swerving to avoid a collision ahead only to crash into the barrier at high speed. Fortunately he walked away unscathed, and was able to continue with the 3 hour long endurance race.

Needless to say the team were feeling a bit tender on Friday!

All profits raised were in aid of charity MERU, who build assistive equipment for children and young people with disabilities.

Reade Team and other contractors joined Berkeley Southern at their annual karting event at Sandown Park

Reade Team and other contractors joined Berkeley Southern at their annual karting event at Sandown Park

Reade Team and other contractors joined Berkeley Southern at their annual karting event at Sandown Park

Reade Signs match sponsors for Aldershot v Lincoln game

Reade Signs match sponsors for Aldershot v Lincoln game

We had a great time at the EBB Stadium on Saturday 4th March where we were Match Sponsors for the Aldershot FC v Lincoln City game. It was a perfect opportunity for the Reade team to gather in support of our favourite team as they played top of the (National) league and F.A. Cup quarter finalist’s Lincoln City.

It proved a lively and entertaining game with plenty of chances from both sides who were on form, and the 0 – 0 result means The Shots have been unbeaten in their last eleven matches.

There was a strong emphasis on International Women’s Day running throughout the afternoon, and in the spirit of this the Reade ladies’ presented Man of the Match Bernard Mensah with his prize after the game.

Reade Signs are in their 9th year of patronage at Aldershot FC and are proud sponsors of the South Stand at the EBB Stadium.

Reade Signs match sponsors for Aldershot v Lincoln game

WhatHouse? Awards

WhatHouse? Awards

We had a great time at the prestigious WhatHouse? Awards on Friday 18th November, as many clients of Reade Signs scooped major awards including Best Large, Medium and Small Housebuilder, Sustainable Developer of the Year, Best Apartment Scheme, Best Partnership Scheme, Best Luxury Development, Best Interior Design and Best Public Realm Housing.

Those honoured included our clients Audley Retirement, Berkeley Homes, Linden Homes, London Square, Redrow Homes, St George Homes, St James Homes and Wyatt Homes. Our clients’ achievements are our achievements and we congratulate all the winners of this celebrated and renowned event.

Charity Coffee Morning Goes Down a Treat!

Charity Coffee Morning Goes Down a Treat!

On Friday 30thSeptember businesses and households all over the UK hosted their own Coffee Mornings to raise money for worthy charity Macmillan Cancer Support, and Reade Signs was proud to be one of them.

The staff café was transformed into a tantalising arena of delicious homemade treats, from chocolate cakes and brownies to flapjacks and cheesecakes – and even fresh scrambled eggs courtesy of MD Andy and his portable BBQ!

Not only did the creations look amazing, they tasted even better. ‘Best Baker’ award went to John’s incredible Victoria Sponge cake surrounded with chocolate and piled high with strawberries. And Steve was the proud winner of the ‘Guess the Sprinkles’ competition.

It was a great opportunity for staff to take 10 minutes out to enjoy each other’s company with a cup of coffee and a slice of cake (or two)!

Reade Signs are proud to have raised £130.75 for Macmillan – exceeding the target of doubling the amount we made last year.

Charity Coffee Morning Goes Down a Treat!

Reade Signs helps inspire next generation of budding writers

Reade Signs helps inspire next generation of budding writers

Young Writers and Mentoring Charity Little Green Pig recently held a week long pop-up event at the No Walls Gallery in Brighton, encouraging budding young writers with free story-making and illustration workshops. Working alongside design agency Sherlock, Reade Signs transformed a plain and neutral space into a fun, enticing and inspiring environment for the children.

Emily Hogan, Development Manager at Little Green Pig was delighted with the end result:

“Designers Sherlock created a fantastic look and feel for the space which was based largely on the creative use of vinyls to transform the venue, and we were absolutely delighted when Reade Signs stepped in and agreed to provide these pro bono. We had tonnes of feedback on how fantastic it looked and are extremely grateful to all at Reade for making our pop up really stand out. Huge thanks from all the team at Little Green Pig!”

Reade Signs helps inspire next generation of budding writers

Walk through our offices, showroom and production area online!

Reade Signs branding and signage

Have you ever wondered what Reade Signs HQ looks like? We can now offer you an online tour after our recent 360 degree photography.

Following investment into our rebranded offices and showroom in May this year, our Marketing Agency Fruitful Marketing Ltd recommended 360 degree photography to showcase our investment on our website and on Google Maps.

On a bright summer morning James Taylor from Tayco360 came to our headquarters to take internal and external shots using his 360 degree camera.

Anyone can now go on a virtual 360 degree trip by selecting ‘see inside’ when searching Reade Signs on Google or on our website. Please do take the tour by clicking on the image above and see our new brand in action!

Reade Signs branding and signage Reade Signs branding and signage Reade Signs branding and signage