Signs that work for public services

The very first thing many people see of your existence is your sign. The sign does two things. It acts as a beacon, guiding the customer or visitor to the right location and, more importantly, it delivers a message about your services to citizens.
Get it wrong and it will convey the wrong message, which it turn will discourage a customer from buying your product or service. However, get it right and signage can be a powerful tool which will inform service users and help them be more relaxed in your environment.
The importance of well-designed and planned signage as part of your overall marketing strategy cannot be overstated. The question is how do you get it right?
To find the right answer you will need to consider a number of factors. What are the right type of signs for your service? What are the design criteria and what content should the signs have? Who should make your signs?
Find out what materials should be used to create and construct the signs, and whether you need planning permission to erect your sign. You should also check how you can meet your legal obligations if the sign requires maintenance and inspection during its lifetime.

A complex skill
Creating successful signage involves more than an attractive arrangement of logos, pictures and slogans. It requires the understanding and blending of complex elements such as marketing and demographic and it requires an understanding of ‘visual acuity’. The task is further complicated by the fact that the people will be on the move when they see the sign and it must be possible to read and understand its message in an instant.

It’s worth repeating, no matter how good your product or service is, if your sign does not make people stop and inform, it has failed. Investing in professional sign design is sound advice. Experienced designers understand how to get attention and, more importantly, how to get the right reaction. (see boxout)
Mathematical formulae do exist for calculating the optimum values for many of these things and in the case of road traffic signs are enshrined in the relevant standards and legislation. However, it’s not simply a matter of dropping a few numbers into a spreadsheet and waiting for it to generate the design.

While an experienced sign designer should have an understanding of the fundamental principles, it is far more important that he or she has the creative ability to combine these elements to produce a sign that works for public services.
It is also vital that the designer has knowledge of the materials, production techniques and standards which apply to or are used in the construction of signs. And then there are the planning requirements.  

This is why it makes sense to consult a reputable signmaker (such as a member of the BSGA) at an early stage in the design process.

Most signmakers have a good idea of what the planning authorities will allow and will be able to advise on the suitability of designs and availability of materials. They may also be able to suggest more effective – and very often much cheaper – alternatives to those specified.
Nowadays, many signmakers also boast an in-house design capability and will happily help create workable concepts that meet both aesthetic and budgetary considerations. When a project is particularly complex, or involves many different types of sign, the best signmakers will produce prototypes to test feasibility and will also supply material samples so that the client and his agency can see whether the ‘glossy effect’ they had so fondly envisaged is viable.
Although wayfinding is a greatly underrated specialism, it actually takes a great deal of skill to produce an attractive and effective wayfinding scheme, which guides visitors smoothly around a complex of buildings or floors and then safely back. Wayfinding signage is vital if any large visitor location with multiple entrances and facilities. Retail parks, shopping centres, schools, universities, hospitals, theme parks etc. Even a large, multi-storey car park needs wayfinding signage.
A key consideration when designing a wayfinding scheme is the Disability Discrimination Act (DDA). Again this is something where a specialist (BSGA) signmaker or design consultant can help. Information on the requirements of the DDA in relation to signage can be found in the sign design guide.

Choosing a signmaker
We have given numerous examples of why it is vital that you chose a reputable signmaker. So, how do you find a reputable signmaking partner – one that is capable of delivering signs that best meet your needs and at a cost you can afford?
It may seem like a daunting task, but the good news is that in the UK there are a large number of superbly equipped, highly skilled and very creative specialist companies capable of providing you with signage of the highest quality.
Of course, as in any other business sector, there are also a number who will happily promise the earth, take your money and then fail to deliver. The question is how to avoid these.
One way is to check that your signmaker is a member of the British Sign and Graphics Association (BSGA). The approved signmaker search facility on our website will help you do this. It includes profiles of all Member companies and links to their web sites, where you can find more information on the services they provide.
All Members of the BSGA are vetted before joining and all have signed up to the Association’s Code of Practice, which is designed to promote the highest standards, design, workmanship, health and safety, and commercial practice within the sign industry. The BSGA badge is the sign of a quality signmaker.
It is essentially the code of practice that sets members of the BSGA apart from many others in the industry. The fact that they are members is a clear indication that they are serious businesses and are serious about the sign industry. Should any member be found to be seriously in breach of the code, the BSGA Council will either suspend membership or expel the member completely through it’s dispute resolution service.
Your choice of signmaker will, to a large extent, depend on the nature of your signage requirements. If you are looking for single facia sign for your offices with maybe a ‘wrap’ for your delivery vehicle, then a local sign shop may be the ideal partner. However, if the project is part of a major re-brand across multiple locations you may need to consider one of the larger sign manufacturers. Whatever, the case we have recommend that you employ a signmaker that displays the BSGA badge – you know that quality of product and service is key to our members.
Because there are so many different materials and lighting systems now available, many sign companies have chosen to focus on a specific sector of the market – e.g. wayfinding signage. If you need a traditional hand-painted sign or coat of arms then, your signmaker will require a very different set of skills and experience than if you are considering a digital signage network. Where BSGA members offer particular skill sets, they are detailed in their profiles in the approved signmaker search. Choosing a BSGA Member for signs has never proved to be a wrong move.

Further information