Words and images that point out the way

A sign does two things. It acts as a beacon, guiding the visitor to the right location and, more importantly, it delivers a message about your services. 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. Get it right and signage can then be a powerful tool. The importance of well-designed and planned signage as part of your overall 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, for example: what types of signs are right for your sector or business; what are the design and content criteria; who should make your signs; and what materials should be used to create them. You should also find out whether you need planning permission to erect your sign and how to meet any legal obligations arising from maintenance and inspection of the sign over the course of its lifetime. Legislation such as the Disability Discrimination Act will also have a bearing on the design and location of a sign.
It’s worth repeating, no matter how good you are, if your sign does not inform, it has failed. Experienced sign designers understand how to get attention and, more importantly, how to get the right reaction.

Sign legibility depends on many factors, though there are a number of basic considerations that must be taken into account. Regarding letter size, generally, the larger the size, the greater the legibility relevant to the viewing distance. When it comes to letter shape, some letter styles are more legible than others. Script and extended letter styles are more difficult to read unless they form a well-advertised brand name or logo (e.g. Coca Cola). Letters are more discernible if they are spaced apart at a reasonable distance. Crowding together, particularly of adjacent vertical strokes can make them difficult to read.
Also remember that to be legible, a sign has to be bright enough to stand out from its surroundings and to be placed in a position without competing or confusing backgrounds. Finally, a sign with a colour that contrasts well with that of its background will be more legible than one where the colours tend to merge.

Avoid miscommunication
Today many sign buyers are influenced by the design agencies that handle their corporate identity programmes and come up with signage schemes that consider neither the intricacies of the planning system nor the feasibility of bending rigid materials into all sorts of weird and wonderful shapes.
Thus, when the signage programme goes out to tender, both agency and client are disgruntled when they discover to learn that what they have requested just isn’t possible or is cost prohibitive. This is why it makes sense to consult a reputable signmaker at an early stage in the design process. Most signmakers, and especially those who specialise in corporate branding, 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.
Many signmakers also boast an in-house design capability and will happily help create workable concepts that meet both aesthetic and budgetary considerations. 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.
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.

Choosing a 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, professional 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. The Approved Signmaker Search facility on our web site will help you. 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. 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 their dealings with their clients. Should any Member breach the Code, the BSGA Council will either suspend membership or expel the member completely through its Dispute Resolution Service.

Consider your requirements
Your choice of signmaker will, to a large extent, depend on the nature of your requirements. If you are looking for single fascia sign for your offices or 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 recommend that you enlist the services of a BSGA Signmaker.
Sign buyers also have a legal requirement to effect a maintenance contract where the positioning of the sign can endanger lives or property in the event of failure of the sign (including fixings). This must include safety checks on sign structures. Sign buyers must engage a suitably qualified company to undertake this.
In addition to the maintenance requirement, sign buyers need to be aware that the European Construction Products Regulations (CPR) is now in place. Under CPR, load-bearing structures with signs will need to comply with the new Eurocodes and be CE marked. These new regulations come under criminal rather than civil law and carry severe penalties for non-compliance.
BSGA Members are kept informed of the legislation and other requirements necessary to help keep them and their clients from falling fall foul of their obligations. Even more reason to choose a BSGA Member to supply your signs.

Further information