Know-How: Signage/Wayfinding

Sept. 1, 2007
Nine simple ways to make signage more effective.

How can schools and universities create a positive experience for students, staff and visitors from the moment they set foot on campus?

Signage — exterior signs, wayfinding systems, display cases and more — is critical. But making the right impression with signage is a complex challenge. Schools must consider design, materials, budgets, government regulations, installation and maintenance needs … the list goes on.

Tips to help get these details right and ensure the most effective, brand-building signage possible:

  1. Involve students. Soliciting input in the design process for the most high-profile signs can foster good will with the student body and a stronger sense of connection to campus.

  2. Blend with the school's brand and architecture. Education architecture is becoming more focused on creating a positive atmosphere. Signage should look to set the right mood. Just as important, every sign's design should support a school's brand.

  3. Work with a single signage provider. When institutions use different contractors for interior, exterior and specialty signs, they risk inconsistency in design, quality and presentation. Working with a single provider can help ensure the seamless integration of all types of signage. This also avoids the time and additional costs of working with multiple providers.

  4. Recognize donors at every opportunity. They are vital to an institution's future, and positive reinforcement for their generosity is crucial. Signage is a great way to celebrate these VIPs.

  5. Consider radius corners for protruding signage. Rounded edges on signs in high-traffic areas can help prevent injuries and decrease liability. In addition, they can reduce the troublesome accumulation of garbage atop signs.

  6. Explore electronic options for messageboards. Electronic displays attract more viewers and are easier to alter than signs with traditional lettering. Messageboards can be enhanced with custom headers that feature team mascots, logos and more.

  7. Hide signs in plain sight. Take great care to develop a wayfinding system that has the right amount of signage in all the right places, without ever getting in the way.

  8. Plan for the evolution of the Americans with Disabilities Act. The regulations that uphold the ADA are changing, so signage must be adaptable. Choose a system that can be updated easily as needs arise.

  9. Get the details right for display cases. It may sound obvious, but always make sure display cases are designed to fit through building access points. Illuminated cases also must meet fire codes. For example, cases made of wood or particleboard need internal sprinkler systems.

Paul Poblocki, vice president and general manager of the Interior Sign Division at Poblocki Sign Company, West Allis, Wis.

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