Consider the following:
Has your facility undergone growth or renovations? Do departments and staff change on a regular basis? Are employees constantly directing visitors?
If these questions sound like some of the challenges you face in your facility, then you probably have realized the importance of having a good sign system. An effective sign system entails much more than placing a sign at every entrance and door. It is a process – known as wayfinding – that considers such things as how to efficiently direct traffic throughout the facility, the facility’s design, and how to address changes as they occur.
No one likes to stop and ask for directions. When people have no clear direction on where they need to go, their frustration and stress levels can increase and can cause them to develop a negative image of their surroundings. Planning a good sign system can help ensure that visitors will not leave your facility with such a perception. A good sign system should begin directing people from the moment they enter your campus/facility. Your signs should be easily read, placed at major decision points, flow logically, and clearly define the layout of the facility. It may take some time to work out the right plan for your signs, but it is a crucial step. Proper signage contributes to the perception people have of your facility and, in cases of emergency evacuations, could very well become a matter of life or death.
Another key to planning a good sign system is to consider how it should look. Signs should complement and enhance the overall design of your facility. More than ever before, signs are being considered a part of the interior design package of new facilities and come in a variety of styles. Sign design not only enhances your system aesthetically, but makes it more functional as well. When the exterior and interior signs are consistent in design, they become easier to recognize and follow.
Finally, a good sign system can actually save you money. Considering a modular sign system will enable you to be prepared for any updates or changes that occur in your facility. A modular system allows you to change out components, which can be done for a fraction of the cost of replacing the entire sign. It also reduces the likelihood of having to repair damaged walls that can come from removing permanently mounted signs. Laser printed paper inserts are becoming an increasingly popular option for facilities where change is a common occurrence, allowing updates in a matter of minutes for next to nothing. The life-cycle of the sign system increases with its level of flexibility and will more than make up for the money invested in it as time goes by.
Wayfinding is an investment in time and money and can be an involved process. However, you will immediately see the positive effects that it can have on the facility, employees, and visitors. Most of all, you will notice the benefits in the time and money you save in the maintenance of your signs.
Andrea Blackwood is promotions manager at Atlanta-based APCO Graphics Inc. (www.apcographics.com).