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Wayfinding Systems

Wayfinding signage remains the foundation walls of many sign businesses today. Rob Fletcher investigates the sector and whether there are realistic growth prospects to be had

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William Smith is one of the UK’s largest suppliers of wayfinding sign solutions. Its Stylos Fingerpost system was first launched in 1989

Castles in the sky?

Complacency has been the demise of many a once highly-profitable business. Just look at Blockbuster. And when it comes to ‘bread and butter’ sectors of our kaleidoscopic industry, complacency can so often start to creep in. You have used the same supplier for years and specified the same stock systems. While it may save hassle and using a tried and tested methodology offers safety and security, it could be the reason you end up losing work in the long-term. Wayfinding signage is just such a case in point. This is a staple service catered for by almost every sign-maker in these fair isles, and the manufacturers and suppliers in this sector have not rested on their laurels.

In the words that follow I have spent time investigating some innovative solutions that could help keep your product and service offering contemporary and keep your customers happy.

Indeed, competition for customers in this market is fiercer than ever and it is so important to demonstrate to potential clients that you can offer a better, higher quality service than your rivals. This, coupled with the ever-changing demands of customers, means you need to stay on your toes.

In addition, one of the most interesting and significant issues within the signage market today is the ongoing trend of market segmentation.

This is a key issue picked up by Pnina Kedar Feldman, sales and business development manager at Vista System International: “The wayfinding industry is on a set course towards dividing and splitting the said market into an ever-growing number of sub-markets. We no longer have ‘general signage’, but rather special signage for each specific domain. This is manifested in the signage solutions offered to very specific sectors such as signage for medical institutions, signage for educational institutions, signage for offices, and so on.

“The split will not end with the central sector, but will continue and split into more and more individualised sub-sectors. In the future, a person who opens an optometrist’s store will buy the signs and display stands for his store from a company specialising in a line of signage products that were developed, designed, and manufactured especially for the eyeglass sales and marketing sector.”

A familiar site in town centres across the UK, the Octopus is a versatile fingerpost system from Sign Box

Erez Halivni, chief executive officer of Vista System International, also weighs in on the subject: “Market segmentation is a natural trend that will be impossible to stop. The end-users want to be offered the perfect custom designed solutions, to meet their specific needs. They no longer want to hear the question ‘What do you need?’, but rather hear the words ‘This is what you need’.

“The segmentation trend, along with the ever-evolving signage trend, has created yet another new development in the sign industry. While the needs are broken down further and further into sub-groups, the vendors are increasing their product range to widen their ability to offer a truly complete solution for the entire project.”

A great example is Sign Comp Europe, who were recently appointed Vista System’s exclusive distributor in the UK.

Being a major player in the flexible face signage sector, and realising the mutual desire of both companies to offer a complete signage solution matching these segmented signage projects, Sign Comp Europe is now capable of providing the UK market a one-stop-shop for Vista System’s interior signage.

John Purton, managing director of Sign Comp Europe, explains: “Vista’s mainly interior signage sits nicely alongside our new Easitex fabric system and complements perfectly our existing external flexible signage systems range, meaning we can offer a complete signage solution on future projects.”

Shining a light

One of the companies active in this area is Zeta Specialist Lighting, which is able to offer a range of LED and solar-powered wayfinding solutions for the signage sector.

Products include the Smart Scape Solar Bollard and Solar Brick, which the firm says are enabling sign-makers to deliver “sustainable and creative lighting solutions” to clients. There is also Zeta’s Ecolux Solar, a solar-powered LED trough lighting system and Zeta’s Bespoke Solar Signage Kit, a tailored solution for lighting outdoor monoliths and totems.

Zeta says that its solar-powered products, such as the Ecolux Solar, offer an effective and environmentally-friendly solution to users

In addition, the Zeta Light Guide Panel (LGP) is a flexible, energy-efficient solution designed to deliver optimum illumination across a variety of signage applications. Each panel utilises ultra-efficient Philips Lumiled LEDs and has a unique grid pattern etched into the acrylic that has been specifically designed to deliver shadow free illumination and uniform light distribution, ensuring optimum performance.

Kevin Batham, account manager at Zeta, comments: “Ultimately, a wayfinding system enhances the visitor experience—in a commercial setting, such as a retail mall, potentially this could make them spend more time and more money.

Ultimately, a wayfinding system enhances the visitor

“Visual impact and usability should be front of mind; there’s no point creating fantastic looking signs if the information they contain isn’t visible—for example, the text or maps are too small, or worse, illumination is overlooked, making the wayfinding system useless after daylight fades.”

Batham draws on Zeta’s experience in the market and speaks of the importance of high quality illumination for wayfinding signage: “Illumination in wayfinding is critical; if the lighting fails the signage is useless. Quality LEDs have a typical lifetime of more than 50,000 hours, making them both long-lasting and virtually maintenance-free—a major plus compared with traditional lighting.

Zeta can provide bespoke, solar-powered wayfinding systems to suit the specific requirements of customers

“If you look at solutions such as LGPs, it’s key to ensure these are sealed units and waterproof, and the drivers are efficient— to remove the risk of outage, which results in increased cost for the sign-maker as well as customer dissatisfaction.

“And, with solar-powered systems—a reliable energy management system is a must—to make sure the system provides year-round reliability.”

Quality and durability

William Smith is another company that offers wayfinding signage solutions to the market, and marketing executive Kyle Giles echoes the comments of Batham by saying that this type of signage must be of high quality.

Giles says: “The biggest danger is the lack of quality and durability of the product. The majority of all wayfinding products are located outdoors, so the biggest factor to consider is weathering and the elements. Signage tends to be fabricated out of metals and therefore they will weather over time. However, the quality of the build will impact on the rate at which it deteriorates.

“Vandalism and damage is something else to consider when opting for signage. Going cheap will often result in flimsy materials being used. These are likely to break easily and will therefore not serve the purpose.”

With this in mind, Giles picks out William Smith’s Stylos Fingerpost solution as an example of a product that is well engineered and resistant to damage. First introduced to the market back in 1989, the product has been continually evolved to remain an elegant contemporary solution.

Giles says: “Aware of the fact that these systems are most likely to be located in city centres, they may become susceptible to vandalism from time-to-time. As a result, we created a product that uses a concealed fixing system, comprising of an inner post, in which the pre-drilled aluminium arms are slotted and bolted into position. Precise fillets are then placed over the area to conceal fixings and ensure a smooth and attractive finish.

Available from Sign Box, its Modular Sign System is suitable for use in environments that demand special signage to “get the message across”

“The post and panel is also worth a special mention as it is highly customisable and is available with four different post profiles, offering plenty of variety for those who are particular when it comes to style and design.”

Elsewhere, also with a focus on the protection of signs is Innova Solutions, primarily through its Nova Dura range. Dana Kaye, customer relationship manager, says the company can offer solutions for highly durable, anti-graffiti, vandal Resistant, 100 percent recyclable printed and coated wayfinding signage.

Kaye says: “Consisting primarily of two products, Prima Dura stove finished aluminium and Eco Dura high pressure laminate, the Nova Dura process produces display products with outstanding full-colour print quality and superior long-term exterior resistance to UV and exterior weather conditions. These all are supported with a ten-year warranty for colour resistance and attack by air-borne elements on a range of substrates and thicknesses.”

Also, launched in April 2017, Prima Dura Glow provides a superior Class D Photoluminescent certified performance according to DIN 67510 Pt 1 and ISO 16069, delivering durability and photoluminescent performance to the highest specification.

Kaye expands: “With emergency lighting proven not to suffice alone in ‘smoke fills’, Prima Dura Glow is being sourced at an ever increasing rate as authorities seek to improve access and egress wayfinding. It is suited to rail, residential, industrial and commercial signage or wayfinding applications, or premises where members of the public or persons are unfamiliar with layout of the premises.”

Safety first

Building on this, James Parker, marketing and business development at Signfab (UK), focuses in on the importance of safety, not just with wayfinding systems, but signs in general.

Parker says: “Wayfinding is an integral part of everyday life, the sign industry is always creating innovative wayfinding solutions to help move large populations in unfamiliar surroundings, displaying strategic points in a memorable way.

“Safety is paramount; obviously wayfinders are predominantly erected in public areas, so it is imperative that signage conforms to local and national standards. For example, bespoke wayfinder systems should be manufactured to BS 559 and compliant to the BSEN1090-2 or BSEN1090-3 (CE regulation) if load bearing.”

A familiar site in town centres across the UK, the Octopus is a versatile fingerpost system from Sign Box that guides and directs pedestrians in all directions 

Parker goes on to say Signfab (UK) is committed to this safety focus, explaining that the company is keen to work with its customers to come up with the best solution for the project in hand.

He says: “Signfab (UK) produces totally bespoke products; sign-makers are installing wayfinder signs that ‘fit’ the environment obviously with safety in mind. Being totally bespoke gives the client the satisfaction that they have a unique product and will be inspired by.

“Signfab (UK) does not approach customers with a catalogue of readymade off-the-shelf products, but conversely fabricate the needs of the client. In the case of wayfinding, this is extremely important, as not every environment suites an off the shelf application.”

Elsewhere, Matthew Wilkins, director of Sign Box, focuses on the quality of design in wayfinding signage as critical to the outcome, and indeed performance, of the final product.

Wilkins says: “Good design of wayfinding is an essential part of its functionality; directional signs need to be clear and concise in the information they display. Good design and careful consideration will combine this clarity with appropriate products that not only make the signs conspicuous and functional, but also appropriate for their environment.

O Factoid: LEDs, which are commonly used in modern wayfinding signage, boast a typical lifetime of more than 50,000 hours. O

“Wayfinding needs to be considered and the messages it conveys will have a huge impact on the experience and enjoyment of the environment in which it sits. Lack of this consideration and inappropriate materials and quantities will have an adverse effect.”

Sign Box is highly skilled in this market, and Wilkins picks out the company’s Chameleon Monolith, Octopus Fingerpost, and Modular Sign System as among its most popular products.

Chameleon is a flexible monolith sign that can incorporate a range of material finishes. It is specifically designed to accommodate virtually any material that is available in sheet form like toughened glass, stainless steel, aluminium, laminate, composite, brass, bronze, natural stone, granite, acrylic, timber, or a combination of these.

Octopus is a versatile fingerpost system that guides and directs pedestrians everywhere. It is often used in town centres, business parks, hospitals, and university campuses.

The Modular Sign System was designed by the Sign Box in-house team of sign design and manufacturing experts. It is used in corporate and government headquarters, educational institutions, sport and leisure facilities, healthcare and public-sector environments that demand a special signage solution to get the message across.

Wilkins adds: “Successful architectural wayfinding signage should direct people who are unfamiliar with their surroundings, taking account of the needs of all, including the visually impaired and help everyone feel more engaged with their environment. We also make sure that commercial signage solutions address the requirements of an organisation’s corporate identity, forming an intrinsic part of its brand and marketing philosophy and creating that vital first impression.”

The Nova Dura range from Innova Solutions is highly durable, anti-graffiti, vandal resistant, and 100 percent recyclable

This final reference to a “vital first impression” is what remains key to a full appraisal of your businesses’ offering in this sector. More often than not a designer, engineer, or end-user business will require your direction and knowledge to specify a system to help their wayfinding scheme carry out both its functional task, but also look appropriate while doing so. Wayfinding today is as central to the look and feel of a project as any other element of interior or exterior design and decoration.

This type of signage can do much more than just simply show people the way; they can add real value to a venue or location. This is highlighted with how manufacturers and suppliers are focusing more on the lighting of the systems, as well as the environmentally-friendly solutions to add an extra green incentive.

With demand for innovative and “out-there” solutions higher than ever before, this type of innovation and the resultant products are likely to appeal to customers of all kinds, thus presenting a rather exciting future for wayfinding.

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