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Wayfinding Systems

Among the most popular forms of signage in the world, Rob Fletcher casts an eye over the wayfinding systems market, picking out some of the latest innovations and trends in this sector

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Photo Courtesy of IS Group

Show me the way to profit

Without meaning to go too pun-heavy, where would we be without wayfinding signage? These types of signs are commonplace in a range of environments – from town centres and museums, to office blocks and universities – and it is unlikely these places would function properly without the use of wayfinding systems.

However, despite already being established as one of the most important technologies in sign-making, this has not stopped those in this sector working to come up with new innovations to improve on this tried and tested method. After all, customers are seeking something fresh in all areas of the market.

Here, we look at some of the latest products and solutions from those in this sector and consider how much of an impact they could have on this established area.

Lighting up the market

One of the many companies active in this market is Zeta Specialist Lighting, which works in partnership with its customers to create bespoke solutions to meet their individual needs. Account manager Kevin Batham is under no illusions as to how busy the sector is at present, saying it is important for the company to come up with new ideas in order to stand out from the crowd. In the case of Zeta, this involved driving its LED and solar-powered solutions to customers.

Zeta’s Batham says wayfinding totems and monoliths featuring maps, written information and arrows must feature some form of lighting so they can be seen at night, Photo Courtesy of IS Group and FRA 

“Zeta is currently working on multiple contracts with sign-makers nationwide, to deliver LED and solar-powered lighting systems to illuminate public information boards in cities, hospitals, universities, shopping centres, housing developments, business parks and public venues,” Batham says.

Batham goes on to say that he has noticed a number of key trends in the market in recent times, with Zeta adapting its service offering to cater for these changing demands.

He cites the Legible Cities movement as one major market influence, saying it has gathered momentum across the country and is driving demand for design-led, but functional, wayfinding systems.

“In addition to new systems being designed from the ground up – which involves putting signage in new places, where there may or may not be easy access to an on-grid connection, Zeta has been involved in many retro-fit projects,” Batham says.

“Increasingly, our sign-maker customers are turning to us for solar-powered systems – as in the majority of cases - it’s considered time and cost-prohibitive to link in to a mains connection when one is not readily accessible in both retro-fit and new installation projects.”

Kevin Batham, account manager at Zeta Specialist Lighting, says LED and solar-powered lighting are becoming increasingly important for wayfinding systems

Batham says Zeta is also seeing more wayfinding totems and monoliths featuring maps, in addition to written information and arrows. In order for these to be fit for purpose, Batham says visitors need to be able to view the finer details and during the hours of darkness, meaning that they need to be illuminated. This in turn is driving the need for cost-effective, easy to install and economic to run solar-powered LEDs – something that Zeta specialises in.

“Zeta’s portfolio includes a number of signage sector-specific solar-powered systems including the Bespoke Solar Signage Kit for lighting outdoor monoliths and totems,” he says.

“Solar panels harness the sun’s energy during the day which is stored by the long life batteries, Zeta’s patented Energy Management System intelligently releases the stored energy, regulates the amount of power consumed by LEDs at night and maximises the power going to the batteries during the day.

“We also offer the SmartScape Solar Bollard which incorporates LEDs that run continuously at a low level to ensure visibility from a distance and in-built motion sensors that increase light levels within a 5m range. This solution is ideal for areas such as car parks, passageways, parks or roads, where wayfinding simply needs to lead the public to where they need to go, as opposed to providing them with information.”

Also available from Zeta in this area is the ECOLUX SOLAR trough lighting system, which Batham says is virtually maintenance free and has minimal installation costs. The ECOLUX SOLAR incorporates a Super Lens, which enables even illumination on signs up to 3m deep, discreet and flexible PV panels, long life batteries and Zeta’s patented, intelligent Energy Management System to provide optimum, efficient LED illumination.


Solar is also our mainstay, we have a strong legacy of product innovation in this area and are constantly refining our offer to address changing market demands

Batham adds: “Solar is also our mainstay we have a strong legacy of product innovation in this area and are constantly refining our offer to address changing market demands.”

Finding your way

Another company able to support those in this sector is trade supplier Ashby Trade Signs, which has a whole host of options on offer for the wayfinding signage market.

Within the Ashby range of solutions is the fingerposts signage system, one of the more traditional wayfinding sign types that are commonplace in town and city centres and public attractions such as theme parks and zoos. These systems are available as post mounted or classic fingerpost form – both of which come with finder thicknesses or 16mm or 3mm.

Finger-style posts are among the most common form of wayfinding signage

In a statement, Ashby says: “This wayfinding fingerpost sign system combines customisation with the strength required for exposed conditions. The simple fixing method allows easy installation and the ability to rotate fingers to their desired direction after setting the post. The Ashby Finger range is quintessential finger pointer signage.”

Ashby also stocks a wide range of modular sign systems, some of which are well suited to wayfinding signs, including those you are likely to see in hospital car parks or in the main hospital building itself.

These modular sign systems come in four different mount options: suspended, post mounted, wall mounted and projecting. Available as single or multi-level directory double sided, Ashby says these solutions are ideal for when signage must be consistent throughout a project. Planks are supplied in a choice of four heights: 50, 100, 165 and 300mm.

Ashby says: “Ashby Modular Signage System offers simple design and enduring build quality to ensure longevity. There are no plastic components, which means the signs can be disassembled and reassembled regularly without compromising their integrity. Available in all essential mounting options, this system can cater for every eventuality.”

Changing roles

Elsewhere and The Sussex Sign Company has established itself as a leader in the wayfinding signage market, offering a full consultancy, design, manufacturing and installation service across Kent, Hampshire, London, Surrey and Sussex. Linda Edwards, operations director at the company, says a key factor in this sort of work is adapting to and adopting new technologies.

The Sussex Sign Company works with a wide range of customers across the public, private and voluntary sectors on wayfinding signage projects
 

Edwards says: “Technological innovation within the wayfinding market draws into question once accepted historic custom and practice of the role of ‘wayfinding’ signage. In conjunction with the heightening recognition that architecture, landscaping, space, art and technology individually contribute a significant stake in a wayfinding scheme – wayfinding signage as we once knew it, has the potential to become superseded.

“Sign companies should recognise that consideration is required to ensure the diverse portfolio of products and services available within the signage industry are integrated into a wayfinding project.”

Edwards also speaks about how wayfinding initiatives are now heavily design-led, thus requiring the signage industry to work as part of a multi-disciplinary approach and support the customer prior to a project’s commission.

“The significance of the role and affiliated responsibilities the signage industry plays in the visual communication industry is most certainly gaining deserved recognition,” Edwards says, adding: “The extensive skill and knowledge base of the signage industry allows for a large proportion of interior design work to be specified, fabricated and installed by signage organisations.


O
Factoid: istorians believe the oldest fingerpost sign in the UK is located near Chipping Campden in Gloucestershire. Dating from 1669, it offers directions to Oxford, Warwick, Gloucester and Worcester. O


“The change in wayfinding strategies has created a platform to enable signage organisations access to a much wider audience, thus creating opportunities to showcase their skills and expertise while fostering sustainable and mutually beneficial relationships with organisations such as architects and design agencies.”

The Sussex Sign Company counts major brands in the property, automotive, financial, legal, educational, retail, leisure and service industries – across the public, private and voluntary sectors – among the customers for its architectural and wayfinding signage solutions.


Edwards says the company’s focus on providing a professional service in what is an evolving market is important. The Sussex Sign Company is also backed by a number of certifications and qualifications, including the Construction Health Safety Scheme Safe Contractor Accreditation and Gold Standard Construction
Certification.

Despite being an established part of the sign-making industry for many years, it is clear that advances in technology are helping to drive more innovation in the wayfinding signage market. By taking advantage of these developments and integrating this into your signage, you can ensure your company moves ahead of the competition and finds a route to new profit.  


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