Wayfinding Communication

Signage systems are becoming more environmentally-aware; they are also becoming more versatile in graphic, and even digital, terms, the better to integrate signage with our ever-changing communication needs.

Providing directions within companiesshowing people how to get in and also how to get outis the creative business of a number of highly-specialist companies. In-company signage helps manage the flow of people who come and go within that company’s buildings:  employees, vendors and clients, as well as visitors. CiCrespi, founded in 1910, is in a strong alliance with the Danish company Modulex, founded in 1963. Their network consists of companies from 41 countries around the world. CiCrespi-Modulex are design and wayfinding specialists, and we visited the them in Denmark.

Diagram of signage components

Diagram of signage components

“Where there is a coming together of people, there is signage” says Pernille Walentin Jensen, Sales Manage of Modulex, France.  “The project begins with a client status analysis, flow analysis, information priority definition, graphic development, colors, and materials.  The implementation of a signage project starts with a collaboration between architects and graphic artists, moves on to installation, and continues with maintenance, which is ongoin. In average it takes approximately 1 year to develop a new product. Projects that consist mainly of new developed products can take from 1-6 years depending on the size of the project, the client’s decision-making process, etc”.

Michele Bonello, CiCrespi’s Managing Director in Italy, remembers his first project in 1987, the Pinacoteca of Brera in Milan, “A project which led to the publication of the book L’arte della segnaletica”, a blend of Italian style and Danish rationalism.  Michael Handberg, Graphic Designer at Modulex Denmark, deals with research and development of materials and modular systems. He says that “Nowadays, design (extra-fine surfaces) is minimalistic with signal forms tied to the organic nature of materials. For example, shapes are those of stones, eggs, or drops of water, while materials are recyclable and environment-friendly, such as grainy wood, bamboo, glass, and Corian.”

Nils Frederik Damsgaard, a senior designer, has developed studies for the production of low environmental impact signals.  The world of signage has just recently graduated to environmental sustainability issues.  As well as shape and design (making the most of materials, eliminating those that produce waste, and clash with an integrated system. Examples include street posters, wall posters) topics include new materials.

Outdoor signage, such as department name, with directional arrows, and so forth, are usually static. These are the kind of signals that Michele Bonello defines as “Lasting in time”.  Digital is the new frontier, “it’s about electronic supports that provide information through the use of customized software.” Pernille Walentin Jensen,  underlines that “Finding the right balance between static and digital has been  the tendency in recent years, not least for budgetary reasons.  If a classic corporate building signage project in static form costs about 150k euros, the digital version would be around 350k while a mixture of the two might come in at around 230k. The deal is to use digital only where it is really needed.” 

Signage means lighting. For example, the classic “H” for Hilton Hotels, which is currently undergoing a graphic redesign.  The key term is low-energy, long-life LED.  “If a traditional fluorescent tube lasts 15k hours, a LED lasts three times as long,” says Bonello. Besides”  he continues “We are in the presence of a product with low maintenance and CO2 production costs.”  Obviously, the initial outlay in money terms is higher.

A well-made product is designed to last for more than ten years.  In reality, the life span is often just four years, this because companies change more than once a decade.  This impacts on sector innovation, which must be constant  and involves considerable investment on the part of the company.  According to Pernille Walentin Jensen’s estimates, a major French hospital with 800 beds, invested a total of 1,126,000 euros between 2003 and 2007. Of this, 75% went in internal and external communication, 12% in installation services, and 13% in maintenance.

Banca Intesa San Paolo, Milan (Italy)

Banca Intesa San Paolo, Milan (Italy)

The tendency is to use both languages:  English along with the local language, as well as a comprehensive use of pictograms, with these becoming increasingly personalized these days.  Michele Bonello, who is fond of pictograms, states that “Symbols speak louder than words.”

An acute sense of esthetics, the ability to synthesize, and an aptitude for team work are career requisites.  Professional, families, are a mix of technicians and creative people. The latter come from the world of advertising and graphics, while product developers are engineers. In addition to CiCrespi and Modulex in Europe and in the rest of the world leaders include Asi Sign in the USA, D Line in Denmark, Spendex, Wood&Wood in Australia.

01 Corporate identity study
02 Development of prototypes
03 Production engineering
04 Project planning
05 On- site visits by technicians
06 Authorizations
07 Production
08 Installation
09 Project assessment
10 After-sales service

The planning and production cycle takes about six years” adds Pernille Walentin Jensen.  In the last five years, costs for these kinds of projects have fallen by about 30%, “Thanks to the simplification of basic components, such as materials, finishes, and accessories”.

The wayfinding solution had to accomodate high rates of change, and flexibility in the system adopted for naming destinations” says Johnny Nichols Head of Business Services Projects, Allen and Overy, a major international legal practice. Given the scale of the building, the wayfinding design was based on both a grid system and on colour-coded zones. These correspond to the architectural layout, ensuring a logical framework for every journey.

Founded in 1846, Grinnell College, located in Grinnell, Iowa (USA), has been named one of the 20 best liberal arts colleges in the country for the past fifteen years by U.S. News & World Report.
Static signs (typically direction signs) and digital solutions (for messages that are changeable with time) coexist in the Grinnell College building.

Enrico Pavin, SSI Phillips Lighting Business Development Manager, reports that the new LED system for the neon signs of Italy’s second-largest banking group, guarantees excellent uniformity in terms of brightness paired with low-energy consumption.

[W   allenovery.com     asisignage.com     carlf.com     modulex.dk     philips.com    ralphthemagician.com     spandex.com     woodandwood.com.au]

Published in the hard-copy of Work Style Magazine, Spring 2010