Future Clients, here’s some insight into the design challenges, roles and responsibilities you will be sharing during the development of a sign project with your sign company. This insight is meant to educate you and offer our perspective on how we look to treat each client with respect and encourage collaboration to get the best sign to suit our clients need.
Design can be a mysterious animal. What are the rules for proper readability? How do you figure out the right scale of your sign and what font should be used? These questions are only the tip of the iceberg of design decisions that have to be made.
Your brand is the most important property a signage company can be given access too. Our job as a signage company is to implement your brand—the spirit of your company—into a physical structure, which includes form, color, scale, and execution. So, whom will you trust to deliver on this task?
Having access to an experienced Environmental Graphic Designer (EGD) with expertise in designing graphic communications for scale and extending branding elements into an environment can be a great resource to alleviate a lot of frustration in the paralysis of where to start in the design process—and how to get you where you want to be as quickly as possible. Let the experience of the EGD be your guide. They can identify your brand’s core essence and transform it into usable elements that will leverage the persona of your brand and transform it into a physical form, thus providing your own clients/audience with a solid pay-off and execution of your identity at your desired location. The goal is the successful extension of who you are as a company into your intended environment/location.
Below is a typical design process. It is broken down into the ideal design development path, but not all projects need every step, so take this as a best-case scenario intended to give the client the most access and collaboration with their sign design development.
Your Account Representative’s main task is to be the liaison between the you, the Client, and the EGD/creative team, managing expectations and being the sole conduit of information. This person is critical, as they manage the scope and timing, leading the project down a successful path.
Ideal Project Design Path:
The Account Representative introduces their EGD (either in-house or partner creative team) to the Client for the Design Briefing Meeting. The Acct Rep by now would have collected some of the project particulars (the scope of the project) and shared these with the EGD, including the approximate size or square footage limits, type of sign, the sign’s intended function, major elements that are to be incorporated into the design, the location, and if possible, a prequalification on a budget for the sign.
Design Briefing Meeting (best if in person, when available/allowable)
- Client (Part 1), shares company background (insight into who they are and what they do), to give EGD background on how best to use and position the client’s branding elements.
- Client (Part 2) shares project scope, what they want (type of sign), where it is to go, what functionality is to be integrated, and who is the intended audience.
- Client & EGD meet exchange ideas, let the questions fly. Here is where the EGD can begin to draw out what are the Client’s main concerns, viewpoints are, or get detailed directions as to what the Client is envisioning. Some initial material and form comments are shared, maybe even a sketch or two by the EGD. These initial directions will help lead the EGD down the right path, reassureing the Client that they were listened too and are contributing to the design process.
Meeting Key Take-aways
- Client will need to provide, branding assets (Logo-should be a *Vector art file, the fonts to be used, a color palette that is to be used, or complete set of branding guidelines if available), and a few high resolution photos of the proposed sign location to be used for photo overlays that will be presented back to the Client later on in the design process.
- Acct Rep, will collect and distribute information/files between Client and EGD.
- When Client’s brand assets and photo’s are delivered, the EGD should have enough information to start the initial loose design development.
Design Stage 1, Initial Designs: EGD should present with the Acct Rep. 2-3 scale appropriate design layout options for the Clients signage project. These initial layouts should be loose and not fully developed with unneeded production and material callouts, which takes additional time and effort by multiple resources. It’s too early in the design development to be warranted yet, as these initial layouts are intended to get the Client to indicate which design layout is closest to their vision of what the sign will look like. When this selection is made, the design project can proceed. If no initial design direction is selected, more direct questions are required between the EGD and Client to determine how the initial design directions were off-base, and what needs to be changed to get back on track.
Design Stage 2, Design Refinement: Taking the Client’s selected design direction, the EGD, develops the scale 2D layout, with all production and material callouts (for use in estimating the production costs). The 2D layout is used to be integrated into the supplied location photographs, which will become the Photo Overlays, contextual mappings of what the proposed sign will look like in the intended location/environment. Acct Rep will present detailed layout of 2D, including the Photo Overlays, to the Client for review/approval.
Design Stage 3, Last-Looks Review: Client comments are shared with EGD to make any last edits. Acct Rep. will present updated layout to Client, for final review/approval. Upon approval, production begins. If further changes are required, project returns to Design Refinement stage.
The above sequence is the ideal, and in the real world nothing is ever ideal, so the number of revisions between Design Stages 2 and 3, can add up quickly. This back and forth can be challenging and time consuming, but very necessary for both sides, as it separates out the items that are most important and eliminates the elements that are not needed. We expect content changes, such as swapping of tenant names or positions. These are common updates that are required prior to production, and easy to make, but when it comes to major design look/style, location and or broad size changes, these set the design process back almost to a complete restart, which requires unplanned design hours and will require additional budget as these changes are at the Client’s request and need to be accounted for.
You, the Client, have the right to get your sign the way you want it, but please understand the EGD is providing the best design solution in their design experience. Sometimes this may be counter to the Client’s direction, but the EGD is working to deliver a physical form of communication (your sign) that is always putting the Client’s best foot forward, making sure the sign is clear in its communication, visually balanced, and free of visual clutter or noise– placing the Client’s brand at the apex of the sign’s purpose. This design challenge is difficult and requires years of experience to master, so we ask our future clients, let the EGD be your brand’s partner.
Getting to the finish line in your signage project will always have a few hurdles, but having an EGD running with you, will make the hurdles smaller and easier for you to handle. Are you ready? Set? Let’s go!
*Vector art: Wikilink definition; https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vector_graphics