Signage makes up a surprisingly large chunk of our visual and physical environments. We take in hundreds to thousands of signs every day, depending on what we’re doing. Encountering so many signs in such a short period of time means that we rarely spend more than a second looking at a particular sign. This has serious implications for businesses and corporations, who, as players in an increasingly competitive marketplace, need to take full advantage of that split-second window to leave a memorable, lasting and positive impression.
Warning and safety signage naturally needs to stand out and attract the eye in order to draw attention quickly, hence the fluorescent oranges and greens and bold capital letters present on most safety signage. Business and corporate signage, however, has a slightly more developed and complex role to play. Indeed, brash fluorescent colours and block fonts are likely to give potential clients the wrong impression! Much business signage, if well-designed and smart, often remains at the subconscious level of perception among consumers, not appearing out of place or intrusive.
This leads us to the crux of the problem: corporate and business signage needs to communicate its message quickly and effectively, but brash and loud signage can overshadow the intended message of the sign. This is an issue that can be solved by thinking about signage design, corporate image and identity, and how the two concepts relate. We’ll start by examining the actual messages that corporate and business signage is intended to communicate, and from there we can consider how we can use design to communicate these messages.
Why use business signage?
The benefits of business signage are manifold. It uses space that you already own, instead of paying to hire a billboard, and it lasts far longer. Its exhibition on your shopfront or company headquarters alerts people to your company’s presence, turning every single passerby into a potential customer – a truly powerful marketing tool.
Over time, this develops into brand familiarity. Your sign, with your company’s logo and slogan on it, start to be seen as a dependable part of the community, purely due to the longevity of the presence of your business sign. It is the first and last thing that your customers see as they enter and leave your premises, and your return customers begin to associate your external image, embodied by your signage, with the experience that they had at your business. This lays bare the sheer importance of smart business signage and gives rise to the idea of ‘corporate image’.
What does ‘corporate image’ actually mean?
Your corporate image consists of consumer perceptions of your corporation. These perceptions accumulate and grow over time, and are affected by the perceived quality of tangible aspects of your business, such as your customer service and your products (if applicable), alongside more intangible elements, such as your corporate values and identity. Smart corporate signage can directly influence consumer perceptions of both tangible and intangible elements of your business.
Signage and tangible business aspects
How can signage influence perceptions of tangible aspects of your business? Surely the consumer will simply judge your product or service on its own merits? If only business was so simple! We know from anecdotal reports and psychological research that a huge amount of factors can affect how your products are perceived by consumers, covering all five senses. It is for this reason that department stores pipe in music to enhance the shopping experience, or that Subway ensures that their stores always smell strongly of freshly baked bread, for example.
Now imagine a department store or baguette shop where the in-store wayfinding signage or menu board is scruffy, hard to read and poorly maintained. The consumer will gain a negative impression instantly, as these aspects of your signage suggest either a lack of care and attention, or a lack of funds for repairs, which raises other questions – “if the business is not making money, then people aren’t shopping here, so perhaps they know something I don’t?”
These negative impressions remain in the back of the mind of the consumer, lowering their expectations of the quality of your product or service. Because signage is the first thing that the customer sees, and thus it forms the basis of their first impression, it can be very hard to challenge an initial negative impression, even if your product is perfectly good.
Signage and the intangible aspects of your brand
Intangible aspects of your business are slightly harder to pin down, but definitely no less important. They cover things such as consumer perceptions of your company’s values and identity. Company values are specific and defined for each company to guide that company towards its business goals. They typically include things like ‘empathy’, ‘honesty and integrity’, ‘passion’, ‘professionalism’ and so on.
Signage can influence customer perceptions of these values in two ways. Values such as honesty, empathy and integrity can be communicated through design elements contained within the sign. Think of this in a purely artistic fashion – for example, wide-spaced, thin, lower case and sans-serif letting suggests stability and openness, whereas bold, thick sturdy letters imply a firm sense of integrity.
The second way that signage can affect perceptions of your values is similar to that seen with tangible assets, via the quality and smartness of the sign itself. Values such as passion, professionalism and so on are communicated by ensuring that all signage is well-maintained. A poorly fixed and faded sign suggests anything but professionalism and passion.
As you can see, there is a lot more to signage than meets the eye. Signage does more than simply signpost things – it embodies your brand identity. At The Sussex Sign Company, we have decades of expertise and have shown that we can be trusted to protect and embellish your brand. Please get in touch today to find out how we can work together, call us on 01273 417057.