How to ensure your finished signage meets its design intent
The briefing and planning stage is the most important part of any signage project. To ensure the end product matches your original design intent, it’s vital to discuss the practicalities and implications of that design with all relevant parties, particularly your construction designer and sign contractor. By combining accurate budgeting, effective communications and a willingness to look outside the box for alternative materials and methods, it’s possible to ensure that completed signage remains true to the original brief without requiring a limitless budget or unrealistic timeframe.

We see a key part of our role being to help the client and their designer, after all it is part of the designer’s role to come up with interesting and unusual concepts – and those more often than not are challenging to realise! Here are five steps towards achieving an end product that meets all objectives:

1. Choose the right signage partner.

From a client’s perspective, choosing the right signage company is a key part of planning a realistic and achievable project. It’s vital to assess any company being considered to deliver signage, particularly their track record of delivering in line with original design intent. Merson-ASG are always happy to show prospective customers original designs for comparison to finished projects, explaining what steps were taken to ensure that the latter retained the former’s design elements and key features.

2. Be realistic at the outset

Although we are hugely experienced at creating complex signage, there will always be limits to what can be achieved. We always do our utmost to achieve a client’s design intent, but in some cases the design intent may not be achievable with the proposed budgets or timeframes. This is where our huge bank of project experience really comes to the fore, enabling us to challenge assumptions and identify any cost/longevity/maintenance issues attached to the design brief. If there are certain aspects of the client brief that have a disproportionate effect on one of these issues, we can highlight possible solutions and compromises, such as…

3. Being willing to consider alternative materials.

Often, a client will have a pre-defined preference for particular materials they’d like to use. However, they can often be surprised by the availability of alternatives, which maintain the desired look & feel. This really comes down to the knowledge and expertise of the sign company concerned and their ability to effectively showcase these alternative materials to the designer, client and main contractor at an early stage. For instance, some people assume that glass reinforced plastic (commonly referred to as GRP) tends to look cheap like hard shiny plastic and won’t deliver the right aesthetics. In fact, GRP is a supremely flexible material with finishes similar to Corian available at a fraction of the cost. While some people may decide to stick with their original material choices for sound reasons, many companies have benefited from the cost savings offered by alternatives they didn’t know existed until we proposed them.

4. Minimise conflict by maximising communication.

Signage projects can often involve conflicting aims, as each party may have different priorities. They should share a common goal, but each will have their own opinions (often based on previous experience) that can influence their thinking. It is important to anticipate some resistance towards suggestions made by other parties – particularly when those parties aren’t experts in the field they’re discussing, such as a site manager questioning an architect’s use of certain materials. We avoid any negativity by understanding the potential for conflicting views, appreciating each party’s perspective and always bringing it back to a common goal guided by the client’s declared objectives.

A recent project we completed for British Land demonstrates how informed communications can minimise any expectation gap. Having all the relevant parties around the table allowed for highly productive and effective discussions, with everyone talking about the proposed materials, viewing relevant samples and understanding the benefits they provided. This process ensured the end results looked exactly like Portland Design’s visually stunning 3D renderings.

5. Accept that budgets are limited.

In an ideal world, money would be no object – and with an unlimited budget, just about any design intent can be met. The realities of the P&L account means all costs must deliver a suitable return and be realistic. Achieving ambitious objectives under budgetary pressures may be assisted by giving the signage company sufficient time to investigate a range of different processes, suppliers, materials or methods. This window of time for research can often enable them to match the brief at a lower cost than may otherwise have been achieved.

Indeed, timeframes are a crucial component of this balancing act. It’s usually possible to drive down costs with a longer lead time, whereas urgent work often dictates higher overall costs. Clients may have to decide at the selection stage whether they wish to prioritise speed, cost and choice of materials. However, customers will often accept some compromises in one or more areas, if they know the finished design will meet the brief while perhaps not the letter of the specification. Since the client is the only one who should make the judgement call between speed, affordability and material choices, Merson-ASG will offer as much choice as possible and seek opinions and feedback at every stage of the process in order to help the client and their designer achieve their design intent.

If you'd like to discuss your project with the team at Merson Group get in touch today.