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Architectural Signage: A Guide for Architects and the Construction Industry

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17 March 2022

Architectural signage is an integral part of our built landscape, and helps us – often unconsciously – to navigate the man-made world around us. In this guide, we will explain what architectural signage is, the functions it serves and some of the regulations architects and construction professionals will need to consider when commissioning signage for their projects. 

What is Architectural Signage? 

When looking for signage for construction projects, architects and other building professionals will often engage a specialist signage company to take care of this aspect of the build. Although it’s widely used within the signage industry, the phrase “architectural signage” is not always particularly well known outside of that sphere and, although it is something we all see every day, its meaning may not be immediately obvious. 

Architectural signage, in the broadest sense, refers to any and all signage that is used in buildings and manmade structures. Generally speaking, it is custom-designed for these buildings and structures, and is often considered at the design phase of a project and therefore intended to become a seamless part of the wider whole. There are also many cases where architectural signage is used to retrofit preexisting buildings and infrastructure in line with a change of use or rebrand. 

What Does Architectural Signage Do? 

Architectural signage has a variety of functions vital to the usability and navigability of a building, but it must also reinforce brand identity, using a consolidated design language that adheres to guidelines concerning colours, materials and typography (with the exception of health and safety signage where there are wider regulations concerning design). 

The challenge for signage designers working alongside architects is to take a series of sometimes intricate requirements regarding wayfaring, information sharing and branding to create something that enhances both the design and user experience of a building in a coherent and aesthetically pleasing way. 

Perhaps one of the most famous and impressive examples of architectural signage in the UK is that found within the London Underground. With an instantly recognisable brand identity, this signage helps up to five million people navigate the extensive London transport system every day, displaying everything from the iconic tube map to pricing information. 

Other places where you are likely to see large networks of architectural signage include university campuses, airports, shopping centres, hospitals and office buildings. 

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Meeting Regulations

Architectural signage is required in a variety of scenarios in order to adhere to health and safety regulations, with the installation of safety signage mandated by the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974. Examples include no-smoking, emergency, fire safety and hazard signs, and premises may require some or all of this signage depending on its composition and function. 

Companies, signage manufacturers and public entities also have a responsibility to ensure accessibility to people who live with disabilities such as sight impairment. The accessibility of buildings as a whole is covered in Building Regulations Part M, but the Equality and Human Rights Commission also suggests using “structural or other physical changes … or provide appropriate contrast in decor to help the safe mobility of a visually impaired person”. 

Part III of the Disability Discrimination Act guarantees equal access to all people using public buildings and paid or unpaid services, and the government has some guidance on accessible communication formats to help any stakeholders ensure they uphold this guarantee. 

This guidance suggests creating a strategy that includes experts and consults the needs of disabled people, outlining factors such as how you will anticipate their needs and what type of information you will prioritise. The solution for accessible signage can include colour contrasting design and the addition of Braille – a series of raised dots that allows people to read signs with their fingers. 

Key Considerations in Architectural Signage 

When working together to create architectural signage across a built space, architects and signage manufacturers must take into account: 

Wayfaring and Customer/User Flow

It is vital to understand the ideal user flow through a building and to tackle the design challenge of creating wayfaring signage which ensures people can intuitively find their way around the ideal route. 

Branding 

Ensuring that brand guidelines are adhered to and a design language is decided upon is key to making sure that signage works as a whole and enhances the aesthetics of a building. A consistent design language can also help with wayfaring – for example, the use of black and yellow to indicate “way out” signs on the London Underground means that people know what to look for when they want to exit the station. 

Information and Safety Signage 

For users to be able to orientate themselves within a building, concise and clear signage that conveys information is hugely important, whether that’s as simple as a company logo outside an office or as intricate as the vast web of signage required across an art gallery. To get the best result, stakeholders must anticipate what anyone visiting their building most needs to know and ensure all relevant information is clearly at hand for them. 

If you would like to find out more about Links Signs, how we can help you and our work with architects and the construction industry, don’t hesitate to get in touch

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