ADA Signage: Intent Is Just as Important as the Letter-of-the-Law

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Over the years we’ve received many good questions regarding the ADA and signage, particularly with respect to aspects of ADA signage that are not well defined within the ADA, and in some cases not defined at all. In these cases we must still make a responsible interpretation, largely based on the intent of the ADA Standards.

Defendant Didn’t Violate Law But Department of Justice Sided with Plaintiff

Here’s a great recent example, albeit not specific to signage, in which the Department of Justice sided with the plaintiff even though it appeared that the defendant did not directly violate the law:

In January 2014, a blind individual attempted to purchase items using his debit card at a Lucky Brand Jeans store in Miami, Florida.  Most Lucky Brand Jeans stores have POS devices featuring touch screens only, so the devices have no tactile/Braille keys whatsoever.  A blind individual has no choice but to give their PIN number to a third party to enter into the POS device, or simply not use the debit card and submit another form of payment. The blind individual states that Lucky Brand Jeans has violated the ADA by failing to provide him and other blind individuals with the means to independently purchase items using a debit card, including POS devices with tactile key pads.

Lucky Brand Jeans made two interesting arguments against this claim that are not entirely unreasonable. First, they noted that the ADA does not have a specific requirement for POS devices to include tactile key pads. Second, Lucky Brand noted that since blind individuals can purchase items using cash, credit, or by processing their debit card as a credit card, there was no discrimination under the ADA. Ultimately, Lucky Brand’s arguments were not very strong, demonstrating that they did not consider the true intent of the ADA. With both of their arguments they implied that they were willing to live with blind customers not being able to purchase using debit cards.

The DOJ Was Not So Willing

Although POS devices are indeed not addressed in the ADA, an entity conducting a commercial transaction or public accommodation has the responsibility under the ADA to provide effective communication, in this case effective communication that would allow a blind or sight impaired person to interact with a POS device during a debit card transaction, and certainly without having to divulge their PIN to another party, which no one should ever have to do. Effective communication can include special devices that enable access and protect privacy at the same time, and which Lucky Brand Jeans did not provide. The argument for using other payment options didn’t fly with the DOJ either, as debit cards operate differently than credit cards and provide certain benefits over credit cards, so denying that as an option to some people and not others is a bad idea. And what if the customer only has a debit card as a method of payment? The DOJ determined that denying an individual the right to pay for goods with his debit card, when debit cards may be used by other customers, is in fact discriminatory. As of April 2014, the DOJ validated the plaintiff’s claim and will move forward with litigation. The likely outcome is that Lucky Brand will be directed to make the necessary modifications to their POS devices.

Viewing Letter-of-the-Law Not Enough with Ada Signage

Related to signage, we’ve seen the same types of scenarios in which viewing only the letter-of-the-law is not enough. Digital signage is a great example of this lesson. If you search the entire ADA for “Digital Signage” or even “Electronic Signage”, you will find zero results. Nothing. So, digital signage is exempt from the ADA, right? As is the case with POS devices, digital signage is still impacted by the intent of the ADA. First, the “Protruding Objects” section of the ADA also applies to wall-mounted digital displays, such that the digital sign cannot project out from a wall’s surface more than four inches. And second, “Reach Ranges” ensures that wheelchair-bound individuals can access the interactive functions on any wall-mounted operable device, which includes digital displays.

Who would have thought that the Lucky Brand Jeans case was primarily about accessibility to effective communication when it initially appeared to simply be a POS device issue? When reviewing these types of issues, the Department of Justice will always consider if the intent of the ADA was violated. Was an individual denied access to (not limited to) communication, employment, public buildings and transportation that other individuals can access?

As long as we think in these terms when exploring the gray-areas of the ADA as it applies to signage, then our solutions won’t be part of future DOJ litigation updates, and most important we will satisfy the signage and wayfinding needs of all individuals.

 

Andy Levine
Director of Corporate Education

 

Wayfinding – Nationally Renown Forest Park in St. Louis

“One of America’s coolest city parks … and one of the world’s most beautiful city parks.”

—   Travel + Leisure

 

forest park old sign-2-edited forect park old sign-1-edited

Considering the quote and photos above, something just doesn’t jive. Can the quote and photos denote the same park? Both refer to our own Forest Park here in St. Louis. Believe me, Forest Park is a beautiful place. It is the 6th most visited urban park in the U.S. and it is estimated that a quarter of Forest Park’s 13 million annual visitors come from outside the St. Louis area. Even for those who live in St. Louis, who have previously been visitors to Forest Park, the Park’s existing brown navigational signs — intended to be temporary when they were installed years ago —appear confusing and incomplete. Quite frankly, the signs just don’t do the park the justice it deserves. That’s why the folks at Forest Park have embarked on implementing a brand new wayfinding system for the Park.

As a St. Louisan and president of ASI Signage Innovations office located in Downtown St. Louis for over 35 years, I am excited and proud ASI is the implementation partner on this new project that will certainly enhance the Forest Park experience.

So, how did we get to be part of this team?

It started with a Request for Qualification (RFQ) issued by the City of St. Louis in the summer of 2013. In our response to that RFQ, we highlighted our experience implementing exterior campus wayfinding systems for medical centers, major universities and other municipalities. We demonstrated our financial qualifications, provided documentation of our shop drawing process and detailed our staffing levels and production capability. Fortunately, we were short-listed along with another St. Louis company and four out-of-town firms.

Providing Our Proposal

The next step was to provide a proposal for managing the manufacturing and installation of the new wayfinding system, designed by Corbin Design, as well as disposing of the confusing/hideous existing signs. The project entails 239 signs located throughout Forest Park’s 1,371 acres (more than 500 acres larger than New York’s Central Park). Here is a preview of the new sign family.

 

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We knew, like it or not, that final selection was most likely going to come down to price. It also was going to be dependent upon how well we included Disadvantaged Business Enterprise (DBE) firms on our team. We worked hard in trying to achieve the Minority Business Enterprise (MBE) and Woman Business Enterprise (WBE) participation goals set by City policy. We believed that being located here in St. Louis, just minutes from Forest Park, would work to our advantage, since the out-of-town firms would be absorbing a lot of travel costs given the hands-on, intensive project management this project required. Ultimately, we felt that to be selected, we would need to be creative in our pricing approach and our outsourcing.

At the public bid opening in October 2013 we listened as the bids were opened and read aloud. Both the good and bad news are that we were low bidder at just over a half a million dollars, but maybe too low with a bit of space between us and the other bidders. Following the opening, we met briefly with a representative from the City Board of Public Service, who asked if we were comfortable with our bid. I swallowed hard and said we were. I knew our pricing strategy and I knew that my team had done a great job scouring the St. Louis metro area and the country sourcing materials and subcontractors.

Following the City’s review of our bid submission and approval of our DBE subcontractors, we were issued a contract in early March with 6 months to complete the work. The fun and hard work were about to begin.

I’ll share our experiences navigating through the implementation process in a future blog post.

 

 

Mike Gessel
President, ASI Missouri / Kansas


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Case Studies Build Sales By Showcasing Solutions Not Just Products

 

The architectural signage industry contains a multitude of companies that sell a huge variety of signs. Focusing solely on products available, however, is not the way to differentiate our signage from that sold by our competitors. What sets us apart is that ASI provides solutions, not just products.

Expertise is As Important As Products

Clients who purchase signage are looking for far more than products. They are seeking expertise in selecting not only the right signs to meet their needs but guidance from signage experts who can effectively develop the right messages, have wayfinding expertise, possess ADA compliancy knowledge, can promote their brand and who are experts in message dispersal to both external and internal audiences. Prospects are seeking professionals who have experience, creativity and unique solutions tailored to their needs. Case studies are the tool that assures prospective clients that we are the experts who can best meet their needs.

Signage is not a tangible commodity. Sure, sales consultants can show sign samples galore but what message should go on them? Which signs will work best for a prospect’s various needs? Where should signs be placed and how many are needed? Should clients consider digital signage? How should signs blend in with the client’s architectural design? What experience does our company have with companies and organizations like theirs, within their industry? These are the kinds of questions that potential clients are asking themselves even if they don’t share such questions with a sales consultant.

Prospects Want to Know “What Can You Do For Me?”

It is no secret that word-of-mouth is the most impactful marketing tool when marketing to consumers. Social Media Revolution videos on YouTube tout that “78% of consumers trust peer recommendations while only 14% trust advertising.” Word-of-mouth is also important in B2B marketing in general and architectural signage in particular. Case studies are a powerful tool that shares the experiences and solutions of existing clients.  Case studies provide the insight and confidence that prospects seek. They show that our products, but equally important, our services based upon over 45 years of experience and expertise in working with other clients in their field, have produced exceptional results. Case studies showcase tangible results that answer the main question in the minds of prospects, which is, “What can you do for me?”

Case Studies Highlight Results That Provide Credibility and Build Sales

Case studies convey ASI’s expertise in getting to know the needs of our clients, developing just the right solutions to meet their unique needs and implementing the solutions. The results are strong enough for those clients to allow ASI to feature their solutions in case studies in a large variety of industries from healthcare to education, hospitality, corporate, libraries, cultural institutions and many other segments. The success stories provided in the case studies provide credence to the expertise shared by sales consultants.

Developing case studies also enables ASI to get better at what we do. They reengage us with our current customers. As we develop the case studies we tap into clients’ knowledge of what was most important in the development of their signage solutions. We incorporate that knowledge into future initiatives that help us better serve the needs of clients.

Knowledgeable sales consultants who detail product options and services provided are crucial to the sales process. Case studies, however, are the icing on the cake that provides credibility to what the sales consultants are recommending. Case studies enable sales consultants to build stronger relationships. Through sharing concrete results, case studies result in clients focusing more on results and not just costs and they also foster ASI’s reputation as an architectural signage industry leader. Case studies build trust and they build sales.

 

 

John Selig
Marketing Manager

Benefits of Sole Source Provider for Digital Signage

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This is the second post in a multi-part series sharing insights from a conversation I had with Andy Shevak, ASI’s Manager of Digital Signage. Andy points out that Digital Signage is a rapidly changing and expanding industry. Andy stressed the major benefits of purchasing digital signage through a sole source provider like ASI.

Sole Source Provider Handles All Facets of Digital Signage Program

There are many facets to implementing a digital signage program including screen selection, computer hardware, software, installation and content creation. Then there is the importance of service support for screens, computer hardware and software when needed. If a client deals with different vendors that cover different aspects of their digital signage program, especially with large deployments, it is often difficult to know who to call for assistance and how one part of the system may impact another part requiring multiple experts to be called in for support. By dealing with a sole source supplier whenever a client has a question they immediately know who to contact to have a question answered or a challenge addressed.

Stays on Top of Latest Trends and Products

A sole source provider uses their industry expertise and connections to stay on top of which digital vendors are providing the optimal hardware, software, etc. with the best quality, up-to-date capabilities, most reliability and best warranties. As an example, ASI is currently utilizing Samsung screens. The screens were selected not only for their state-of-the-art functionality. They have a life expectancy of 50,000 hours, which is 5 to 7 years in most installations. The Samsung screens ASI installs come with a 3-year onsite repair or replace warranty. Screens are expensive to repair so the screens are engineered to not break, limiting downtime of a client’s digital signage. Choosing the right partners to provide the best solution for clients enables the sole source provider to take all the work out of designing, implementing and maintaining your digital signage solution.

Software Is Engine That Drive Digital Signage

As with digital screens and computer hardware, software tools continue to evolve. Software has become much more intuitive and easier to use. A critical feature for software that drives digital screens is having the ability to serve a variety of different functions. Wayfinding is a core function that is critical to many digital signage installations as is providing marketing information promoting goods and services. Many installations require menuboard listings for cafeterias and communications with staff locally and around the globe, which are important functions as well.

Andy describes the software as the engine that drives digital signage. He utilizes several suppliers depending upon the complexity of the functions and size of the installation. The most sophisticated software isn’t needed for many applications. However, rapidly evolving, cutting edge applications such as gesture control, voice control and facial recognition require highly sophisticated software capabilities.

Digital Signage Works In Concert with Interior and Exterior Architectural Signage

Digital Signage works in concert with architectural signage especially in wayfinding programs and particularly in large facilities such as those found in healthcare and higher education that often involve multiple buildings with multiple floors and long hallways. Directing many people through facilities over long distances can easily be confusing, if not overwhelming. The combination of digital signage and interior and exterior architectural signage takes the complexity out of wayfinding with their messaging complimenting each other, thus reducing the stress felt by those navigating their way through unfamiliar territory.

ASI, being a sole source supplier in the architectural and digital signage industry, is able to blend our knowledge of signage with our amassed collection of digital providers to make the selection, design, implementation, servicing and training aspects of a digital signage solution as easy as possible for our clients.

 

 

John Selig
Marketing Manager

Don’t Scrimp on Signage When Building Your Brand

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Architectural signage plays a number of critical roles for your organization. Wayfinding is an obvious role as properly designed and deployed signage assists customers, visitors, suppliers and others get from point A to point B at your facility as effortlessly as possible while eliminating the need to ask others for directions. Equally important signage should enhance your brand.  To ensure that your brand equity receives the value that it deserves, do not scrimp on your signage.

Signage Should Promote Your Brand

Signage should not just reflect an organization’s brand it should promote it. When people come to your facility, whether it is their first time or their 100th, your signage is typically the first representation of you brand they see. Your signage is as much a representation of your brand as your television and radio spots, print and online ads and your website. Your facility only gets to make a first impression once. It is crucial that your signage makes that first impression a good one.

Recently, a large condominium complex in the Dallas-Ft. Worth Metroplex went through major reimaging of their interior common areas to modernize their appearance thus helping to maintain property values competitive with other desirable condominiums located nearby. A large special assessment was levied on the owners of the condos so that the reimage could be substantial enough to make a difference. Several million dollars were spent on the reimaging.

The condominium’s lobbies were completely remodeled, carpeting was replaced along with furniture in all the common areas on all floors and new artwork was obtained for the lobbies and all of the elevator landings. Wainscoting was removed and new light fixtures were installed on every floor. All of the common areas were repainted.

New wayfinding signage throughout the condominium interiors was replaced to coordinate with the reimage design. However, the signage didn’t portray the same quality as the rest of the updates. Yes, the signs did coordinate in style. However, they weren’t even the same quality as the dated signs being replaced. The signage didn’t portray the same prestige and appeal that the rest of the reimage achieved for the complex. The signs included the logo for the Condominium. Rather than enhancing the brand the signs actually cheapened it.

Signage Should Promote Your Brand

Signage is an investment in your brand. It is important when choosing signage to make certain that besides making sure your signage accomplishes the goals of assisting employees, visitors, suppliers, and others who navigate your facility and sharing important information that it also enhances your brand. Scrimping on signage quality will detract from your brand rather than build it.

 

John Selig
Marketing Manager

What to Do Before Meeting with a Digital Signage Consultant

Andy Shevak, Manager of Digital Signage

Andy Shevak, Manager of Digital Signage

 

I recently sat down with Andy Shevak, ASI’s Manager of Digital Signage, to have a conversation about the field of digital signage and how its technology and uses are expanding dramatically. We spoke about a variety of topics including the role that digital signage sales consultants should serve in working with clients and how clients, who are considering digital signage solutions, can benefit from determining their needs prior to speaking with a digital signage provider.

Andy Shevak, who has been with ASI since 2010, has an extensive digital background having worked as a buyer of consumer electronics for several top consumer electronics retailers. He has developed a network of partners over the years, which has enabled ASI to deploy best in class digital signage solutions for our clients. This is the first of several posts that will share Andy’s insights into the evolving technology, uses and deployment of digital signage.

Create List of Digital Signage Functions

Digital signage continues to evolve and the number of clients wanting to include digital signage as part of their signage solutions is expanding rapidly. Before meeting with a sales consultant Andy recommends that clients create a list of functions they want digital signage to accomplish within their organization. What are their digital signage goals? Digital signage has a wide variety of uses from communicating information to employees throughout their facility (and in some cases throughout facilities located around the world) to providing information to customers, visitors, students, suppliers and others.

Digital Signage Communicates Internally with Employees

Digital signage is an impactful way to communicate with employees in one location or many locations worldwide. Historically, such communications have been shared via printed (sometimes even handwritten) signs displayed in a variety of ways from memos posted in break rooms to flyers taped by elevators to posters shown on easels in hallways and other public spaces. Printed employee messages often are not professional in appearance, take time to produce and post, and often are taken down inadvertently and frequently not removed when they are no longer needed. Furthermore, it is difficult to maintain consistency and control over messages within one and between multiple locations.

Communicating with employees via digital signage has many benefits. Once messages are developed they can be deployed and viewed by employees within minutes. Employees housed in one location or spread worldwide can see exactly the same information at the same time, controlled from one point of origin. Systems can also be developed that allow some messages to be seen system wide as well as other messages being developed to appear in a region and/or a single location allowing combined central, regional and local message control.

Digital Signage Communicates Externally with Customers and Others

Digital signage is an equally powerful communication tool to reach an organization’s customers, visitors, suppliers, students, etc. Digital Signage is all about promoting an organization’s brand. It has to look and feel like the brand and communicate what a client wants to communicate in the manner the client wants to communicate it. Therefore, no two digital signage solutions will be exactly the same. A successful sales consultant should become entrenched in their client’s organization to ensure the development of a digital solution that accomplishes exactly what their client wants.

Digital Signage works in concert with architectural interior and exterior signage benefiting from the incorporation of the same aesthetic. Digital Sales consultants who work for a digital signage provider that also has extensive experience in standard interior and exterior architectural signage regularly work closely with architects and designers to make this happen.

Determine Types of Messages Your Digital Signage Will Deliver

As clients develop their list of their digital signage objectives, Andy recommended that besides addressing sign functions clients should also define the types of messages the signage needs to address both internally with employees and with their external audience. Digital signage utilization opportunities are vast ranging from cafeteria menu boards, wayfinding, and campus wide internal messages (such as parking lot construction updates, holiday celebrations and critical human resources announcements) to information tying in with advertising and marketing promotions. The uses for digital signage are only limited by one’s imagination with new uses constantly developing.

The more clients think through their digital signage goals prior to meeting with a digital signage consultant the better clients will be able to express their digital signage needs. Andy added that the sale of digital signage is very much a consultative sale with deployments ranging from basic to exotic and everything in between. Once consultants understand their client’s needs consultants will then be able to recommend the optimal digital signage solutions to meet their client’s goals.

 

John Selig
Marketing Manager

ASI, Cincinnati Hosted Open House – Showcased Expertise

ASI Cincinnati Staff

ASI, Cincinnati team – Back Row (Left to Right): Bill Kist, Ray Siegel, Paul Hays – Front Row (Left to Right): Debbie Hanson, Matt Berlage, Suzi Roth, Heather Casey-Knox, Dave Zeller, Kim Moscarino

Matt Berlage Wayfinding AIA Course

ASI, Cincinnati team member, Matt Berlage teaching AIA accredited Wayfinding training course to Open House guests

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

On Wednesday, February 12th the staff of ASI, Cincinnati held an open house to welcome clients to their office. ASI affiliate, Kim Moscarino and her team shared product information, AIA accredited ADA and Wayfinding training courses and advice on clients’ upcoming signage projects. An extensive collection of signs and photos of many ASI, Cincinnati’s completed projects were on display throughout their office. Perhaps most popular was the organized sign making activity set up in the workroom where the ASI team helped guests make their own signs to take home.

Why Host an Open House

Hosting an open house provides a great opportunity to standout by showing existing and potential clients what takes place behind the scenes. It enables you to differentiate your firm from your competition by putting a human face on what it takes to design, fabricate and install signage. Guests get to see that creativity and professional attention only begin with the placing of an order. Getting a look behind the scenes focuses attention on the professional process, not just the end product. It takes a product that might be viewed as a commodity and makes it unique.

Advance Planning Is Critical

A great deal of planning and preparation went into ASI, Cincinnati conducting their first open house. Over 50 guests attended the event, which took place from 11 a.m. until 7 p.m.  The impressive turnout resulted in large part because of the detailed planning by Kim Moscarino, Suzi Roth and the rest of the ASI, Cincinnati team. They spent over a month getting their office in shape while at the same time working on everything from invitation design and their invitee list, to the theme, refreshments, sample displays, obtaining vendor support and giveaways to deliver a first-rate event. Those who attended will remember ASI, Cincinnati’s open house for a long time.

Choose a Theme and Follow a Timeline

With the Winter Olympics starting a few days prior to the open house Kim and her team decided that an Olympic theme would be the perfect tie-in for their open house. They designed special open house signage that they displayed throughout the office and the games that attendees played had Olympics sports themes.  The entire ASI, Cincinnati team wore specially designed shirts featuring both the ASI logo and Olympic sports artwork. The same sports artwork was used on the cut vinyl, which attendees used on the signs they produced.

One added touch was the design of cookies ordered from a local baker. Some of the cookies featured “ASI” gold, silver and bronze medal icing. Other cookies were designed with the same Olympic sports artwork that appeared on the ASI team member shirts and signs. The cookies were a hit as guests enjoyed the food and beverages.

A month prior to the open house an invitation was displayed on the ASI, Cincinnati webpage and an open house phone message was added to the message loop callers heard when they were placed on hold. Two weeks before the open house an email campaign featuring an invitation was sent to architect offices from the ASI, Cincinnati email database. Next, phone calls were made to follow up with key clients to encourage attendance.

Multiple Activities Build Open House Attendance

One never knows what winter weather will bring and the number of attendees remains an unknown until an event is underway. Although there was plenty of snow on the ground the streets were clear. Over fifty people showed up to ASI, Cincinnati’s open house. Both the ADA and Wayfinding AIA courses had strong participation and the client sign making activity was a huge hit with a constant huddle of clients and ASI staff working together to produce signs for attendees to take home as a reminder of the open house.  The sign making was great fun. More importantly, it was educational and provided the perfect opening for ASI staff to share the process ASI goes through to insure that the signage ASI designs, produces and installs for clients meets each client’s unique needs.

The open house was informal with lots of fun and laughing. Still, one couldn’t help but notice the respect and confidence that the clients held for Kim Moscarino and the ASI, Cincinnati team. The open house enabled their respect to grow as attendees’ knowledge grew about what goes on behind the scenes at ASI. Many of the attendees had worked with ASI for years, others were new clients and some hadn’t yet worked with ASI on their signage solutions. Many of the attendees were designers. Attendees really enjoyed designing and making their own signs regardless of their job functions.

It was obvious that most of the clients at the open house had never been to a signage company office and they were impressed with what they saw. As guests left with their sign samples and goodie bags each thanked the ASI team. The open house will stick with them and when new signage projects come along ASI, Cincinnati will be top of mind.

ASI, Cincinnati won a Gold Medal for this event as each client expressed appreciation and all departed with smiles on their faces. Differentiating your business from your competition by hosting an open house is a great source for future orders from existing and potential clients as well as increased referrals.

 

Additional Open House Photos & ASI, Cincinnati Webpage

To view more photos taken at ASI, Cincinnati Open House just click here.

To visit ASI, Cincinnati’s webpage just click here.

 

John Selig
Marketing Manager

When Selecting Architectural Signage, One Size Doesn’t Fit All

Eyeglasses on Eye Chart

 

When considering purchase of a product, besides deciding the specifics of what is desired one must also consider the appropriate degree of specialization and expertise required. Some products are commodities while others benefit from customization to fit the purchaser’s particular needs.

In most instances office supplies are commodities. Pens, writing pads, ink-jet printer cartridges and the like are the same whether you purchase them from one office supply company or another, your local pharmacy or a discount retailer. If you know the brands and specific products you want they are going to be identical regardless of where you purchase them.

Commodities Don’t Provide The Same Quality and Options As Customized Products

Architectural signage is more like eyeglasses that you purchase at an optical shop after visiting an eye doctor. Sure you can go to your local pharmacy and find reading glasses on a rack. They come in different styles and with different strength lenses and they are really inexpensive. You try-on different frames and select one with a style you like and with which you can read. They won’t have your perfect prescription but they are good enough for you to keep an extra pair in your office or on the nightstand next to your bed at home. Your vision won’t be perfect but you will be able to read better with than without them.

However, if you really want quality eyewear that fits comfortably, provides the best vision available then you visit your ophthalmologist or optometrist to get your correct prescription as well as to check for eye diseases. You then take the prescription to an optician where you select a stylish frame from a wide selection (not just the three or four that you find at the pharmacy) and the correct size frame is ordered that fits just right. The optician will take the prescription from your eye doctor’s exam and have lenses custom made for the frames you select. Both distance and near vision can be corrected and if applicable, astigmatism, which is a common optical defect that causes blurriness, will also be addressed. Various alternatives are available for corrected distance and reading in the same pair of glasses from bifocals to no-line bifocals. Different coatings are available for the lenses that can cut down on glare and reflection and there are also many different types of sunglass lenses available as well.

You Get What You Pay For

Obviously the glasses that one has custom made by an optical shop are much more expensive than the cheap throwaway reading glasses that you can pick up at your pharmacy. But they are of far superior quality and the prescription in each lens is customized to optimize each eye’s visual acuity.

Sure there is signage available that is akin to reading eyeglasses from your pharmacy. Your local office supply store has signs that communicate open, closed, no smoking, restrooms, will return (with hour and minute hands on a clock face that can be set), exit, private, store hours, etc. But such signs are commodities. One style fits all and no guidance is given on how best to utilize them. The office supply store signage may come in one or two styles but the style isn’t optimized to augment the design of your facility. No assistance is provided in selecting the ideal placement of signage, local signage codes or ADA requirements. You are on your own, sometimes trying to make a square peg fit in a round hole. Customized signs obviously aren’t available off the shelf.

Architectural signage is more like the custom eyewear you have made at an optical shop after visiting your eye doctor. When purchasing quality eyewear you seek out a doctor and an optical shop based upon the quality of eye care and glasses that they provide. You have a level of comfort after selecting the right professionals. You are confident that they will identify you unique needs and help you find the right solution to achieve optimal eyesight while sporting a fashionable pair of eyeglasses that enhances your appearance.

Seeking the Right Architectural Signage Professional Is Crucial

Just as you carefully seek out specialists for eye care, when seeking architectural signage you want to select a professional that will understand your specific needs. With eye care you are concerned with the health of your eyes, custom fit, optimal vision and style. With architectural signage you are concerned with wayfinding, branding, meeting building and ADA requirements and design. You want a professional that will propose a solution that is stylish and not only compliments the design of your facility but actually enhances it in much the way that stylish eyewear enhances ones appearance.

It is critical that when you seek an architectural signage professional that you should find an expert that understands the complexities of wayfinding, ADA requirements and local signage regulations. Obviously you also want a professional who can propose a solution that enhances your building’s design and builds your brand. Just as eye doctors and optical shops are not the same, neither are architectural signage professionals.  When purchasing architectural signage you are purchasing a solution, not just a product.

 

John Selig
Marketing Manager

Education Challenges and Solutions within the Architectural Signage Industry

December 2013 New Hire Training Class Students

Andy Levine, Director of Corporate Education - Presenting at December 2013 New Hire Training Class

Andy Levine, Director of Corporate Education – Presenting at December 2013 New Hire Training Class

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Education and training are among numerous components that contribute to the growth and success of virtually any organization, and the construction industry and specialized areas such as architectural signage are no exceptions.  It could be argued that training challenges are even greater within the architectural signage industry due to unique business methodologies, a wide array of signage technologies both old and new, and special services that compliment and add value to signage and wayfinding solutions.

 New Hire Training

New hire training is perhaps the most critical part of an education program, as it must provide a solid foundation that newly hired employees can immediately draw from and additionally build upon for the long term. Trainers must balance the coverage and introduction of many different subjects without overloading students and thus reducing the learning benefit. Ultimately, if students complete new hire training and can answer questions including but not limited to the following with a ‘yes’, then this helps to verify that the initial training was successful:

  • “Do I understand my company’s history and how it shapes our business philosophy?”
  • “Have I learned critical elements and considerations used in producing architectural signage?”
  • “Am I now familiar with how our company sets itself apart from the competition?”
  • (Sales Consultants) “Do I understand the types of available Marketing, Training and Technology resources, provided by my company, that I can use to build relationships and enhance my sales pipeline?”
  • “Have I learned how to access resources that will empower me to continue learning and to quickly locate additional information?”
  • “Have I become acquainted with my corporate support staff and do I know how to contact them with questions?”

Flexible and Varied

Once the initial educational foundation is set, training should be flexible and varied to meet specific needs and company roles. For example, Project Managers may require additional training on special project management-based software applications. Additionally, if an architectural signage company has a relationship with an organization such as the AIA (American Institute of Architects) as a Continuing Education Provider, then Sales Consultants should take advantage of special train-the-trainer classes that empower them to sharpen their presentation skills, learn new information, and become certified to teach education topics to groups of architects and designers. These types of programs provide solid education about the industry and help to build positive, lasting relationships with key participants in the construction industry that can lead to stronger sales pipelines and better sales results.

Build Upon Educational Foundation

Education departments must also understand how to effectively continue to build upon the educational foundation, using a variety of learning methods to communicate product information, company procedures, technology tutorials and soft skills development. Available learning technologies should be evaluated and trainers should be flexible and skilled in various technologies, so that education can be developed and delivered in the format that best fits the learning needs and audience. Nowadays, good trainers must be comfortable providing instructor-led classes, presenting via webinars, developing training videos, and implementing and managing online learning and learning management systems (LMS). Webinar tools provide an excellent distance learning method of delivering live content to numerous company locations, making supplemental learning more interactive yet cost-effective. Online learning systems can provide a wide variety of courses, meaning that courses can be taken by employees with different roles within the company, and a web-based learning system can easily reach and benefit more employees regardless of geographical location.

In addition to the above primary considerations, training may also take on support, coaching and subject matter expert roles. Trainers, especially within our industry, must also be flexible and versatile, keeping an open mind to new learning methods, architectural signage technologies, and company initiatives. Balancing traditional learning requirements, company / industry education, role-based learning, technology training and coaching activities is an ongoing and fascinating challenge for Education departments within our industry.

 

Andy Levine
Director of Corporate Education

 

The Customer is Always Right, Even when the ADA is Involved. Right?

 

In the midst of a project, a question arises from the customer, architect, designer or general contractor regarding the signage and ADA/Accessibility code compliance. We demonstrate our expertise and consultative approach by fully understanding the customer’s concerns, researching local codes and contacting additional ASI resources for guidance. See the ADA section of the ASI website for additional information. We then contact the customer, make our recommendation, the customer accepts the recommendation, and we’re ready to move forward. Simple as that, right?

ADA & Local Accessibility Codes vs. Aesthetics

Well, that’s not always a correct assumption, as sometimes our recommendation doesn’t sync with what the customer is hoping to hear. If the customer is concerned about ADA and local accessibility codes conflicting with the aesthetics of their architectural environment, then it’s always possible that they could argue their case and in some instances decide to go against your recommendation.

When researching and consulting with ASI franchises on ADA signage questions, this scenario is presented to me somewhat regularly. For example, in one recent instance, the architect/designer argued that visual text describing instructions for emergency and non-emergency exits did not have to adhere to the 5/8” minimum character height requirement. I provided the actual scoping requirement text directly from the ADA, which states:

216.3 Directional and Informational Signs

Signs that provide direction to or information about interior spaces and facilities of the site shall comply with 703.5 (703.5 provides all of the guidelines related to visual characters on signs, including the chart that specifies a minimum of 5/8” in character height).

Advisory 216.3 Directional and Informational Signs

Information about interior spaces and facilities includes rules of conduct, occupant load, and similar signs. Signs providing direction to rooms or spaces include those that identify egress routes.

Clearly, the signs in question fall under section 216.3 of the 2010 ADA scoping requirements, which means that the 5/8” minimum character height requirement also applies. Even with this additional information, the architect/designer argued that the 5/8” guideline simply did not apply to these types of signs.

In another example, the customer’s facility, an Assisted Nursing and Sr. Living Campus, included glass doors and glass frontage within the building interior. They were concerned with placing ADA compliant ID signs directly on the glass, so they hoped that they could identify the spaces with dimensional letters above the respective spaces. I don’t believe that it’s totally unreasonable to try to ‘protect’ the aesthetics of the glass-based interior design, but ultimately the ADA and accessibility must be considered and applied, even if it means mounting ID signs on glass. The reality here is that the ADA ‘s intent is to ensure that a blind or sight impaired individual can accurately confirm their location in a public facility.

Document Decision and Obtain Sign-Off

When these situations occur, and the customer “is always right” and won’t budge from their stance, it is incumbent upon us to ensure that we thoroughly document the decision within the project documentation, signed-off by the customer if possible. This way, we can both satisfy the customer’s requirements and reduce our future liability by demonstrating that we advised the customer, architect or designer accordingly and in good faith.

 

Andy Levine
Director of Corporate Education

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