There is Nothing Like the Real Thing

Being that I live in Dallas, I was requested by our Operations Manager in New York to visit the Dallas location of one of her National Signage Accounts. The head office of this client is located up in New York City and the marketing department of the client together with our New York office selected a sign system that the client would use as its sign standard throughout the USA. The Dallas location that I was requested to visit is a new location for the client. They are taking three floors in an office tower and moving in almost 300 employees. This office will be the first to receive the new sign system and will be the prototype for all other locations. The marketing office at the New York headquarters of the client sent a blueprint of the space and to our New York office and requested them to prepare a sign schedule and price quote accordingly. This was done very expeditiously by our New York team but this is where the “crossed wire syndrome” began.

I was requested, as mentioned, to visit the location and the purpose of my visit, as it was explained to me, was to help the client select some colors for the signs to match the interiors, to determine where certain posters should be hang and to determine if the lobby areas on each floor should have a logo sign mounted in it. A very simple task, three easy issues to deal with …………………or not?

Well, once I began to walk the space I realized that the detail on the blueprint was so far from reality and that while working off a blueprint is a very typical wayfinding methodology, there is nothing like the real thing. Seeing and feeling the space gives one a dimension that no blueprint can accomplish. Firstly, the folks up in New York specified a curved sign as the standard. However, the space itself is very linear, very clinical with straight edges all over and a flat sign was more aesthetically complimenting in the space. Secondly, a walk through revealed to us that every room and office in the space had a glass panel on the strike side (latch side) of the door where the ADA mandates that signs should be placed. This meant that all the signs had to be mounted on the glass. The blueprint did not reveal that detail and so no provision was made for backers on the inside of the glass to hide the mounting on the back of the sign. Thirdly, the blueprint showed the location of over 200 office cubicles but the (false) assumption was made that these cubes were fabric when in fact every-one had glass on which the name plates had to be mounted – throw away the pin mountings and start making more backers!! Fourthly, the blueprints had no indication of certain areas which would be occupied by visitors to the facility and the assumption was made that it was just employees using the space. Wrong!!. There was a large area in which clients would be brought in for training and consequently it could not be assumed that they were familiar with the space and certain areas required directional signs that were not originally provided for.

The lesson here was clearly twofold. Firstly, nothing trumps actually visiting the location. Whether the facility is an existing structure or a building under construction, if possible actually walking the space is critical. Secondly, make sure that you document and know all the right questions to ask. Create a checklist of relevant questions and make sure you get the answers to them however innocuous the questions may seem. The questions that could have been asked and which may have averted a potential disaster as in my experience above were:

  • Describe the traffic patterns – do visitors use the building?
  • Are the work cubes fabric or glass?
  • What is the composition of the wall surface on the strike side of the door – brick/concrete; glass; drywall; combination (expand).

We are in a very detail oriented business and in almost every case it is attention to the detail that will make a project a success or a failure.

– Selwyn Josset
VP of Affiliate Services 


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