Signage can be defined as a communication technique that, by means of signs and iconic, linguistic and chromatic symbols, provides information and helps people find their way through a given physical space.
It differs from the Signs and Signals which refer to the set of symbols used in public spaces. Sings and Signals aim to regulate flows of people or vehicles in an outdoor space without affecting the image of the environment and without considering its features. On the contrary, Signage is part of the environment and has a direct impact on it.
The main purpose of the Signage is to facilitate access to the required services, providing clear, precise, specific and direct information because the recipient needs quick access to the destination. As far as Signage is concerned, less is always more, because an excess of information may mislead and send wrong or unattractive messages, difficult to perceive. Thus, only the essential should be taken into account when creating a system, using synthetic formulas and being very schematic.
As it is used in places with a great flow of people, it requires a universal language, predominantly visual and easily identified due to the immediacy of the message.
It is essential to know the place where the Signage System will be used, its architecture and the corporate identity of the concerned organization. Each system is tailored to each specific case and must comply with the environmental requirements; this system reinforces the public or brand image.
For some authors, Signage belongs to the graphic design area, because it requires the design of symbols in order to give guidance and it is a type of visual communication.
For others, like Joan Costa, Signage is multidisciplinary, since it covers a broad range of communicative resources and it is developed in conjunction with other areas: architecture, event organization, lights, decoration and not just the graphic design one. He defines it as “... a discipline of environmental communication and information that is intended to guide decisions and actions in places where services are performed."
According to the author, this technique belongs to environmental communication because he believes that it should focus not only on providing utilitarian information, but also on the relationship between the individual and the environment he intends to explore. The Signage System used will also be part of the identity of the space.
He also argues that this discipline not only guides the decisions that individuals must take in the atmosphere, but also determines their actions.
He states that when operating within an area, Signage is part of the Identity of the place, as it helps to make it more accessible, organized, reachable and identifiable.
Elements to consider:
Typography: the size, the font, the thickness, the necessary contrast, legibility, morphology of space, light, corporate identity and brand image must be considered. Abbreviations, fragmented words (if necessary, find synonyms that are shorter words) should be avoided and it is important to remember that words in small letters are understood faster than those in capital ones.
Pictograms: are signs that represent symbols, real objects or concepts. The most relevant ones from a semantic, syntactic and pragmatic point of view should be considered. The use of pictograms is based on abstraction: the act of removing details and focusing on what is essential in a visual field.
The idea is to be as schematic as possible, exposing the essential, the particular characteristics for the user to generate a mental synthesis of the given information that will be kept it in the visual memory.
Chromatic Code: the use of color to differentiate areas, paths, floors in buildings, may represent a more developed code, an extension of the signage system that complements it. Color can be an element that integrates Signage with the work environment and it is a very effective mean of identification when used to identify public transport lines.
The right contrast, the visibility, the size of the figures, distances, printing methods, corporate colors and psychology of color should be considered, because they are directly associated with the brand or visual identity of the organization.
Applications: Road signs and signals, Airport Signage, Signage systems for train stations, shopping centers, public buildings, etc.
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