Above: nine panels of a PowerPoint presentation, using images from the movie The Good, The Bad, & The Ugly to highlight examples of library signage.
Thinking about clear, cohesive signage as part of my work in Singapore definitely reinforced my appreciation not only for its importance and impact on the public, but also about the kind of materials which were technically important for durability and to thwart vandalism as well. Developing a unified and consistent approach to how a corporation’s signage program is presented not only reinforces the effectiveness of the signage itself, but also projects a perception of a company’s level of attention and service to the public. Signage is just one aspect of the total package used to project the corporate image out into the public.
Where I work now for the Alachua County Library District in Gainesville, Florida, signage is everywhere at the 11 library branch locations. You could even honestly say that signage has run amuck for them. There is all kinds of signage, ranging from essential way-finding signs, all the way down to how much a copy machine costs to use. Much of the essential, legitimate signage is old and in need of being freshening up. Other signage is placed in locations and in such hap-hazard ways that they leave a person scratching their head, perplexed as if to say: what were they thinking? High on this list include signs produced by librarians on-the-run, responding to short-term problems with short-term solutions, often using whatever rudimentary computer text and decorating skills they have, then printing 8.5x11 inch signs out of the office printer—or worse yet—hand writing messages onto torn paper or Post-It notes. Occasionally, these solutions wind-up becoming semi-permanent fixtures in the public space. I cringe at the thought of all of these whenever I encounter them. Often, the word “tacky” rushes to my mind.
On the flip side of things, the library's display signage for collections, events and services is warm and welcoming in a home-made “crafty” sort of way (because that is essentially what it is—a lot of coloured butcher paper, print-outs, and Ellison cut stencil lettering like you might imagine being used on elementary/primary school bulletin boards. For better or worse, our library certainly won’t be mistaken for a high-end, slick retail space.
I wouldn’t mind raising the aesthetics bar higher, however, so I have been compiling a selection of photos taken of signage throughout the our Headquarters Library branch to use in a PowerPoint presentation to highlight what I think examples of good, bad, and downright ugly use of signage has been in our library. I included bulleted discussion points of what makes signage effectively good, and what makes signage poor or ineffective. Over time, I plan to expand my appeal beyond my empathetic supervisor (with her assistance) for a more unified, cohesive branded approach to the use of signs throughout the library district.
Now, for most people, the design and development of informational signage is understandably boring. Either they don’t design or create signs, or they have little creative, technical, or material experience with the process of sign making. This is understandable, so in an attempt to liven up my presentation, I incorporated it into a tongue-in-cheek movie theater theme, featuring images of an indoor movie theater and screen, followed by images borrowed from the movie The Good, The Bad, & The Ugly.
The title just worked so perfectly, I thought, and that is how I divided up my presentation, with bulleted points on each slide to reinforce the themed category I place them in. This presentation may never see the light of day; it might be revamped, toned down, or made more palatable to corporate viewing tastes. But for now it has been fun to work with and I think if nothing else, a way to open the eyes of the few who make decisions about the brand experience of the library either through signage directives or purchasing.