We often wonder why developers fall short of extending their brands in a space and creating a true sense of place. Especially considering the minimal cost. But before we talk about why some programs fall short, let’s talk about why it is important in the first place.
Developments with a sense of place create a memorable environment. They provide guidance, comfort and safety to users and visitors, and connect with the community at large on a deeper level. Often they become destinations or landmarks because they have a perceived purpose and they fit within the environment in a deliberate and meaningful way.
Extending the brand of a development and creating a distinct and memorable experience, or what we call a true sense of place, is a critical part of a successful development branding process. Yet, it is often misunderstood or overlooked, even though it increases value by raising the quality level and connection of the property.
It’s a shame, considering the minimal investment in relation to the cost of the development—usually less than one-half of one percent.
How do you successfully extend the brand into a space?
For the most part, it is the job of the environmental graphics and wayfinding program to bring the identity of the place to life in a physical way.
There are several components to a successful environmental wayfinding program. The most successful programs plan for and include a variety of appropriate signs and graphics, such as:
• identity signage
• directional signs
• experiential signage
• adequate and integral accessibility (referred to as ADA signs, or the signs you see with braille that are required by law)
• kiosk and interpretive signs and art
It is important to help ensure success by creating an environmental wayfinding program which provides the right number and types of signs. Not too few and not too many. The end goal is to support the brand function and contribute to a strong property identity. This will create a distinct and memorable experience, plan for opportunities early and define a standard for the right amount of flexibility within a scalable system out of specific sign types, artwork and their locations.
When left unplanned, buildings are often “decorated” with the minimum level of ADA signage. This does not adequately provide comfort and safety, does not eliminate directional confusion and detracts from a feeling of quality. The result is a lack of cohesion and understanding rather than a positive experience that supports the overall goals of the development brand and makes it a destination your audience can’t live without.
Why do some programs fall short?
Wayfinding programs typically fall short for two specific reasons.
The first is the lack of proper planning. Sometimes the wayfinding is left to the contracting process or folded into the architectural plans and is not adequately considered as an extension of the physical brand. This programming may be looked at as a task rather than an opportunity and is not owned by the right team.
The second reason is the lack of appropriate budgeting. At times signage budgeting takes place in the beginning of the development process as part of the architectural component and does not fully support the extension of the development branding. Sometimes it is unclear as to what a realistic budget is and therefore, the minimum bid for ADA signs is considered the total budget. A truly missed opportunity, considering the relative low cost of a creating a comprehensive, brand-supporting wayfinding system versus the huge benefit to the residents, visitors and community.
The investment for purposefully branding the development itself is small compared to the cost and time spent on the overall project. Yet, the benefits vastly impact the outcome, feeling of quality and success of the property, increase value and favorably impact the overall portfolio of projects.
We are always happy to share our experience with others. Have a question for us or a hurdle you can’t overcome? Let us know! Or, schedule a free development branding audit by answering a few questions. The audit is free and takes just an hour to get started.