How signage can help amplify powerful brand messaging

Signage on Queen's Park benches

‘Help Save Lives’ reads the headline on the notices fixed to some of the public benches in Queen’s Park, North London. The new signage is in light of latest strict national lockdown rules which came into enforcement at the start of 2021 due to escalating coronavirus pandemic cases. This latest local council initiative is a far cry from when the very same park benches were turned up-side-down, then crudely wrapped around in red and white plastic tape – the type used on the scene of a crime – during the initial quarantine in the spring of last year.

The current notice headline is followed by three clear bullet points. They read:
‘You should only be here to exercise.
Please only use this bench if you need to rest briefly.
Follow the rules and keep moving to keep Queen’s Park open.’

The choice of red is clear for the colour universally signifies alarm. The words may appear to be gentle, yet they carry with them subtle and powerful messaging. There is urgency in the text – the public are empowered to do the right thing for the greater community. The extra punch (though possibly not intentional) comes from being tasked to save lives on notices installed on memorial benches. And it appears to work, with the benches displaying the red signage largely unused, while the few that have somehow been left without are occupied.

The power of messaging cannot be underestimated. Park benches turned on their heads or encased in tape send an alarmist message which, although fleetingly powerful, is unlikely to have lasting impact. Their message is of distrust and disobedience – ‘do not enter or else,’ they warn. Alas, the 2020 initiative had little impact and within weeks, many of the tapes were cut open with the restricted areas used freely by the public. The new red signage, on the other hand, offers a positive message of social responsibility and of hope. How long the impact will last remains to be seen.

Signage on Queen's Park benches

Intelligent signage uses the power of a few words combined with a memorable symbol, or simply strong visual graphics, to communicate a message to a particular audience. They have practical purposes too – in wayfinding and displaying information, for instance – and can be made in analogue or digital formats.

Signs are not a new thing. Commercial signage for retail and promotional purposes have a long history going as far back as antiquity, the ancient Egyptians, Romans and Greeks who would use signboards for shop fronts or to announce public events. Those in power have also known the mastery of signs to enforce in a message, and those wanting to gain power have equally exploited signs and messaging to do so.

Spinach is currently working with Barking Riverside on the brand identity for one of Europe’s most significant mixed-use placemaking projects. The team behind the development are further evolving a vibrant London neighbourhood, providing a platform for existing and new residents to create an authentic and inclusive place that encourages opportunity.

Barking Riverside branding by © Spinach Branding

Instrumental to the success of this project are the signage that are planned throughout the development to reflect this positive brand message. It means every touchpoint within the development and visible to the current residents carries this strong message. The work involves gateway signage to the site entrance, plot developer branding, branded advertising to include signposting the development to passers-by, as well as branded notices around key new developments on the site. We will be able to share more details on the project and our creative purpose later in the year.

A good sign will have an immediate and long-term impact. With the correct words and the right design they can create a sense of transparency and allow the public to become part of the dialogue of change. ‘What you read on a sign is the tip of a complicated messaging iceberg,’ says Spinach branding director Leigh Banks. ‘The art is to translate the proposition’s complexity into a distilled statement that conveys the message with precision. As the old adage goes, simple never means simplistic.’

Spinach Branding is a specialist branding agency based in London. We work with established businesses and start-ups around the world to build and refine their brands. See how we work and get in touch to discuss your brand.

Barking Riverside branding by © Spinach Branding
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