The tale of the three amigos

5 years ago  •  By  •  0 Comments

The complexities of producing large scale building signage

Multiple stakeholders. An $80 million plus investment. A ground-breaking project on a national and international scale. An eagerly anticipated venture driven by quality. An impressive, purpose built premises to match the occupant’s modern thinking. An overall objective to be recognised as the first place the Government would contact for guidance on policy.

Tagged onto the end of the checklist of requirements was ‘building signage’, completely normal for a rebrand but with a total cost of $70k ($25k per sign and $20k installation), clearly a sharp intake of breath was needed!

So, how was this going to happen? Well, it was time to call in the three amigos – the project manager, the signwriter and the designer.

And the first job for all three was to ignore the ‘big’ numbers – they were a detail of the project that could hinder it if thought about too much


Energy was quickly re-directed towards focusing on the opportunity to create the finishing touch to a significant building. Thoughts and discussions turned to how an identity could be effectively translated, produced, installed and, most importantly, seen.

Positioned 95m from the ground, how could it not be seen?! Well, if you get the wrong mix of colours, materials or size, that can happen!

From the project manager’s point of view, as long as it was on time, on budget and signed off by the key stakeholders, the project would be a success.

From the designer’s point of view, the recently developed identity had to be translated into a sign and mounted onto a building. It had to echo the characteristics of the modern structure and the state-of-the-art facilities it would eventually house. Quite simply, the signage had to look impressive and stand out.

From the signwriter’s point of view though, a few conundrums were evident. The sign had to be seen against the building’s brickwork, it had to be visible during the daytime and at night, and it had to be visually unaffected by changeable weather conditions (sunny or overcast) although the depth of the lettering would reduce the risk of it disappearing.

Certain materials (that could have fitted perfectly with the modern look of the building) were also a gamble – in particular brushed or textured steel would create a dull finish, very popular in terms of style but likely to increase the possibility of it vanishing in ambient or low-level light conditions.

These dilemmas were backed up with the signwriter re-counting how a big budget signage project quite literally disappeared because of bright sunshine!

The message was clear – this wasn’t the time for experimentation, particularly as the building hadn’t been built yet. The architect’s rendering was the only reference point available so choosing the correct colour/material had now become somewhat precarious.

Although the builder’s donation of a solitary brick to assist with that decision was much appreciated, a smarter option of creating a section of the signage was agreed upon. This was then mounted on a wall made from the same brick type so colour and material could be closely scrutinised by each and every stakeholder.

And it worked a treat. Even the size of the signage could be checked by viewing at the correct distance.

An important consideration was the cost of running the sign at night. This was reduced by choosing a ‘halo illuminated’ product which uses a translucent film to create a crisp glow around the letters. To date it is the most cost effective and energy efficient way to illuminate signage – compared to front-lit signs, the amount of LEDs needed for a halo product is almost one third! It was also very much in-keeping with the distinct look of the building.

All boxes had been ticked. All three amigos were happy and, crucially, the multiple stakeholders were too. In a committee style environment no one wants to take responsibility, especially for such an expensive and high profile project. The process can be made much easier if the stakeholders comment as one group, not as numerous individuals.