Posted in practice on July 30, 2014 9:53 am EDT

Signage as Structural Amplification

Whether traditional or cutting-edge, signs and wayfinding remain subordinate to overall design goals—and all the while infinitely important.











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TAGS: design, digital, signage, wayfinding,


By Ed Van Herik

When an architect plans the signage for a house of worship or an affiliated school, they should be thinking of it as another key element designed to enhance the overall message of the entire structure, say experts. “The way the sign looks is part of the story the owner and architect are trying to tell,” says Michael D. Voit, AIA, director of architecture at KAI Design & Build in Dallas. “If the architecture is cutting edge, then the signage has the potential to underscore or amplify that message to the person who sees it.”

"In a fragmented world where everything is virtual, immediate, and constantly updating, and nothing in life tells kids to slow down, these anti-immediate practices stir a craving that is in these kids' souls."

—Joe Graham Director of Discipleship for Children and Youth, First Church of Zeeland, Zeeland, MI.

Programmable chameleon: One important strength of digital displays is their ability to tell people where to go and what they’ll find when they get there—customizably. Image courtesy of Viewsonic.

As technology advances, architects and designers increasingly are having more options to offer clients, options that offer greater flexibility in message relevance and ease of use. Still, Voit cautions that technological innovation should remain subordinate to the overall design goals of new houses of worship and other buildings on their campuses.

Traditional vs. digital

For conservative congregations, that may require continued devotion to traditional print signage, although the tremendous flexibility of digital signage is quickly becoming commonplace. “Digital is everywhere,” says Hal Truax, managing director of retail and pro AV sales at Peerless-AV in Aurora, Ill. “It is more the norm rather than the anomaly.”

Truax says the move to digital reflects both the growth of large churches, which already have a significant amount of technology, as well as the growing familiarity among families who are comfortable with smart phones, digital TVs, and in-home alarm systems with motion detectors. “The technology is all around their house,” Truax adds. “They’re comfortable with a similar situation in their house of worship.” Digital options—and their operation—represent a significant shift from previous processes, which usually involved continued updating of printed signs that often required several weeks lead time with little opportunity to correct mistakes, reports Tim Lynch of Psychsoftpc in Quincy, Mass. “Digital is a whole other way of thinking about signage,” Lynch states. “ Instead of static messages, there’s video, images, motion and crawl lines across the screen. It’s a rethinking of the medium.”  continued >>