Why Public Warning Signs Aren’t Wasting Your Time

No Cycling SignSafety and warning signs are normally more associated with the need to obey local laws and legislation rather than any real practical purpose to visitors or members of the public. A lot of signs become so ubiquitous that the purpose behind them is barely recognised any more, causing most people to largely ignore them, so why is there still such pressure for employers and public site managers to ensure signage is present?

Believe it or not, warning signs do actually have a real role in preventing accidents and injuries – even if most people do not really acknowledge them on a conscious level, a well-designed warning sign will still have an impact in increasing the awareness of staff and visitors to key dangers and rules around a location. If the worst should happen most people will very deliberately look for signs to give them guidance and direction, so during a crisis the lack of good signage can turn an unfortunate circumstance into a real disaster.

It is actually something of a fallacy that warning signs are just a bureaucratic nuisance rather than a real safety tool. Although most repeat visitors and employees won’t pay much – if any – attention to the signage around them, those new to the site are liable to seek out signage in order to give them information, direction and warning about potential dangers in the area. Just because the regular labourers at the construction site spend their days laughing at and mocking the hard hat sign because the caution it gives seems obvious to them does not mean that a new visitor who may not have been to such an area before will not pay attention and avoid a potentially lethal accident.

Warning signs are also invaluable to the general public who may not be present at – or even passing by – a site long enough to grow complacent about its risks. Think of scaffolding projects or road excavations – without clear signage to warn members of the public of hazards and advise them of alternative routes, the chances are that someone will at best get horribly lost and at worst be severely injured.

An expert signage solutions provider such as Fitzpatrick Woolmer Design and Publishing can be an invaluable partner when it comes to preparing public warning signs for your office, construction site or other facility which needs to make visitors and employees aware of risks, dangers and other critical information. Visit them today at www.fwdp.co.uk for more information or to speak to one of their local signage design and manufacturing experts.

Urban Signage in Historical Surroundings

Town SignsThis article explores the challenge of designing and implementing signage solutions in historical urban environments. As well as the comparison of complementary signs and perceived clutter, it gives an overview of the difficulties of managing pleasing signage solutions and the balance between too much and too little signage.

Modern Sign Clutter

Amongst those who are keen on the conservation of historic buildings and urban areas, there is a general viewpoint that too many signs clutter the environment and obscure the beauty of preserved structures. Traffic signs are a commonly cited offender, as are advertisements, which conservationists say should be more carefully controlled and sited with proper respect for their context in the surrounding historic environment. Some even go so far as to say that shop fronts in historic districts should be designed and built in a way which respects the local townscape and maintains its uniqueness, rather than simply dropping in standard corporate fronts. Above all, local navigation, mapping and other signage should be designed carefully to complement their surroundings and blend in with the character of the area, resulting in a more immersive experience for visitors, which helps with both tourism income and local pride.

Putting It Into Practice

However, while these principles are quite sound they are much harder to actually implement. Even a cursory study of any historic town centre now and thirty years ago reveals that there has been an astounding proliferation of new signage. Standardised traffic signs are everywhere along with corporate logos which have usually resulted in the loss of original details and more historic signage. Signs are supposed to be primarily messages but the delivery of them seems to produce a great deal of controversy, especially when it comes to placement in a historical setting where aesthetics may be of considerable importance to the local population.

Designing Urban Signage

Despite all this, however, not all urban signage is considered to be offensive to the setting. The most commonly cited offenders are traffic signs, shop signs and advertisement billboards, while historic street name plates, painted advertisements or old-fashioned blue street plaques are welcomed as enhancing the environment. There is also a wide variation in the degrees of signage which are welcomed as historic or just as clutter which obstructs the area. Lots of obsolete or outdated signs may be considered clutter rather than historic because they aren’t old enough or are just placed in an unsuitable location. By comparison, a lack of signage in urban areas, old or new, can lead to visitors feeling that the area is bleak, visually unappealing and lacking in colour or variety. The designs of town signs are thus formed of a careful balance between colour, visual style, lettering, uniqueness of design and being complementary to existing surroundings and historic precedence.

For assistance with urban mapping and sign design which will complement existing surroundings without compromising on quality or aesthetics, consider visiting Fitzpatrick Woolmer at www.fwdp.co.uk for assistance with signage, design and installation placement.

Signposts and Waymarking

Signposts and waymarks are required in order to Countryside Signpostsenable people to follow a public right of way with confidence. Legally there is no difference between the two terms but generally common use denotes a signpost as a tall post with a finger or arrow-shaped board which indicates direction and path status, and sometimes destination. Signposts are sometimes called fingerposts. The term waymarks is normally used to refer to arrow plaques affixed to gate posts, walls, stiles or purpose-built waymarking posts. These show directions with the arrow and the status of the path using standard English waymarking colour codes; yellow for a footpath, blue for bridleway, purple for restricted byway and red for a byway.

The Highway Authority is supposed to always put up signs whenever a right of way leaves a normal road, and also show the status of the right of way. This can give destination and distance (although interestingly it is not mandatory for it to show direction, although most do!) and must be put up in places where anyone who is not familiar with the area would need signs in order to be able to follow the right of way. In fact the regulation wording includes “other signs or notices serving the same purposes” so in actuality all outdoor signs are covered.

Outdoor signs come in metal, wood or plastic, but be wary of installing urban signs in the countryside where they will look strange. Common rural signs are designed as square wooden posts with weathered tops and wooden waymarking fingers, sometimes with a water-based stain to “tone down” the wood’s appearance. These signs are not cheap and will last at least a couple of decades. For longer lasting solutions, some sign manufacturers offer more durable and long-lasting (as well as ecologically friendly) recycled plastic signs, which can be wood-effect so they don’t clash with surroundings.

Waymarking discs are normally plastic and metal, although some local traditions use painted arrows or even stone cairns to blend in with the local area, which is where a creative signage company can be of immense consultative benefit. Painted waymarks are becoming less popular as they tend not to last long, are difficult and costly to keep up to date and often look scruffy, especially on uneven surfaces. Pre-printed waymarking signage is quicker and easier to install as well as looking professional, and while there may be a substantial initial cost these tend to last many years and are extremely low maintenance so are a saving in the long run.