Nov 9, 201309:00 AMPoint of View

Signgeist 3: Signage as Brand

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Signage is a powerful brand extension. Aside from a logo, it is often the most recognized component of a company’s image. Think of how many examples come to mind quickly: Exxon, FedEx, Nike, Target, UPS. An exterior sign can reach a million people simultaneously; an interior sign can reinforce the brand image to every visitor looking for the elevator, the bathroom, a room number.

Apple Computer’s logo is so simple, elegant, and precisely rendered that the word “Apple” is not needed. The company’s store in Grand Central Terminal has two small, white logo signs at the base of the central stairs leading to the mezzanine: no words, flashing lights, bold colors, or image saturation. The mere presence of this symbol signifies something special. Apple is in the house!

Courtesy Flickr Richard Velasco, xpressbus

The W Hotel Times Square visually speaks to millions of tourists and New York City residents annually. And it accomplishes this with only one letter atop its building. The “W” represents hip, stylish, sophisticated. Sign as lifestyle. Style by association. Signs can even become brands unto themselves. The “Hollywood” sign is a great example of a single graphic image becoming a brand for Los Angeles and the film industry. The sign and word are so associated with films that “Bollywood” has become a descriptor for films made in India. Signs can also become brands for neighborhoods. The signs in Times Square completely define it. No signs—no Times Square. No single example defines the area, but rather the sheer abundance and exuberance of them—signs as definition of a place.

Of course, not all signs are reassuring and comforting. One of the most notorious examples of this was the ENRON sign. On top of the world in the late 1990s, ENRON had money, power, and influence. Its logo was designed by Paul Rand; its headquarters by César Pelli. When the company came crashing down, it wasn’t a printed logo or the building facade that people remembered—it was the ENRON building’s sign, used over and over and over to accompany nearly every news broadcast and magazine story.

Courtesy Craig Hartley/Bloomberg 


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