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Sign Design: The advent of branded environments

The retail sector has been particularly key in the development of branded environments.
Photo courtesy Uniqlo

Leveraging new opportunities
With all of these massive changes occurring, many sign companies are still only just beginning to perceive branded environments as a key business strategy. The leaders on this front have been specialty sign fabricators who work directly with branding-oriented architects and environmental graphic design (EGD) professionals. In such scenarios, everyone involved gets to adapt their own technical expertise to meet ever-expanding needs, from large-format printed graphics to digital displays to public art.

Some sign companies that specialize in large-scale rollouts of branded graphics have also become leaders, by building on their existing relationships with designers and clients and taking on further responsibilities for decorating building interiors and exteriors.

The majority of small to medium-sized sign companies focus on more highly segmented areas—e.g. identification (ID) signs, wayfinding systems or donor recognition walls—and, as such, rarely implement brand strategy practices in their work.

Similarly, many architects are still not exploring the possibilities for integrating branding into more types of buildings, including industrial parks, residential housing, elder-care facilities and strip malls. In some cases, they simply lack access to—or a sufficient budget for—assistance from appropriately experienced designers.

Academic programs focusing on architecture and interior design have remained slow in adopting environment-branding practices. This has left an opening for the sign industry. By educating both architects and their clients about the sign industry’s technologies and techniques for integrating brand identities into built environments, signmakers will be better-positioned to remain competitive in this new business frontier, rather than ceding opportunities to other branding-savvy companies.

Craig Berger is chair of the visual presentation and exhibition design department of the Fashion Institute of Technology’s (FIT’s) School of Art and Design and runs his own firm, Craig Berger Management Consulting, which specializes in assisting fabricators, manufacturers and institutions with design-based marketing and education strategies. For more information, contact him via e-mail at

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