renovate commercial building

Don’t Renovate a Commercial Building Without Considering This Critical Detail First

Published on: August 8, 2019

Rebranding is the ultimate goal of every commercial building renovation. Whether you’re updating a property due to a new acquisition, a change in tenancy, or a need to modernize and improve marketability, the end result is the same. The building feels fresh, new, and different. The character of your space shines through branding and design choices that make a huge impact on the user experience. After renovation, your property should feel strategically rebranded and ready for new business. 

In the initial stages of the renovation process, property owners collaborate with architects, engineers, contractors, and code officials to define a scope of work. But one crucial consultant is often left out of these initial planning: the signage designer. 

While architects enact floor plan and finish changes that make a big impact on the overall look of a property, environmental signage designers are the ones bringing your brand to life. That’s why wayfinding and architectural signage should be considered much earlier in the process of renovating a commercial building—the sooner the better.  

3 Reasons To Incorporate Signage Sooner in the Renovation Process

Signage and graphics are the initial brand touchpoints for every visitor to your property—and they make the biggest impact when they’re planned for early in the commercial renovation process. Many developers wait until the last minute to throw up some logo-heavy signage, but here are three reasons why you should think about signage sooner: 

1. Early planning helps control signage costs. 

Despite popular belief, there’s really no average cost of signage for a commercial project. Every building is different. Depending on the size of your property, the materials you select, and the percentage of fully-custom elements you request, your signage program could fall across a wide range of figures. The best way to manage these costs is to partner with a signage consultant early in the process of renovating a commercial building. They’ll have time to make a thorough audit of your signage needs, and you’ll have the freedom to make changes to the project or request other bids if their first price doesn’t suit. 

2. Coordination of contingencies becomes much easier. 

Like everything else in the commercial renovation process, a successful signage program depends on close collaboration with other stakeholders on the renovation team. Interchangeable conference room and cubicle signs can be easily implemented after the fact without much fuss. But building identification, monumental signage, and large-scale graphics all depend on lighting, power, structural, and even data elements to function. The sooner you involve your signage consultant, the sooner they can collaborate with your engineers and contractors to plan for smooth implementation. 

3. You can actually meet your scheduling deadlines. 

If you don’t start the process of signage planning early enough, you might have to delay getting a certificate of occupancy because of manufacturing timelines and lengthy city approvals. Many commercial projects are required by local authorities to provide master signage documentation as part of a planning submittal, so it’s best to get this process started sooner rather than later. Plus, you have a much better chance at securing variances for innovative signage elements if you seek approval in a timely manner. Municipalities are more likely to consider exceptions to design restrictions if you’re not trying to rush the planning process. 

What Great Signage Planning Looks Like In Action

The reasons above might be enough to convince any developer to incorporate signage early in the renovation process—particularly because planning ahead can save a ton of money. But commercial projects are all unique. Some properties come with specific challenges that call for more than a “one size fits all” approach to signage. By acting sooner, you can allow plenty of time to mitigate the unique challenges that arise from your commercial building renovation. 

renovate commercial building

When Broadcom renovated four commercial buildings for their new headquarters in San Jose, CA, they invested in an interior signage program which incorporated life-size supergraphics in lieu of traditional signage. Early planning allowed time for this level of creativity and innovation to take place. Cookie-cutter signage would have been quicker to install, but the supergraphics created a much more convincing brand message for users of the complex. These supergraphics are now a staple of the Broadcom corporate environment and help reflect their corporate culture to employees and visitors alike. 

Broadcom’s exterior signage provided a unique wayfinding challenge due to traffic patterns surrounding the complex. The building’s main vehicular entrance was difficult to access by car without a dedicated left-turn lane on the public access road. Prominent and strategically-placed wayfinding signs were implemented to help drivers navigate to a secondary entrance that was more accessible. 

These signs influenced large-scale behavioral change. They caused Broadcom staff members to do the opposite of what might be the most intuitive to them in order to create a far more functional circulation pattern. If signage consultants had been involved even earlier in the renovation process, it’s possible that the site architecture itself could have been altered to facilitate even better traffic flow into the complex. 

Renovate a Commercial Building With Signage In Mind

If you find yourself needing to secure signage at the tail end of a commercial renovation, don’t panic. Most signage firms can accommodate fairly quick turnarounds and adjust quickly to budget expectations. You can slap on signage in a few weeks if you have to. But why would you want to rely on mass-produced, off-the-shelf signage elements when you could invest in creating corporate signage that augments your brand and enhances your working environment? 

The best custom corporate signage solutions take time. They’re built on a foundation of close stakeholder collaboration, high-quality manufacturing, and creative design. These aren’t things you want to rush. 

The sooner you integrate signage into your commercial building renovation process, the better your signage consultant will be able to meet your needs. With a well-timed plan in place and a collaborative signage design team at your back, you’ll be ready to renovate in a way that fully expresses your commercial building’s new brand and gives a new, consistent, and convincing feel to the property.


At GNU Group, we believe signage should never be an afterthought. We’re dedicated to helping commercial property owners and corporations rebrand buildings strategically, and we use our proprietary Sign Profile Analysis™ tool to make that process even easier. Connect with our team to get started on your own site audit. By planning ahead with GNU Group, you can renovate any commercial building with success.