outdoor signage solutions

Imperative Elements of Outdoor Signage Solutions That You Need to Take Into Account

Published on: July 11, 2019

It’s not uncommon for owners of mixed-use retail centers who don’t have a lot of experience in outdoor signage to underestimate what it takes to create an effective program. It’s not just a matter of getting city approvals and permits, budgeting, and planning. You’ll also need to keep an eye on the details, like ensuring the proper amount of tenant space on sign elements and proper sight lines for best visibility. 

To be effective, the end result of outdoor signage solutions for a retail campus must also drive consumer curiosity while helping customers find their way to specific shopping destinations. This requires special talent in creating a branded wayfinding solution that accentuates the aesthetics of the built environment. 

The Components of Effective Outdoor Signage Solutions

By planning ahead and partnering with a top signage design firm that has expertise in branded wayfinding, you can achieve outdoor signage solutions that hit all the marks. That’s just what the following retail centers did. And here’s how they did it. 

Case Study #1: Rebranding With Municipal Buy-in

outdoor signage solutions

When rebranding an existing retail center, the building’s architecture is not going to change too much but freshening the outdoor signage can drive better consumer engagement.  The Westborough Square Shopping Center in San Francisco achieved this with great success when they undertook a total reimaging program. Re-tenanting the shopping center provided the perfect opportunity to redesign the outdoor signage from the entry monuments and identity signs to the wayfinding system and environmental graphics. 

Westborough Square selected new outdoor signage solutions that reflected the color and square architectural shape of the building. Set against a neutral backdrop that ties the entire complex together, individual retailers enjoyed flexibility with their own colorful signage within determined standards. To add further visual interest and highlight the vertical architecture of the shopping center, a consistent colorful design was used on tall flags. Branded wayfinding signs further solidify an overall branded style. The result was a rejuvenated retail center that draws increased consumer interest. 

A critical part of accomplishing a top-to-bottom rebranding of an existing retail center like Westborough involves working with a signage design firm that’s able to lay out a plan that takes into account the building’s existing architecture as well as the current environmental graphics and signage assets. And it all starts with a Sign Profile Analysis™—or a comprehensive and creative analysis of all the signage options and their varying price points. With this information at hand early on, you’ll have an easier time getting the necessary municipal approvals and avoid delaying the project. 

Case Study #2: Planning for Change and Ensuring Continuity

outdoor signage solutions

Wayfinding design principles are a critical component of outdoor signage but there’s more to it than it seems on the surface. Of course, wayfinding needs to be functional in that it helps direct both foot and vehicle traffic, getting consumers to where they want to go. But the wayfinding solution you choose should also reinforce the brand identity of the entire retail center. Branding differentiates a retail center from all the other indistinct shopping options by conveying an emotional dynamic that can build trust and loyalty. 

outdoor signage solutions

Grafton Station, a 49,000 square-foot retail center that includes a major big box store and numerous national brand retailers in the heart of Dublin, California, took the opportunity to create a sense of place for visitors during their 2009 construction. Alongside occupancy by higher-end tenants, this retail center provides a welcoming pedestrian experience with wayfinding signage in a neoclassical typeface that clearly directs consumers to all the available amenities. The placemaking result is so effective, in fact, that locals use the shopping center as a place to socialize as well as shop. 

As with every retail center, tenants may come and go, but with a master sign program in place, Grafton Center can maintain its upscale feel for visitors. A master sign program provides consistent guidance on design quality and establishes a program structure that ensures continuity over time. And these standards can be implemented in the event that this popular retail center grows. 

How to Achieve the Best Outdoor Signage Solutions  

To achieve the best results with your outdoor signage solution, you need a plan. The more thorough and detailed the plan, the more likely it will serve all the requirements—from leveraging current assets to branded placemaking and scalability. When you’re looking for a firm to assist you, you’ll want one with a proven history of managing all aspects of such large-scale projects—including logistics and municipal buy-in. 

In a way, retail projects are public/private partnerships. The municipalities that host them have a vested interest in their success as well as how they fit the area’s character. You’ll want a firm who understands exactly what city planners, local council members, and other involved parties are looking for when they ask for documentation. Your firm should be able to submit a complete documentation package on your behalf that answers all their possible questions before they even ask them.

By partnering with a firm that can manage the project from the planning stages all the way to implementation, you can limit surprises and gain the support of community leaders.


GNU Group has extensive experience in managing the logistics and municipal buy-in of outdoor signage solutions for retailers in California. Our plans tie diverse sets of brands together while also establishing predictable and cost-effective master sign programs. For more information, connect with our team.