Thursday, October 27, 2011

The Benefits of Design+Build

On the surface it sounds like a great idea.  Hire an environmental graphic design firm to create a signage and wayfinding package, send the created package out to “pre-qualified” manufacturers and work with the low bidder to implement the package.  If this process works so well, why do design/bid projects have major implementation and support issues?
Consider the Benefits of Design+Build
A qualified Design+Build signage and wayfinding firm will have a full-time environmental graphic design staff, full-scale manufacturing capability and the ability to implement and service what it designs and fabricates.   Working with a qualified firm brings many benefits to signage and wayfinding projects of any size.
Time Savings
·    Early involvement from the signage and wayfinding partner ensures that structural and support elements (electrical, etc) are incorporated into new designs or accounted for in renovation projects.
·    Integrating a signage and wayfinding partner early in a project can greatly reduce delays through concurrent development of design concepts and wayfinding logic/messaging. 
·    Omitting multiple bid phases (design and fabrication) not only eliminates the need for development of specific bid documentation but also saves the time normally needed for bid preparation, review, negotiation and reward.
·    Permitting and potential signage variance issues can be addressed early helping to avoid post-bid delays due to the application and approval process.
Cost Savings
·    Establishing a budget in collaboration with the chosen firm removes all financial guesswork and risk through managing the design, wayfinding and implementation process.
·    Working as in integrated project delivery team greatly reduces messaging errors and client design review cycles. 
·    Direct collaboration between the design and fabrication teams ensures the greatest efficiencies in initial fabrication, material usage and modularity.
·    By better understanding the long-term needs of the installed wayfinding system, the team can further reduce product life-cycle cost.
Improved Quality and Service
·    Establishing a design and budget based on known materials and capabilities eliminates the risk of installed products not conforming to specifications.  
·    Addressing long-term needs for changeability and material availability in the design process ensures consistency will be maintained as the system is updated.  
·    By eliminating the gap between bid documents/specifications and creation of a fabrication-ready package by an awarded bidder, you can ensure that the integrity of the product design and wayfinding logic make it through to fabrication and installation. 
The goal of any Design+Build project is to maximize client value and decreased the life-cycle costs associated with signage and wayfinding systems.   We recently completed implementation of a Design+Build project in New York for Orange Regional Medical Center (ORMC) that is featured in the October 2011 issue of Health Facilities Management magazine.  Click on the following link to view the article:
For more information regarding ORMC or other Design+Build projects or to learn how we can help you implement a Design+Build process on your next project, get in touch.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Pulling Off The Band-aid

I was recently listening to a popular weekly podcast called “This American Life”.  The theme was “How to Talk to Kids”.  This is a challenge we can probably all appreciate in some way, and I can say personally that having been a parent now for 22 years, I’m still learning how!

We work with a lot of hospitals and healthcare facilities, and they have patients from a variety of circumstances.  All of these organizations exist for one primary reason:  to help and care for others.  We take pride in the opportunity to be part of that effort, and believe our participation makes a relatively small but significant difference for patients and loved ones. 

Hospitals can be scary places.  They’re scary because, among other things, patients and visitors are no longer in control.  They entrust their health and well-being, or that of a loved one, to unfamiliar people and places.  They surrender a lot of self-control and are frequently powerless in many ways, so the care they receive needs to be based on a sense of trust.  This is a trust of both the intent and the ability of the care facility, and those who work there, to promote healing. 

As scary as hospitals can be for adults, the fear that children must feel in a hospital is potentially much deeper and more dramatic.  The unfamiliarity that adults feel in a hospital is multiplied by the necessary separation that children experience from those who normally care for them.  They not only are away from their familiar routines, they’re frequently away from the people who usually nurture and ensure their comfort.

But kids are not fools.  One thing I’ve learned about children is that it’s really easy to underestimate them, to lose sight of their abundant intelligence and insight.  They are not unaware-in fact, they’re frequently more aware of their circumstances than many adults.  And in a healthcare environment, it’s important to acknowledge and encourage their awareness.

We recently completed a signage and wayfinding project for Le Bonheur Children’s Hospital in Memphis.  As a part of the design development process, we had open discussions about the care process and culture.  These conversations brought out ideas that reflect the common beliefs and values among staff and physicians. 
Patient empowerment was one of the common threads, and the consensus was strong:  children need to know that they can trust their care, and in part, that means trusting their surroundings.   Turning the hospital into a circus would give them the wrong message-they know the difference.  The artwork was chosen to support this-the emphasis is on craft and materials that the children themselves have chosen.

They reached out to local artists in the process.  The community got involved to a degree that is unparalleled.  It was all about the region, and the vision of a healing environment.

It also means making a complex environment easier to understand, for both children and adults, is part of the right message.  The wayfinding program at Le Bonheur Children’s pays attention to clarity and simplicity, and has consistent, clear messages throughout.  There are no clowns, circus tents, or purposeless ornaments in the program-it supports and reflects the aesthetic and architectural context of the hospital.  We’re proud of what we’ve done for the hospital, and look forward to being a part of its evolution over the next several years.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Happy Birthday

Though for some of us, our personal 40th might be a distant memory,  tradition has it as a time for reflection-a chance to look around and assess things.  So, let’s take a look at INNERFACE. 
The outside
INNERFACE has been all over the place.  We’re in all 50 states, and the US territories.  We have completed projects in Europe, Asia, South and Central America, Canada, the Middle East and the Pacific Rim. 
We’ve installed signs using helicopters, rappelled off of the edge of a building from 150’ above the ground to attach 6’ tall individual letters, and poured concrete sign bases big enough to support a 2 story building.  As part of a brand rollout, we’ve supplied a 200’ by 50’ banner and, when a ribbon was cut, our client’s new logo was unfurled in seconds on the face of a new 12 story tower. 
We’ve built and installed signs that can be seen from freeways, bridges, overpasses, and on approach to international airports.  We’ve changed the identity of a hospital system overnight, and rescued monument signs from shipping depots so that we could drive them 200 miles in a rented truck for installation before a 9AM ribbon cutting.  Sometimes it seems hard to believe we started manufacturing interior signs first…
The inside
Our interior systems have a lot to say, too.  With our 6 different standard product lines and a base of from 60 to 85 modules for each line, we’ve got over 400 different off-the shelf products.  And those products have as many as 20 different colors and finishes, which offers 1200 different possible combinations. 
Each sign has 6-12 different parts.  Are you still with me?  That means, in round numbers, we have roughly 48,000 different basic interior sign parts.  And that’s not even counting details like typestyle, photographic backgrounds, oversized backplates…and custom signs, which we document and log into our system for future reorders!
The other side
We’ve talked about what we do.  But the most interesting part of our story is who we are.  We currently have 119 employees.  53 of us have been with the company for more than 10 years!  We represent over a dozen nationalities, including first-generation immigrants from Vietnam, Cambodia, Haiti, Afghanistan, and Korea.  45% of us are women, 55% men.  Husbands, wives, and children of employees have joined us over the years-we currently have a mother and son working in Atlanta, and a third generation just attended the Christmas party!  Several employees have worked with us for most of their careers (including myself).
A lot can happen in 40 years.  And here’s to 40 more!

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

"I Hate Signs"

In the 40 years we’ve been in business, we often hear that when we first meet customers.  And there’s a reason for it: they’ve never worked with an effective signage system. Signage in a complex public space is a system just like any other, and just like any other system, it’s only as good as the sum of its parts.  When the parts don’t work, the system breaks down and the signs become a problem.
We’ve had the privilege of working with over 1000 hospitals in the US and abroad.  Hospitals are the most complex public environments in any community.  Users of hospitals are typically there for one of two reasons: 
They need care, or someone they know does. 
With high levels of stress, users have limited abilities to understand their environment and retain information.  Also, differences in language and culture add a layer of complexity to their needs. Signage must be clear and effective, and has to continually adapt to dynamic care environments.  If it isn’t, the users suffer, and the managers hear about it.
We work to resolve all of these challenges as we develop healthcare signage systems for clients.  The solutions we provide are designed to last and to be cost-effective not only when they’re installed, but for many years of use.  We call it “cost intelligence”, and it means that every system we design and implement is flexible, simple, and changeable, without compromising aesthetics.  Our graphic standards and online order system make it easy for clients to ensure that wayfinding stays up to date and an effective tool for patients, visitors and staff.
Our customers know that our commitment doesn’t stop once signs are installed.  Implementation is just the beginning of a long-term wayfinding strategy.  Through continuous support, our goal is to keep wayfinding systems working and looking as good as it did the day they are installed.