At Blaze Signs, we pride ourselves on attempting to be more than just a signage manufacturer; we are the architects of visual communication, shaping the way businesses in the United Kingdom express themselves to the world. As one of the largest signage designers and manufacturers in the UK, we’re committed to a mission that goes beyond crafting signs; it’s about crafting experiences, impressions, and lasting memories. This dedication is what made us the logical choice to be the signage contractor for the Chester Market rejuvenation, and in this case study, we’ll explore how their long history was combined with modern requirements for shoppers and locals were combined to create a new space for traders of the Chester area. Utilising sustainable materials in the building and an attention to detail in the branding and signage that provides a truly unique experience for customers day by day, during a time where retail parks rule the world and marketplaces are continuously seeing a decline in usage.
Sat at the heart of the Northgate Development in Chester, a new purpose-built facility was proposed with the vision of becoming a ‘modern traditional market,’ to rejuvenate the existing market and amplify the experience for customers with more traders, more variety, and more space to enjoy it all.
History of Chester Market
Chester Market, situated in the historic city of Chester, England, boasts a remarkably rich history that traces its origins back to Roman times. Founded as the Roman fort of “Deva Victrix” in AD 79, Chester served as a crucial military outpost and a bustling trading centre within the Roman province of Britannia. Even during this era, there would have been a bustling marketplace or forum within the fortress, where merchants traded a wide array of goods, including food, clothing, pottery, and metalwork.
The legacy of Roman commerce continued to shape Chester’s destiny as it transitioned into the medieval period. The town, known as “Ceaster” in Old English, retained its status as a thriving commercial hub. The medieval market in Chester evolved from these early trading activities, with the construction of the iconic two-tiered galleries known as “The Rows” and the erection of market halls. The first permanent building that was erected for the commercial activities in Chester was named the “Exchange”, which stood from the years 1692 to 1862, when it unfortunately burnt down. It was subsequently replaced by a large and grand Victorian era building in 1865, which was designed to complement the town hall found next door. This building was regarded as a masterpiece with its iron and glass roof, standing as a testament to the city’s dedication to accommodating the changing needs of its traders and shoppers.
Chester’s Market Hall and Town Hall, 1890s
More changes were afoot when the site was once again demolished and replaced with a new facility in 1967, known as the “Forum.” It was a notable example of modernist architecture from the mid-20th century. The distinctive structure, situated in the heart of the city, reflects the architectural trends and urban planning ideas of its time.
Which brings us to the modern day, where the latest change to the commercial hub promised to be a significant improvement for both traders, customers, and locals.
Chester Market Hall interior between 1970-1979
Chester Markets Rebrand
Along with a new purpose-built facility comes a rebrand to the visual identity of the Chester Market, which allowed the management to properly reinvent themselves and bring their vision truly to life. The new logo and brand identity was design to be distinctive, memorable, and exuberant; inspired by Chester’s heritage combined with a modern touch. As previously mentioned, the site is rich in Roman history, with much of it built by the XX Legion, whose symbol was a wild boar. Once a familiar sight and food source in Cheshire, wild boars were sadly hunted to extinction by the Normans following their invasion in 1066. The connection to the area is why the animal was chosen to be the logo for Chester Market, employing a more realistic design style with a flat finish to ensure it worked in all applications.
Visualisation of the new market building
The brand colours were also inspired by Chester’s past, with shades drawn from the city’s sandstone walls, a Viking copper brooch found on the Northgate site, and an earthy green making up the colour palette. The hue of the brand colours put together provide opportunity for a cohesive brand experience, with icons and visual elements utilising contrasting colours to the background colours chosen at any given time. Completing the brand is the typography, which was inspired by the text on the demolished Victorian market building facade and the elaborate Edwardian type of the Westminster Coach Works.
Creating signage designs that align with a business’s brand guidelines and identity is a crucial aspect of a signage manufacturing company’s role. There are a variety of reasons why this step of the process is crucial to get right:
- Brand Identity and Recognition: Signage is often the first point of contact between a business and its customers. Accurate representation of the brand ensures that customers can easily recognize and identify the business.
- Professionalism: Well-designed signage conveys a sense of professionalism and attention to detail. It leaves a positive impression on customers and potential clients.
- Consistency: Consistent branding across all touchpoints, including signage, reinforces the brand’s identity and messaging, building brand trust and loyalty.
- Effective Communication: Signage is a powerful tool for conveying essential information, promotions, and messages to customers. When aligned with brand identity, it enhances the effectiveness of communication.
- Competitive Advantage: In a crowded marketplace, distinct and well-executed signage can set a business apart from competitors and attract more customers.
We worked closely with the developers of the Chester Market project to ensure the signage met the requirements they were looking for and went the extra mile that would set the market apart from the many other establishments and facilities in the Chester town centre that are all jostling for attention. The largest and most important signs, the external lettering that would be visible to every customer, pedestrian and passer-by received the most development time by our Design & Drawing offices in collaboration with the client, producing multiple options that all had their own advantages and disadvantages.
All options began with a specification of face illuminated built up letters, made from descaled stainless steel with the returns finished in the brands green colour,
- Option 1: These would have white faces made from 5mm white acrylic, with only the returns coloured in green, which would result in the full letter faces being brightly illuminated during the evenings.
- Option 2: This option was almost identical to the primary option, except from the colour of the letter faces’ acrylic, which would have included translucent green vinyl to the provide a green glow during the darker times of the day.
- Option 3: The final option would utilise the power of both optimal brand recognition through the application of green translucent vinyl to the faces while also providing clear letter visibility during the night through the use of white acrylic illumination with a keyline around the lettering,
With the proposed options laid out, it was up to the management of the Chester Market to decide what they liked best, and in the end the third option was selected. The sets of letters were created from large mirror polished stainless steel, which ensured an exquisite finish that reflected light throughout the day while keeping the brand’s primary green colour at the forefront of the design.
Along with the main external lettering and branding, we also completed the signage fit-out to a multitude of different aspects of Chester Market, which ensured a consistent and exciting brand experience for customers and visitors.
Car park & pedestrian entrances: Signage at the building’s entrances – whether they’re pedestrian or vehicle entrances – is crucial as it serves as the first point of contact between the business or establishment and visitors. Effective entrance signage enhances visibility, brand recognition, and overall user experience, and that’s what the priorities were for Chester Market, with plenty of investment and time spent during the design and development stage to ensure they meet all criteria.
The Coachworks Arcade entrance to the market sits on Northgate Street, with a huge number of pedestrians passing by each day. The sign itself could be described as a hybrid solution, with the “Coachworks” being made from built-up stainless-steel lettering and internally illuminated and the lower section – which included the “Arcade” text utilising a letters-on-fascia design layout.
Car park entrances also benefitted from superb signage design that didn’t relegate these secondary entrances to be simply… secondary. These fascia’s were also illuminated, including the “P” parking icon and bicycle icon, ensuring this entrance feels as spectacular as the others. Due to the sheer size of the entrances, our designers had to ensure that the fascia panels were support above the entrances safely while not making them cost prohibitive for the customer. The sign found above the vehicular entrance for example measures over 23 metres long, which meant we had to design multiple panels and joins to come together to make that final number. This was done to ensure ease of manufacture and installation while also helping keep costs lower, in the end this led to 12 separate panels – some of which are mitred – to form the full sign.
The focus on innovative design did not stop there however, with the inclusion of a building sign that followed the curvature of the car park buildings corner. Our technical team used the radius of the corner of the brickwork in order to determine the curvature of the 50mm deep aluminium sign, which was included illumination to the lettering and icons to complete the look.
To complete the car park signage suite, a high-level signifier sign was added to the return wall of the lift tower. This sign stands nearly 3 metres tall and sits around 5 metres above the ground to allow vehicles to be able to see the entrance of the car park from afar. The fascia sign was fixed off the building using stubs, and we implemented an internal frame to support it. Complete with internal LED illumination for the icon and lettering, in keeping with the rest of the signage suite, the sign provides not only informational benefits to shoppers as they navigate their way to the market, but also strengthens Chester Market’s brand presence.
Car park fit-out: Car park signage is vital for multiple reasons, the most important of which is the informational benefits they provide to customers, whether they’re providing directions, highlighting special car parking spaces or extending the brand image across the site to achieve the next level of consistency.
We provided a variety of different types of signs to be deployed in Chester Markets multi-level car park, including safety and informational signs, vehicle navigation as well as lift and stairwell navigations. Signs for the bicycle and scooter storage hub were also design, manufactured and installed by the Blaze Team.
Internal elements: The Chester Market boar logo and lettering were also effectively implemented to the internal atrium and seating areas with halo-illuminated signage coloured in the brands “Green.” The element of these signs that make them special is the eye of the boar, which is made from white acrylic, and illuminates along with the rest of the sign.
We pride ourselves on our attention to detail and that our expertise and manufacturing capabilities allow us to make every sign, every customer experience special.
Facing challenges head-on
In densely populated urban areas such as Northgate, where Chester Market is located, we faced an array of unique challenges that we needed to tackle head on in order to get the project completed to the required parameter. One significant obstacle is the constraint of limited space. With urban landscapes at a premium, finding adequate room for signage installation can be a puzzle. Balancing the need for visibility and functionality without obstructing pedestrian and vehicular traffic is a delicate art, access equipment can often pose challenges to other stakeholders, including other contractors working on site and the general public.
Since there were multiple contractors of different competencies working on the site and often the same time, it was paramount that we were able to coordinate our efforts and schedules to not get in anyone’s way, and that they don’t stifle our progress at the same time. Effective communication between all through on-site meetings and regular contact through digital channels were incredibly useful to ensure that this was not an issue.
Safety is – as it should be – a major concern. Densely populated areas often mean increased foot and vehicle traffic, making it imperative to maintain a safe environment for pedestrians and workers. The Blaze Team utilised our in—house Health & Safety team to work alongside our projects team and ensure that our work on the site was carried out to the highest standard of safety.
Above all, meeting the Chester Market management’s expectations remains paramount. We had the challenge of delivering signage that aligns with the client’s vision while adhering to budgetary constraints and project timelines. Successfully overcoming these challenges in densely populated like Chester required effective project management, clear communication among contractors, compliance with local regulations, and a steadfast commitment to delivering high-quality signage that captivates the target audience while harmonizing with the urban landscape.
The new market opens
The journey of Chester Market, from its rich historical roots to its modern-day evolution, is a testament to adaptability and resilience. With meticulous planning, a commitment to preserving its heritage, and an eye toward the future, the new Chester Market opened its doors on 8th November 2022. The purpose-built space seamlessly blends the charm of the past with the demands of the present, offering a diverse range of vendors and an inviting atmosphere that beckons visitors and locals alike.
In the year since its reopening, Chester Market has become more than just a marketplace; it has transformed into a vibrant hub of culinary delights, cultural events, and community engagement. It has breathed new life into the heart of Chester, becoming a focal point for both residents and tourists seeking a unique, authentic experience.
Being a part of the revitalization project for Chester Market has been a source of immense pride and fulfilment for us as the signage contractor. It’s not just about the signs we meticulously designed and expertly installed; it’s about contributing to the restoration of a cherished historical landmark and breathing new life into it. Our involvement in this project represented a unique opportunity to blend our craftsmanship with the city’s rich heritage. Witnessing the market’s transformation from concept to reality and knowing that our signage played a pivotal role in its success, is a source of profound satisfaction.
We take immense pride in knowing that our signs will continue to guide visitors and shoppers while being a part of the vibrant story that Chester Market tells for generations to come. This project has not only strengthened our commitment to our craft but also deepened our appreciation for the power of signage in shaping the character and identity of a place.