In the dynamic and ever-evolving landscape of retail, the significance of visual appeal and brand recognition cannot be overstated. As shopping centres strive to provide unique experiences that engage and captivate visitors, the role of signage takes centre stage, acting as both a functional navigational tool and a powerful branding mechanism. This case study delves into a remarkable transformation undertaken by the Blaze Team and other major stakeholders including the Grafton Centre management, the main contractor ISG, and the architects who visualised the transformation. The fusion of creativity, innovation, and craftsmanship converged to elevate the Grafton Centre into a haven of aesthetic allure and brand resonance.
An artists visualisation of what the completed shopping centre could look like
In the pursuit of a truly premium shopping experience, we embarked on a collaborative journey with the project’s stakeholders, aiming to transcend conventional norms and set new standards of excellence. With an acute understanding of the profound impact that well-designed signage can have on consumer perception, foot traffic, and brand loyalty, we embraced the challenge of creating a signage suite that not only guided visitors but also told a compelling visual narrative, seamlessly weaving together art and functionality.
This case study not only showcases the transformative power of a premium signage suite but also unveils the intricate planning, design prowess, and meticulous execution that culminated in the realization of a shopping centre that stands as a true testament to modern aesthetics and brand synergy.
As we delve deeper into the case study, we will explore the journey taken by the Blaze Team to embrace a future where signage goes beyond its conventional role, emerging as an essential element in the creation of exceptional retail spaces. From the conceptualization of bespoke signage elements that harmonize with the architectural nuances of an existing building to the integration of innovative technology, this study will provide a comprehensive view of how we work with industry leaders to achieve remarkable results.
Ultimately, the success of the Grafton Centre project underscores the profound impact that premium signage can have on revitalizing a shopping centre, enhancing its market position, and creating an unforgettable shopping journey for patrons.
DESIGN AND DEVELOPMENT
The design stage of the shopping centre transformation project was undeniably pivotal, serving as the foundation upon which the entire project was built. Its significance stemmed from several critical aspects that highlighted the importance of meticulous planning, creative ideation, and strategic decision-making:
- Aesthetic Integration: The design stage was crucial for seamlessly integrating the signage suite with the shopping centre’s architectural and interior design elements. This process ensured that the signage not only fulfilled its functional purpose but also harmonized with the overall aesthetic vision of the space. By aligning the signage design with the centre’s ambiance and theme, a cohesive and immersive environment was created, enhancing customers’ overall experience.
- Branding and Identity: Effective signage is a powerful tool for communicating a shopping centre’s brand identity and values. During the design stage, careful consideration was given to how the signage would reflect the Grafton Centre’s brand personality, ethos, and unique selling propositions. This alignment between signage design and brand identity created a consistent and memorable visual language that resonated with visitors and reinforced brand recognition.
- Wayfinding and User Experience: Navigational ease and a positive user experience were paramount. The design stage facilitated the creation of intuitive wayfinding solutions, ensuring that visitors could effortlessly navigate the shopping centre. By strategically placing and designing signage elements, visitors were guided through the space in an intuitive manner, minimizing confusion and enhancing overall satisfaction.
Innovation and Creativity: The design stage was an opportunity to infuse innovation and creativity into the signage suite. It allowed for the exploration of cutting-edge technologies and design concepts that could elevate the overall impact of the signage.
In essence, the 6 weeklong design stage of the shopping centre transformation project was a strategic canvas upon which the innovative and creative aspirations of the signage manufacturing company and the shopping centre could be realized. It was the phase where ideas were conceptualized, refined, and translated into visual elements that would shape the entire visitor experience, making it a pivotal cornerstone of the project’s success.
By the end of this phase of the project, we had a complete suite of signage designed down to the nut and bolt, with the understanding of the materials required, manufacturing methods we’ll be employing and a good understanding of what the logistics landscape would look like
With such a huge transformation in the pipeline, this translates to an incredible amount of signage to be installed across a large amount of space. We spent over 3 months on site, which was spread across separated phases of construction – headed up by the main contractor, ISG, as they completed their construction work. Due to the phased nature of the project, we ensured that the products due to be installed in phase 1 of the project were manufactured and ready before any items in phase 2, in order to save space in our own facilities and work more efficiently.
The logistics of a shopping centre transformation can present a myriad of challenges due to the complexity and scale of the project. From managing diverse stakeholders both external and internal to our business to coordinating multiple activities and ensuring minimal disruption to daily operations, several factors contribute to the logistical complexities:
Stakeholder Coordination: The types of projects involve close collaboration among various stakeholders, including the Grafton Centre management, tenants, architects, designers, contractors, signage manufacturers, main contractors and more. Coordinating the efforts, expectations, and timelines of these diverse parties can be intricate, requiring effective communication and alignment of goals.
- Logistical Constraints: The Grafton Centre is located in Cambridge, a densely populated area, making logistics challenging due to limited space for construction equipment, material storage, and transportation. Management of the flow of materials, workers, and equipment within confined spaces needed precise coordination to ensure the works were effective each day and more importantly… safe.
- Safety and Compliance: Shopping centres are public spaces, and ensuring the safety of visitors, workers, and tenants is of paramount importance. Compliance with safety regulations, permits, and building codes adds an extra layer of complexity to the logistics of the project.
In summary, the logistics of this type of project are multifaceted and require meticulous planning, effective communication, and adaptability to unforeseen challenges. Successfully navigating these complexities is essential to achieving a seamless transformation that enhances the chances of success.
Large-format flexes and decoration:
Situated above the pedestrian plazas within the Grafton Centre itself, these beautiful signs could possibly be considered the centre piece of the signage suite. Utilising a combination of signage types, these flex box and decorative panels elevate the customer experience through the provision of incredible ambience and allure. Standing at 4.4m tall, large aluminium sheets were laser-cut into five different designs, allowing illumination to shine through the interesting shapes created. This was then combined with large flex boxes to the right which displayed marketing imagery determined by the Grafton Centre, which was also internally illuminated to complete the look.
Large built-up illuminated external lettering:
Designed to greet customers as they approach the main entrance to the Grafton Centre, it was crucial to get the external lettering right. Rising to over 1.8 metres tall, the letters are constructed using a mix of acrylic and stainless-steel coloured in the brands primary blue. LEDs nestled within the letters themselves provide smooth, diffused illumination during the evenings.
The incorporation of digital signage in the Grafton Centre opened up countless opportunities for the shopping centre management and its tenants for advertisement and announcements. We designed, manufactured, and installed three totem style signs as well as wall mounted versions, allowing customers to learn about new offers, stores opening or special announcements by the management. However, the possibilities are endless when it comes to digital signage, since anything could be displayed on all totems at any time, all completed remotely with the press of a couple buttons!
The totem signs housed a 43” digital display in an aluminium shell sitting above a satin stainless stell cover at foot level, standing 2.3m tall and coloured in the Grafton Centre’s brand colours. Illumination was ample, including face illumination to the logos, icons and lettering, and two yellow coloured key lines horizontally placed around the circumference of the totem to make it truly stand out.
Tremendous design and development was carried out for these totems, ensuring they were built well and stood the test of time, while also providing access to the digital display encased within the totem when maintenance needed to be carried out.
Good navigational signage is designed to help individuals navigate unfamiliar spaces or complex environments with ease and confidence. It serves as a visual guide, providing clear and concise information to ensure that people can reach their destinations efficiently. The Grafton Centre took the efficiency benefits of well-designed navigational signage and put them in overdrive, adding a level of design flair that is rare to see on such a large scale.
From the lift directionals, toilet’s location and door signs, to the hanging main atrium directionals, all were illuminated with both halo and face illumination to any icons and lettering.
Illuminating a navigational sign offers several benefits that enhance its effectiveness, such as the enhanced visibility for customers, the consistency and attention to detail, reduced stress for the customers as they find it much easier to navigate the large, busy retail environment, and an elevated brand identity for the Grafton Centre that customers are more likely to recall.
Additional Internal Signage:
To complete the desired look and feel of the Grafton Centre and make it an experience that will leave customers wanting more, additional touches needed to be added throughout the space that bring it all together. By adding their branding to every corner and blank space, the Grafton Centres brand identity will become ubiquitous with the feelings that customers experience when they shop at their many tenants, like finding a great deal or finally purchasing an item they had been dreaming about for months.
Wall graphics were added to the available but yet to be filled retail spaces, combined with interactive activities for customers to enjoy while shopping, transforming what would otherwise be a desolate wasted space into an excellent marketing opportunity.
Illuminated vertical versions of the Grafton Centre logo were fixed to the walls above the walkways in empty areas to maximise brand recall opportunities, and more wall graphics in the style of their branding was installed to the stairwells and corridors to provide a vibrant and dynamic customer journey.
When all the signage is put together, it achieves a comprehensive and effective branding experience for customers both new and returning, with an emphasis on premium manufacturing and design techniques. It’s an overall design that can stand the test of time and continue to provide memories for both customers and colleagues for years.
RESULTS & AWARDS
In conclusion, the remarkable transformation of the Grafton Centre through the integration of a premium signage suite stands as a testament to the power of visionary collaboration and meticulous execution. As we’ve explored the intricate journey undertaken by the Blaze Team and the various stakeholders, it becomes evident that this project transcends conventional norms, forging a path toward experiential retail excellence. From the strategic design stage that harmonized aesthetics, branding, and user experience, to the intricate logistics that navigated stakeholder coordination and operational continuity, every facet of this endeavour showcases the convergence of innovation and expertise.
The case study underscores the profound impact that well-designed signage can have on reshaping the identity of a shopping centre, elevating its brand visibility, and creating a captivating atmosphere that resonates with visitors. It unveils the art of melding creativity with functionality and highlights the significance of forward-thinking planning and innovative technology integration.
As the retail landscape continues to evolve, this case study serves as an illuminating guide for industry professionals, stakeholders, and enthusiasts alike. It demonstrates that a synthesis of imagination, expertise, and a commitment to excellence can reshape physical spaces into captivating realms that enchant, engage, and endure. The Grafton Centre’s transformation is not merely an achievement in signage and design; it’s a testament to the capacity of collaborative innovation to redefine the way we interact with spaces, brands, and the art of retail itself.
So much so in fact, that we won two awards for this site when it was completed in 2018, at the British Sign Awards! We were awarded both the Sign of the Year and Architectural Sign of the Year awards for the incredible results achieved on this project. They now live at our Birmingham facility and serve as a reminder to all our employees that we are capable of truly ground-breaking and captivating creations that provide both our clients with the best-in-class business signage solutions as well as the general public with exceptional environments and retail experiences.