Our relationship with Sky began in 2020, where we provided our services to their headquarters in Isleworth, with new illuminated signage in various locations throughout the compound. In the three years since then, we have diligently worked together to bring high-quality business signage solutions to their retail stores up and down the UK, as well as various one-off projects and locations such as the Sky Guild gaming centre in London.
Sky is a widely well-known brand in the UK, with over 12 million households taking advantage of their services (as of January 2022), whether that’s for satellite television, broadband, mobile services, or anything else they offer. In 2019, they unveiled plans for a brand new 14-stage studio in Elstree, UK outside London which would play host to film productions from stablemates Universal Pictures, Focus Features and Working Title, and television series from NBC Universal Content Studios. In addition, the proposal would also have capacity to host productions from third parties.
A development that would span 32 acres, Sky Studios would need lots of signage to allow people to be able to navigate the large site and plethora of buildings and sound stages, which is where come in. Completed by one of the UK’s largest construction contractors, BAM Construction, who has been creating and maintaining buildings ranging from offices, schools, hospitals, university departments, hotels, research labs, cultural venues, museums, travel hubs and more since 1874. Their major strength is communication and ability to stay closely connected to their customers and suppliers, something much sought after when working on a project such as Sky Studios, Elstree.
This was a phased project, an approach to construction widely used in the industry, and it involves breaking down a construction project into distinct phases or stages, each with its own set of tasks, goals, and timelines. This approach offers several benefits, both from a project management perspective and in terms of overall project success. Some of these include risk mitigation, cost control, flexibility and adaptability, faster project delivery, incremental project feedback and improved control.
It was particularly important that the sound stages were ready for use as quickly as possible as they had already been booked in for the summer of 2023 for the first filming project to take place, therefore, this phase of the project was prioritised.
The sound stage signage wasn’t the only thing we designed, manufactured, and installed however, and in this case study we’ll dive deep into the completed Elstree site, detailing some of the decisions that were made that lead to the incredible brand experience that people now take advantage of every day. From the entrance to the internal navigational signage and branding, each element has its own story…
The Hero Arch
First impressions matter, a lot, which is why a great deal of development and planning went into the so-called “hero arch” in order to maximise the impact it would have on every person it greets. The arch itself spans the two-way entrance road that leads into the complex itself, stands over 12 metres above the ground and measures nearly 60 metres in length, making for a truly impressive canvas to apply signage to.
We were given an initial elevation drawing for the proposed signage by the customer through the talented designers of Hoare Lea, who’s creativity and vision took advantage of the blank canvas of a brand new studio. It was then our task to bring the proposal into a manufacturable version, while keeping the original vision of the Sky Creative team and the design studio Hoare Lea intact. The overall size of the signage had to strike a balance between maximum impact and attractive proportions to the overall archway, and in the end, we settled on a design that spanned nearly 26m in length and over 2m in height. The linear nature of the Sky Studios Elstree logo lock-up also meant that it fit into the long and thin archway design well.
Construction and specification were also important to get right to ensure that it was sturdy and reliable as well as the right look and feel both during the day and the evening when it would be illuminated. All three elements, i.e. the “Sky Studios” lettering, the border around “Studios” and “ELSTREE” text follow the same specification to provide consistency, built up from stainless steel with acrylic faces to have day/night vinyl applied to them. Each letter is face illuminated to provide an even white glow during the evenings.
These letters were then directly fixed to the specially made aluminium cladding from the main contractor, BAM Construction, which were also special due to the perforation design applied to them, which allows light to come through panels during the evening. Using this feature, Sky’s spectrum colouring was placed behind the cladding panels, shining bright and providing an excellent backing to the main letters.
The final design and installation leads itself to an incredible brand experience and story, with a lasting first impression of every person who enters the brand new studios to film new projects.
Additional External Branding
The size of the Sky Elstree Studios meant that one sign simply would not be enough, and branding needed to be present throughout the compound to elevate the experience for visitors and employees who will spend so much of their time working on their craft and art that we all take for granted on cinema screens and TVs in the comfort of our own homes.
Multiple sets of letters and fascia signs were designed to compliment the main hero arch, starting with the 2 large-format letter and fascia signs presenting Sky and Comcast on the elevation adjacent to the hero arch. The aluminium panels that make up the fascia resemble the same effect and specification used for the main sign, which was created by the main contractor, but this time we were the ones to design, manufacture and install these elements. Each sign is 5m x nearly 10m and covers an area of 50m2, with perforated aluminium panels which were routered and hand-treated to remove any sharp edges, then painted white. The iconic logos of Sky and Comcast were then created from stainless steel with internally illuminated acrylic faces, the spectrum design of the Sky logo and coloured segments of Comcast was completed using digitally printed vinyl.
Additional sets of letters were installed across the various buildings too, some of which were illuminated and others not.
Within the compound, one more set of illuminated Sky Studios Elstree lettering can be found. Located along the central plaza, these letters were fitted with day/night vinyl, which means during the day they will appear completely black and provide fantastic contrast against the white cladding of the building itself, while during the darker hours of night they will illuminate and create a white glow, acting as if it was covered in white vinyl.
Finally, a non-illuminated set of letters were installed to the elevation facing the main road you take to enter the compound on the four-storey tall multi-level car park. These were simply 75mm thick letters made up from stainless steel returns and aluminium faces, finished in black and mounted directly to the walls. These types of signs may be simple, but their impact will be undeniable, nonetheless.
Speed and efficiency serve as the backbone of successful film sets and studios. They play a pivotal role in managing costs, meeting deadlines, and sustaining the creative momentum essential for a project’s success. The financial aspect is significant; every minute on set incurs expenses, from crew wages to equipment rentals, and an efficient workflow minimizes these costs.
Moreover, adhering to tight production schedules ensures that films release on time, allowing for strategic post-production, marketing, and distribution plans. This is why navigational signage for film studios are so important, they enable the teams working at the studios and on the sets to seamlessly navigate the massive site with relative ease.
Each of the studio buildings are adorned with their own lettering and naming signage, with high-level signifiers standing high on the building to be able to be seen from far away, as well as smaller and more specific directory signage standing above entrances of workshops and stages. The high-level signs are made from folded aluminium finished in the copper colour that you’ll see very often around the building, the large numbers are 100mm deep and are spaced only 10mm from the building itself, whereas the smaller directionals are a mere 40mm thick, standing 110 from the building.
Excellent internal wayfinding design is crucial in guiding individuals through physical spaces, ensuring efficient navigation and enhancing user experience. Achieving this feat minimizes confusion, reducing stress and frustration for visitors. This not only improves convenience but also enhances safety by ensuring people can quickly locate exits or essential facilities in emergencies.
We also needed to ensure that the general design language of the signage inside the building matched that of the rest of the signage found throughout the site, which would contribute to a cohesive design experience for users, making it all seamlessly loom together from the outside in, to do this, the same cooper/brass effect used on the external wayfinding was also utilised multiple times throughout different elements of the internal signage too.
Some notable items to point out include the floor information panels, which not only use the colour effect to tell the user where they are currently in the building, but also uses a stepped design between the floor numbering and information, providing extra depth to the design.
The biggest challenge to tackle was the number of different tradespeople on site working away at any one time, from the main contractor, electrical and plumbing services, interior decorators as well as the Sky crews who were already in some of the stages to film the projects they had booked in for the Summer. This made it particularly difficult to find windows of opportunity to complete our signage installation with the degree of safety that we strive for on every site and project.
Our planning and logistics teams needed to be very flexible with their programming and scheduling, with the ability to react quickly to new information presented, such as works by a certain trade being completed early, opening the window for us to move in sooner than expected.
Another challenge we needed to overcome was ensuring that the design of the countless signs was correct upon manufacture and installation. The Sky Creative team had a particular vision that they wanted to bring to reality, therefore we had to fully utilise our pin-point quality control process throughout each stage of the process including the design and development stage, manufacturing timeline through each of the shops (metal, paint, acrylic, assembly, packaging etc.) and installation on site.
It was absolutely paramount that we get design of large-format signs such as the hero arch correct on the first try, given the size and the cost of a replacement would be truly damaging to the performance of the project.
The completion of the Elstree site for Sky Studios stands as a testament to our dedication to crafting an unforgettable brand experience. From the awe-inspiring “hero arch” that greets visitors to the meticulous design and installation of signage across the vast compound, every element contributes to an immersive and impactful environment.
The attention to detail in construction, illumination, and consistency of design not only aligns with Sky’s vision but also enhances the functionality and aesthetics of the massive 32 acre site. Moreover, the emphasis on navigational signage design ensures that both visitors and employees can effortlessly move through the studios, fostering safety, convenience, and a cohesive brand experience. Overcoming challenges with flexibility and precision, we’ve delivered a project that sets the stage for creativity, leaving an indelible impression on all who enter the studios for years to come.