“What is one to say about June, the time of perfect young summer, the fulfillment of the promise of the earlier months with as yet no sign to remind one that its fresh, young beauty will ever fade. For my part, I wander up into the wood and say ‘Thank God for June.’” —Gertrude Jekyll
Summer is on the way! Sure, March lasted a thousand years, but here it is, June 2 already, and the weather has started making it feel like summer is on the way. Of course, as I write this, we are still under quarantine conditions here in upstate New York, although not for too much longer, it appears. However, I have been sneaking out on occasional errands or to run with friends in Saratoga Spa State Park where, as this signage indicates, we are encouraged—nay, required—to either stay six feet apart or wear masks:
For me, this is not usually a problem (I think I will print “I’m not slow—I’m social distancing” on a T-shirt).
For many people, spring and summer are times for watching various kinds of flora and fauna, but I think of it as a good time for watching signs, as it is a good way to see what some sign and display trends have been hibernating over the winter.
And it’s no real surprise what the biggest trend I have seen this year so far is. Yes: COVID-19-related signage. And as businesses start to open, they are going to need more of it. Here’s where professional sign and display graphics producers can be a big help.
Most of the COVID signage has been heavily and hastily improvised, and it’s understandable that in an emergency, the message was more important than the medium. Restaurants, for example, have been offering pick-up, and the range of signage is from the bland but acceptable...
...to the informative but not very professional:
The reason I point this out is that this kind of service/signage is probably going to be around for some time and while restaurants and bars don’t have lavish budgets at the moment (or usually ever), professional “pick-up signage” can go a long way to serving the purpose that even utilitarian signage always serves: branding and marketing. Northshire Bookstore in Saratoga Springs offers curbside pickup and their door signage is very nicely designed and professionally done (sorry about the glare):
Notice that the branding is consistent with their typical look and feel. (Could be a little bigger, though.)
An interesting trend that has emerged is that some companies have begun using social distancing graphics as an advertising medium. This image is a floor graphic in my local liquor store:
Functional and promotional. I’ll drink to that! We may be seeing a lot more of this.
Like other retail locations that are open, CVS has similar floor graphics. The one on the left is by the registers and the strips of orange tape are in the aisle that leads up to the pharmacy:
I think CVS missed a real opportunity. They should have printed six-foot register receipts as floor graphics, and added next to them, “Keep the length of a CVS receipt apart.” That would have been amusing and functional. (And since their receipts are so long because they include coupons, sale items, and promotions, triple advantage!)
Again, these kinds of graphics are also going to be ubiquitous for quite some time, so why not make them creative and professional? As graphics producers, you are in the best position to help businesses big and small with these kinds of applications.
And it’s not just creative messaging, but best production practices. In my local supermarket chains, they have instituted (with moderate levels of compliance) one-way aisles, using floor graphics to indicate which aisle goes which way. These floor graphics in one local supermarket are a reminder that producers of applied graphics really need to understand the materials they print on, the environment they’re going to be installed in, and the forces to which they’re going to be subjected—in this case, lots of foot traffic and shopping carts.
Print service providers can work with floor graphics consumables providers to find a material and ink combination (and perhaps an overlaminate) that can withstand that kind of abuse.
Regardless of their condition, these are also the kinds of graphics that are going to be in increased demand as the country starts opening up. So this would be a great time to work with the likes of Avery Dennison, Mactac, Drytac, or other consumables providers to find out exactly what kinds of materials will work best for the surfaces they are going to be placed on.
In many locations, face masks have either been mandated by law or required for entrance. (I tried using a Lone Ranger mask, but that did not go over well.) Remember, even if there is no law mandating mask wearing, these are all still private businesses than can implement whatever health or safety code they like, à la “No Shirt, No Shoes, No Service.” So businesses need door/window signage that explains this policy:
Meanwhile, when other businesses do open, why not advertise that fact with special graphics beyond the usual “Come In, We’re Open” or neon “Open” signs:
Signage is an important part of a business’ marketing. This will be a good time to take advantage of it.
It is also a safe bet that businesses that used to offer walk-in service like hair stylists/barbershops, nail salons, and even jewelry stores will require appointments. In the case of hair salons, appointments will probably be a necessity just to manage the volume of customers, at least at first. It’s gonna get hairy. (Sorry.) They will also need window or door signage pointing out this fact:
In Saratoga Springs, the local Chamber of Commerce has been heavily active in advising and helping local businesses all during the crisis, and even developed a “Stronger Together” campaign. Chamber member businesses can get a poster—some with mask advisories—to hang on their door to demonstrate a sense of community spirit as way to helping deal with adversity (it is a descendant of the “Boston Strong” campaign that launched in the wake of the Marathon bombing in 2013). These kinds of things need to be printed, which is another good reason (among many) to be a member of a local Chamber of Commerce or other local business association.
And if I may be forgiven a little ray of hope and optimism (yes, both are in short supply lately), one other kind of signage that may be needed by businesses that laid off employees is “Help Wanted” signs:
Sign shops were essential businesses when the crisis first hit and they will continue to be essential businesses as the country starts to reopen. Post-COVID signage (and let’s hope it really is post-COVID) will be important in both the short term and the long term, and there is no reason why it can’t be creatively designed, professionally printed, and seamlessly integrated into a business’s pre-existing signage and branding. And it would be a perfect complement to a direct mail campaign. (If many businesses like restaurants are going to be required to seat fewer customers, they will probably have to raise prices, maybe by quite a lot. A direct mail campaign featuring coupons or discounts would likely be successful.)
The key as always is to stay in active communication with customers—and don’t be afraid to approach (or have a sales person) call on businesses with COVID signage that is...shall we say, “wanting.” Because other providers are not shy: