Wayfindng Signs At The Pet Store
Back when I first started out in the business and was actively working ‘in the field’, we were headed back to the office on late Friday afternoon. We had spent the day hanging some large signs inside a store and everyone was looking forward to a break.
I got a call from a friend of mine who had a sign business in the Bay Area. “I know it’s late, but by any chance can you go over to this new Pet Store in Elk Grove and install some interior signs? They have their grand opening tomorrow, the signs are on site, but the person who they contracted to install them never showed up. I’m helped their sign broker with this deal and now I’m in a bind.”
(Why this wasn’t an issue say around 1PM vs. 4PM is likely another story.)

Just by happenstance we were actually near this place and had just passed the freeway exit. Twenty minutes later, after negotiating the fees and happily realizing we had all of the right tools and supplies in our truck (how often does that happen?) we headed on over to the store to see what was what.

Setting Up the Way Finding Signs

After introductions the Manager takes us over to an assortment of unopened boxes. “Here they are, Karen said you’d know what to do.” (My contact, seemed to have a lot of confidence in my abilities, I hoped it wasn’t misplaced.)

Appearing confident but not having any idea of the task, we started looking through things and trying to make sense of it. Of course there were no directions. This was a big box store and it is not untypical for these companies to have their interior signs made by one or two fabricators and shipped out as kits for unsuspecting installers like ourselves to figure out.
We could sense some minor tensions in the air. The store was set to open the next morning; it was obvious there were many things to be done and it was going to be a long night for most everyone.
We sorted through the sign assemblies and got started. Turns out the project was to install decorative graphics along the walls and all of the aisle markers and directional signs. The manager allowed us to use some large rolling ladders so we were finally ready to get started.

Since we were pretty occupied with the task at hand I hadn’t stopped to consider the critical role these signs played. Until that is, I heard one of the workers comment to someone “Wow, now we have signs to help people find the right aisle! Sure beats having people wander around until they find what they need.”

So these colorful, yet simply designed pieces of plastic that we were fervently putting up are the end result of a well thought out process that helps people find their way around seemingly endless rows of products. And while someone may see these signs laying in a box and think they’re just pieces of plastic with colors and words on them, they’d be only a little bit right. A lot of thought had to go into what they say and what they should look like. Someone had to figure out where they go in the store and what fixtures are needed to hold them in place. And once they arrive in the store, (sort of nicely boxed,) looking like, well pieces of plastic, we come into play and do our part to help turn them into a complete way finding and branding system.

So the next time someone tells you the item you need is next to the chew toys over on aisle 21, just take a second or two to consider the efforts involved that allow you and your dog to quickly find the chew toy section while avoiding the cat food.