How Signage Helps Brands Connect With Consumers and Keep Them Safe

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Most of New York’s iconic Levain Bakery locations have remained open during the coronavirus pandemic. Only its original location on 74th Street, which cannot accommodate for social distancing protocols due to its size and layout, had to close.

At the others, customers are met with friendly signage and branded floor stickers, which are located both inside and outside of the bakeries to remind customers to keep a six-foot distance from one another. The floor graphics feature Levain’s logo with its signature blue cookie, along with brand-specific phrases like “6 feet (18 cookies) apart” and “share joy at a distance.”

Levain CMO Rachel Porges said the stickers were primarily introduced to ease pressure on staff to police customers’ behavior. The tone and design of the stickers, however, are all about brand authenticity. “Our brand stands for creating moments of joy that bring people together, and at a time when distance is vital in bringing people together, it made sense for us to do it in a way that was in keeping with that message,” she said.

As more businesses and public spaces open, creating a safe environment is key. As a result, retailers, brands, organizations and public spaces are increasingly leveraging branded wayfinding and communication elements to not only mitigate the spread of the virus but also to cultivate trust in the brand and de-stress the public and employees. 

Adweek spoke with experts and brands about what goes into developing these elements, including cultivating the right tone, how to incorporate branding and how design factors into larger communication and strategic goals.

Dianna McDougall for Adweek
Dianna McDougall for Adweek
Levain Bakery

Wayfinding objectives

Initially, many signs were slapdash and entirely safety-oriented, but the conversation and goals have shifted to how signage can help deliver on the brand experience. “How can we find more positive ways to create comfort among our shoppers or our guests?” said Amy Bixler, studio director and global leader of the brand design practice at design and architecture firm Gensler.

Comfort was the driving factor behind the wayfinding elements Levain incorporated into its space. Porges said the signage and other health and safety measures, like wearing masks and reducing capacity, “are designed to make sure our staff and customers feel comfortable coming in and partaking in a moment of joy.”

Whether it’s that “moment of joy” or a comfortable grocery shopping experience, wayfinding takes the guesswork out of consumers’ interaction with a space, reducing stress and uncertainty. 

“Communication is key because this is a new norm for all of us and those encouraging those new behaviors,” Bixler said. “Thinking about every point in the journey, from entry to checkout, is important.”

Walgreens’ in-house design team created door signs indicating mask requirements, a standee with best practices for customers upon entering the store, aisle side panels reminding people to socially distance and floor graphics for customers waiting in line—all in Walgreens’ familiar brand blue. Additionally, the brand incorporated special “for your health and safety” end stands throughout the stores showing customers where to find essentials like wipes, hand sanitizer, disinfection products, hand soap and thermometers.

Because Walgreens locations include pharmacies and stock a broad range of products, navigational signage is not new for the retailer, so adding pandemic-focused signs was simply a matter of “layering on the social distancing messages and one-way aisle signage,” said Kristin Frawley, Walgreens director, in-store marketing.

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