How and why the "Business Signboards” program works?

Coordinator of the program "Business Signboards" from "Teple Misto" platform Alina Bukina tells about what the program "Busines Signboards" offers to the townspeople and how anyone who is interested can join its implementation. Also about the interest of other cities in Frankisk’s signboard  experience, and the importance of trust in specialists in this case. And also about how the signboard “live”and what it can "tell" us about the institution and its owner. And finally,  how the entrepreneur's love of his city and the search of  an interesting solution for the signboard turns into pleasant surprises for others and makes the city’s life more interesting.

The dynamic is positive

— How would you appreciate  the dynamic of the "Business Signboard" program in January-July 2017: the number of appeals, the motivation of entrepreneurs, the owners of institutions that apply?

 I became the coordinator of the "Business Signboards" program in March this year, replacing Vasyl Goshovsky. At that time, the program was almost three years old. I think the dynamics are positive.  The number of people have an understanding of the essence of the program and its principles are increasing, and of course, it pleases.
The number of appeals to the Warm City on signage has increased — more than 50 since the beginning of spring. Almost all signboards are designed today, some are implemented. Our task — layout — we execute as fast as possible This activation by the customers of Frankivsk is due not only to a deeper understanding of the features of the urban environment, but also to the fact that the Department of Urban Development, Architecture and Cultural Heritage of the IFCC in late 2016 adopted a provision about the placement of signboards and sometimes recommends contacting us. We work in the right direction, our organization has formed a trust in itself, which is confirmed not by words but by actions: we spend a lot of time and resources for the fact that both process and result were high-quality. In addition, our educational and promotional activity has an effect. For example, attention to the program has grown significantly after the workshop "Right Signboards" (November 2016). We are planning other similar events — to talk more about the program's tasks and the way the signboard should be.

— What should it be like? What principles should it follow?

— I will remember the basic  principles of our program. Consequently, we follow the guideline of Ivano-Frankivsk — the rules of the visual style of the city — in terms of the architectural and artistic concept of the look of the streets. The projected visual suggestion of the signboard should be accorded to these recommendations.
The second principle is the preservation of the authentic  look of buildings, the opening of the facades, because the facades, architecture in general - this is the face of the city (here we are talking about both historical and modern construction). It is important that the signboard  works and does not contradict city’s aesthetics. Moreover, I emphasize, this contradiction does not mean the loss of a face  by  institution or enterprise. The signboard can always be originally solved, and we care about such way. A good example here is Copper Head: the original signboard (metal and painting on the smudge), identifies the institution and at the same time does not contradict the environment. Or, for example, a sign for the Volt electric cars interior, which accord to its activity and has an original performance.

And the third principle concerns the user experience: a person living in the city should be comfortable, because the city is about people and for people. If the signboard is situated too high or low, when there are a lot of signboards near the exit, etc., it creates inconvenience for consumers. Therefore, taking into account the size of the building, the width of the street, the viewing angle of the visual information and other environmental characteristics are very important. Despite the increase of the number of people who understand these principles, some of them still do not understand or accept them. This is primarily due to stereotypes: the lack of durability of organic materials, necessarily large amounts of visual elements or brilliant advertising, in order to be noticed... Promoting the understanding of the features of visual communication in the city is one of the most important tasks of the "Business Signsboards" program.

Who is responsible for what?

— So, among the main tasks of the program  not only the layout of signboards, but also educational and promotional activity. Why is it important?

— The purpose of "Teple Misto" is not only to display the signboards, but also  to promote a better understanding of the urban environment. We want Frankivsk’s designers and manufacturers of signboards to create them based on principles we were talking about before. For the city administration to be guided by those principles when it comes to restoration of facades, recommendations, or approval of signboard designs. I hope educational and promotional activity will once again become our main focus. In general, we are very happy when other people, motivated either by our activities or by our convictions, begin to work in the same direction.

— What services are not provided within the framework of the program, but the requests for them may sometimes arise?

— Registration of documents, manufacturing of signboards, development of advertising projects, banners. With the registration of the passport, we support the signage for our layouts at the request of the applicant — in the hope that the project will be implemented. If, however, they come to us with a ready-made project and ask for it to be visualized or with an embossed sign, on which they want to issue documents, we do not do this. Of course, do not design signs that are contrary to our principles: we explain our approach, if a person does not agree, we do not cooperate anymore.
Our services on designing of signboards are free of charge. If there is a desire, the program can be supported — through crowdfunding on the site of "Teple Misto". The collected money can be aimed at carrying out educational and promotional thematic events (such as a workshop), as well as the implementation of complex solutions (for example, for one street), attracting professionals from different fields (such as urbanization, design, architecture) to such projects. By developing a layout of signage, we do not give recommendations for a particular manufacturer. The entrepreneur is free to decide where and how to make it. He can choose a manufacturer even in another city, if he is so comfortable, or make a signboard by himself.

— Working with signboards, "Teple Misto" develops a comprehensive visual concept of the facade. Why it is important not to be limited just to signboard?

— It is clear that even the best sign on an obscure, cluttered facade will look absolutely unpresentable, it will not correspond to the aesthetic principles that we in particular lay. Integrated solutions may include recommendations for restoring or painting the facade in the authentic color, and for the use of green or decorative elements (if it fits to the facade), or regarding the installation of a ramp. We are always in favor of a soft and harmonious improvement. If there are only signs, advertising and gray facades, we will not live in our city, but exist: even small inclusions of green, original solutions to the facade give the city more life, create pleasant visual surprises, which can rejoice us every day. In this context, there are also positive examples of the use of organic materials, especially those related to the facade and the activities carried out by the institution, the enterprise. It is worth mentioning the 911 clothing store and Bierkeller.
It is appropriate to say about responsibility here. Of course, we are responsible for the design and adherence to our principles, but the entrepreneur is very responsible for implementing the project and following these rules in the future. That is, you should not think that you have a design — realized and forgot. In fact, this is only the beginning: the embodiment of the signboard must be taken care of, because it lives, changes, especially if it is made of organic materials. The signboard is, roughly speaking, the face of an entrepreneur.

First impression

— Why is the look and feel of the signboard matter? How do these things affect the visitor?

— Signboards are identifiers institutions, they are our first impression about it: what it is, how it is done, what state, how it is taken care of — all this very much "tells" about the institution and the attitude of its owner to the consumer. Nobody wants to go to an unfriendly cluttered institution. "Teple Misto" — in general, and within the framework of the "Business Signboards" program in particular — seeks to discover the identity and uniqueness of Ivano-Frankivsk, the preservation of authenticity and sustainable development of the city. Meanwhile, the main motivation for business is profit. But we are convinced that they do not contradict each other: you can make good money, and at the same time love the city. After all, without the urban environment there would be no commerce or entrepreneurs.

Do not forget that besides the signage, there is still a brand. The quality of the product or service, the charisma of the person who works in the institution or in which he belongs, approaches to communication with visitors and attitudes towards them, as well as to the place of work and the city of activity — all these things work for the recognition of the institution and for the person there came back This is something from the opera, when it is not always possible to calculate the formula of success (or failure), to clearly outline what creates a sense of satisfaction (or discomfort), but in any case, the sincere relationship and love for their cause and their hometown are felt, they are visible. In the end, our program is not just about aesthetics. It is also about safety and comfort zones, about trust and communication. In a neat, aesthetically attractive city with a preserved authenticity, you feel much safer.

Clear language

— Let's talk about visual communication in the city, the aesthetics of a modern city: how do these factors affect us, and we — on them?

— Visual communication — all that we see around and perceive with our eyes — is one of the oldest ways of interpersonal communication: let's recall cave paintings. Today it is cinema, advertising, visual art, everything is mobile and immovable. According to scientists, visual communication accounts for 69% of the information that a person receives from the outside world. Compared to verbal, this way of communication is more understandable for everyone. Therefore, it is difficult to overestimate the importance of visual communication and the balance in it. In the context of the urban environment, we each time receive an excellent perception situation, which is determined by a number of moments: at what height is the information placed, whether it is possible to get it tactilely, what size the visual element, etc.

— Can we talk about the specifics of visual communication in different cities?

— Yes. When it comes to Frankivsk or Lviv, one must bear in mind a great historical layout: at different times, these territories were under the leadership of different states, which also meant excellent approaches to communication, in particular, in particular. For example, during the Second Rzeczpospolita in Galicia, this was exclusively Polish-language communication. With the advent of the Soviet Union on the western Ukrainian lands, the Cyrillic — Ukrainian and Russian — became the main determinant. All this is a significant change in the environment. And here too it is necessary to talk about the importance of preserving historical remnants - signboards, advertising, paintings. On this basis, we can make the impression that the environment was before, and design now, taking into account this knowledge.

Trust professionals

— Are all obliged to understand the features of the urban environment, visual communication? To what extent are there (and if any) responsible / co-responsible every citizen of the city?

— Of course, I would like to have a basic sense of aesthetics for everyone (entrepreneur, pensioner, child, tourist), but taste is a personal option, which depends on human experience, peculiarities of education, understanding of beauty, etc. In general, for me, the key question is the question of trust in professionals. Interestingly enough, historically only professional artists engaged in the design and implementation of signboards. That was an exceptional opportunity for exceptional people. Technical progress and PCs have changed the situation: nowadays everyone can easily and promptly acquire the desired knowledge and has in their hands the means for designing. However, in design, design — and, in the end, in every case — it's still worth trusting competent people who know how it all works in the environment. We when we come to a cafe, we do not go to the kitchen to tell a cook how to cook potatoes...

— Volunteers can join the "Business Signboards" program. Tell me, who exactly and how?

— We are in favor of forming a community that is sensitive to the urban environment. Therefore, we are pleased to invite you to volunteer in the program. It is an opportunity to acquire practical skills, competencies and certain historical and theoretical knowledge. Volunteers can be graphic designers, architects, retouchers, designers, interior designers, as well as students (designers or architects). But the professional direction is not decisive: there may be self-education with practical experience. Here, the availability of certain skills and understanding of the principles of the program, the willingness to work with the hands and head and the willingness to quality work are important. And those who want to learn more about our direction, we invite you to thematic events (about one of them we will announce in the near future), read the materials on the site of  "Teple Misto" in the section "Projects".

Each city is a special case

— Within the framework of the program, we share experience with representatives of other cities: during thematic events, meetings of experience exchange conducted by "Teple Misto". Why signboards are of interest to many?

— Because it is about what everyone sees, feels, perceives. We have many questions: how we started, how we work, how we communicate. Those who are taking the first steps in this direction are interested: in some cities, activists or local administrations are just beginning to think about how to change the situation with the dominance of advertising, lack of understanding of the laws of visual communication. However, these problems are not exclusive to Frankivsk, Lviv or Kyiv, but are relevant for the whole of Ukraine.
We shared our experience with representatives of such cities as Chernivtsi, Buchach, Zaporozhye, Sumy, Kherson, Uzhgorod and others. Plus — meetings with the exchange of experience, in particular for participants from the east of Ukraine. Here it is important to understand that each city is a special case. Yes, of course, there are some basic principles, approaches, but each city has its own scale, architecture, architectural and artistic concept of the development of streets, and so on. So, if in the western region we have one type of architecture, then in Zaporozhye, Kharkiv and Dnipro — the other. And the development of certain rules for specific cities should deal with local designers, activists who know the local context, feel their hometown. Yes, of course, we are open to communication, because in this direction, Frankivsk, in comparison with the general situation in the country, is quite progressive.

— And what we can learn from others — the language of foreign practices. According to your observations during travels, are you attentive to the urban environment in other cities, how do you regulate this area? Maybe there are some typical cities?

— Talking about ideals and examples is difficult. The fact is that usually a lot of attention is drawn to the city center. So, Vienna in the center and on the outskirts are two big differences. You can talk more about how it works abroad. In almost all European cities, the so-called a design code that everyone who works in or with the urban environment adheres to: rules are understandable and regulate relevant activities. And by the way, not every inhabitant understands all the nuances there, but everyone sees how it works.

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