Friday, May 25, 2012

Car Park Signs, Location, Location, Location.

Car Park Signage

The underlying principles of signage are the same, to communicate the price, features, value and benefits of a product in order to close a sale, to offer some direction or for safety purposes.  Signage can boost revenues and some can put a damper on revenues if it is not done well.  It has to match the message the business gives off, to get the sale and it has to be visible.  All of these things are true but what can signage do to help a parking business?

Some general mistakes made are that signs can have too little information or too much information and it can be difficult to find a middle ground.  Other mistakes, and my pet hate, is that car parks can be cluttered up with far too many signs, so many that, a person driving a vehicle cannot fathom all of the information that is being thrust at them.  I have always been in favour of too few signs if I had a choice between the two.  The fonts are important too, in that you should choose a single font on your sign and consistency on all signs through your car park to make it look professional. 

Some people recommend that the signs are changed regularly to catch the users eyes, but I believe that changing signs are great for the advertising signs out the front of the car park to lure customers in, but inside that car park, the signs should be simple, direction finding, safety conscious and clear.  Leave the wiz bang signs for out front.

Finally, in parking, we need to consider location and the shape of the sign.  Location, Location, Location is what the real-estate people say and mostly they are correct.  In signage, location is key but it must relate to the message you are trying to get across.  If it is a safety message, the location should always have priority at areas of greatest risk, like the convergence of vehicle, the proximity of vehicle to pedestrians etc.

For a selling style of sign, the colours and the shapes normally mean that should be close to a power source (LED’s etc) and in a place where they can be seen by the most people, without running into issues with Council’s rules.

Interestingly, the shape of signs can tell us a lot also, where Squares signs are used to portray information to an audience. This is found in safe condition signs, public information signs, and fire equipment signs. In contrast, a circular sign is an instruction that must be followed. Both the mandatory and the prohibition signs provide instructions that cannot be ignored.  Lastly, there is the triangle of the warning sign. This is used to convey danger. It can also provide information but is primary purpose it to quickly tell you to be.

If you are clever, you work out a great sign, with a huge message and a small footprint, a colour and shape that will capture the attention of the audience it is meant to capture, and it is in a location that will  seen for some distance…….and wont capture the attention of the Council watch dogs.

Kevin Warwood

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Reverse City Parking Planning

Friends of the Blog will know that taking on the parking issues at Christchurch City has been a huge challenge.  If you take an eraser and rub out everything that was built in the CBD over a hundred years and start from scratch, what would you build?  Over a wine or two, you might come up with some clever answers, mostly without the consequences of budgets etc.  But really, if you had that situation delivered to you, what would you build?  How would you prioritise everything?  Which issues would you start with first and how would you time your project completion times?  Now you might understand the difficulties of starting from nothing.

The team have drafted a Short Term Operational Parking plan (STOP) to give us some guidance for reality today, to try and link up to the various plans that the city has in the future.  The difficulty was that today’s requirements are almost exactly opposite to the requirements of a normal city plan, which normally is to encourage alternative transport, support a good quality of life and encourage economic vitality and replacing it with encourage people back to the city, encourage economic vitality, drop prices to reflect the lack of use.  More on the plan later.

The STOP plan (Stop parking plan as some wags have named it!) is designed to speed response times up for changes to the various controls, such as price changes etc.  Price changes are slow due to working through new internal policies as these requests are coming through for the first time, but the relevant parts of the organisation are buying into the plan admirably.  The equipment has major limitations to speedy price changes.  A meeting with the supplier around requests to speed the process up was interesting.

Price changes need to occur quickly as within the city right now, a street may have one use today, but in three weeks time, it may have an alternative use altogether, i.e. a building fall-zone takes out all of the meters and the associated contractors and staff then drive the need for prices rises up, before disappearing as the building is demolished and the street empties out.  Speed in response to changes on-street are paramount right now.

We live in interesting times in Christchurch right now.  Reverse city planning, very fast changes in on-street usage, fast changes to on-street demands, bottle necks in equipment capability but wonderfully responsive management.  Strange days indeed.