What is a Sign Survey and When is it Done?
Before you can begin to plan and design a new signage program, you need to have a solid understanding of your current sign assets and information. That’s why wayfinding and signage projects, just like any graphic design projects, should always begin with a pre-design phase of data collection and analysis. A sign survey is the core component of this data collection process for a wayfinding or signage project.
Sign surveys are needed when any large, existing facility (any indoor or outdoor built environment that uses signs to convey messaging) is preparing for a major change.
A sign survey includes travelling to the job site, taking pictures of signs, marking the location of the signs on a location plan or map, and capturing and collecting accurate and precise information about the existing signs.
What Information is Gathered During a Sign Survey?
A sign survey typically needs to answer some or all of the following questions.
- Where exactly is each sign located, what are its dimensions and how is it positioned?
- Is the sign one-sided or multi-sided?
- What is the sign messaging?
- Does your sign system include multi-language translations or braille?
- What artwork or icons are employed?
- What colours are used?
- What materials are used?
- What hardware is included?
- What are the installation instructions?
- Are there any engineering or electrical specifications that need to be included?
At a basic level, a sign survey is done to understand what signs you have, where they are, and what they say. Because facilities often have many different sign types, the scope of a sign survey must also be defined.
Here are some of the typical sign types that may need to be included:
- Directional signs
- Room IDs
- Informational and operational signs
- Building code-required signs
- ADA signage, branded assets
- Environmental graphics
- Any other general signage.
How Site Surveys are Conducted
Typically a sign surveyor travels to a job site with a digital camera (or smart phone), a clipboard, floor plans or blueprints, and possibly a rolling cart to hold everything. The photos, location plan markup, messaging, and specifications of each sign are collected with paper and pencil. All of this information is then organized and entered into a database of some kind once the surveyor returns to the office.
The Challenges of Sign Surveys
By nature, a sign survey is a tedious, time-consuming, and error prone process. Even when complete, the information is often spread out over different documents, folders, and applications. Different people need access to different pieces of information, and managing file permissions and version control often makes collaboration with colleagues and project partners very difficult.
How SignAgent Streamlines Sign Surveying
SignAgent is a powerful database-driven platform that is used to guide every stage of a wayfinding program, including data collection and analysis, design, documentation, bidding, fabrication/installation, and ongoing management and maintenance. SignAgent’s key benefits are control, collaboration, and efficiency.
Use of SignAgent’s Mobile App (available here for iPhone and iPad) accelerates the entire survey process by vastly reducing the time it takes to complete sign surveys. The photos and basic sign information are collected directly on the app and mapped to their exact location on a preloaded location plan. All that information is immediately saved in the associated SignAgent project, which is set up before visiting the location.
As sign information is gathered, SignAgent becomes a powerful, collaborative, single source of truth for every stakeholder involved in the wayfinding program’s lifecycle.
We highly recommend the use of an iPad versus iPhone. The size of the screen is helpful for working effectively with your location plans. The iPad pro is great because of its processing speed. The iPad mini is a good compromise between portability and screen size.
Who Conducts a SignAgent Sign Survey?
If you have staff dedicated to managing wayfinding assets, with a bit of basic onboarding you can use SignAgent to conduct your own sign surveys. If you don’t have the internal bandwidth to complete that work, you can hire SignAgent to complete your surveys. If we’re not available to do the work, we’re happy to refer you to professional sign surveyors from our network of expert users.
Who Can Access the Information?
When the survey is in progress, anyone who shares access to your project, including partners and vendors, will be able to monitor progress and immediately access the information that is being gathered depending on their permission level (levels include “admin,” “organizational viewers,” “project viewers,” and “sign state viewers”).
A key benefit of SignAgent is that with a wifi connection, you can provide up-to-the-minute information to anyone who needs it — all within a platform that acts as a single source of truth for all your sign information.
The Key Steps of Surveying with The SignAgent Mobile App
Before you go...
Being prepared is the key for a successful survey. You’ll want to let people know that you're coming (in some settings, such as healthcare facilities or airports, there may be privacy and security concerns — so you’ll want to make sure you have full clearance for your visit before you start roaming around and snapping pictures.
Once all of that is in place, there are some specific things you should do to prepare for a successful site visit:
- Create an organization in the web version of SignAgent.
- Create a new project within the organization.
- Assign states. States are the phases and stages that the signs go through throughout the course of the project. At this point, you need to create a “survey” state. In the future you may need additional states, such as “designer draft,” “review,” “fabrication,” “installation,” and “complete.”
- Upload your location plans or maps. A variety of file formats can be used, but a PDF floor plan is ideal. For outdoor signage, the mobile app includes exterior mapping integration, which enables you to add your signs to a map, which works just like a Google map.
- Create a sign type. We typically recommend creating one sign type called “undefined” for site surveys. Then you can assign sign types later on when we’re back at the office and can see a whole complete picture.
- Install the SignAgent Mobile App on your iPhone or iPad. Test it out in your home or office by taking pictures of your pet or artwork and adding them to your location plan (you’ll want to delete these, but it’s a great way to get comfortable with the app before a site visit). Ensure you have adequate storage space on your iPhone (we recommend approximately 1GB for every 500 photos you plan to capture).
- Upload/Sync your Information. At the end of your site visit, make sure to upload/sync your work so that all the data is fully backed up onto the server, and your app has the latest data synced down. (Note that with an on-site wifi connection, your data will upload and sync automatically while you work).
Be sure to focus on taking good pictures and orienting them properly on your location plan. Hold the iPhone or iPad steady and then wait for the photo and the “done” button to appear. You don’t have to assign room ids and sign types while you’re in the field — you can do that when you return to your desk using the information from your sign photos — SignAgent even has OCR (optical character recognition) that will scan and read the text on the signs in your photos.
On the Jobsite...
After you’ve completed the steps above, you’re ready to start your survey. And you’ll be travelling light, armed with just your iPhone or iPad and the SignAgent Mobile App - no camera, no clipboard, no blueprints, no cart!
If you have a data connection, the information you gather will automatically be captured and saved within the SignAgent platform. This is done in real time, so you could have someone back at the office immediately start to process your data. If you are working offline, your data will be synced as soon as you connect your iPhone or iPad to the internet.
Here are some of the key steps:
- Open the floor plan or map for the area you want to survey.
- Walk to the first sign you want to capture in your survey.
- Find your location on the location plan by moving it with your finger. You can pinch to zoom in or out on the location plan. You can rotate the plan using your fingers or the 45-degree buttons at the bottom of the screen. Orient the floor plan so that it shows the same orientation you have while facing the sign.
- Use the app to take a photo of the sign (tap and hold) and then position and orient the sign marker appropriately on the location plan.
- If you notice any issues with individual signs (such as errors, sign wear, or inconsistencies), you should make a note before moving on to the next sign.
- Once you’ve captured your first sign, move on to the next one.
Back in the Office...
Once you’re back in the office, you’ll be ready to start working with your data. Here’s what you can expect when you open the location plan or map for the site you surveyed:
- All the signs in survey state, showing their exact location and orientation (the direction it’s facing).
- A photo for each sign, including who took the photo, and where and when it was taken.
- Any notes you’ve taken will appear in the comments area for the sign.
You now have a searchable database. Because of SignAgent’s built-in OCR (optical character recognition, you can even search for signs by content without having completed any data entry). You can edit/change many of the items as well, including the direction, position, add notes, clone, and even delete as necessary.
Where Can I Get the SignAgent Mobile App?
The SignAgent Mobile App is available in the Apple App Store.
Use of the Mobile App is included with a SignAgent user license, and additional Mobile-only licenses are available for a small additional cost. anyone who needs access to the mobile app requires a license.
If you already have a SignAgent account, as soon as you install the app, you can log in and access all the organizations, projects, and floor plans you have access to.
How to Do a Site Survey Webinar
For more information on how to conduct sign surveys, watch this webinar featuring our Sales Director, Jacob Vanstaalduinen. In this video he’ll guide you through the process of preparing and completing a real-life site survey for a healthcare facility using SignAgent.
Would you like to try SignAgent and the SignAgent mobile app?
Contact us to arrange a demo and a free trial.