What is a Sign Survey?
A sign survey is an important and crucial first step for any interior or exterior signage project that involves updating or replacing existing signs. It is also a worthwhile exercise for any organization that wants to get a better handle on their signage assets. Easy access to a complete database of signage information is extremely useful for keeping your signage functional and up to date. It also enables operations and facilities staff to complete accurate capital cost forecasts and maintenance budgets.
The sign survey process involves researching and gathering information from the field. It includes travelling to the job site, taking pictures of signs, marking the location on the location plan or map, and capturing and collecting accurate, precise information about the existing signs. The scope can involve wayfinding signs, branded assets, or general signage of of lobby areas.
It’s not just about collecting photos; a survey can also include measurements, materials, position, installation instructions, notes, and other hardware tools or equipment, including electrical specifications. This additional information is important because it lays the groundwork for the rest of the project, ensuring efficient design, production, and installation phases.
When Sign Surveys are Done
Sign surveys are typically done when a large, existing facility is preparing for a major change.
Before you can begin to plan and design new signage, you need to have a solid understanding of your current sign assets.
- What signs do you have?
- Where exactly is each sign located and how is it positioned?
- Is it one-sided or multi-sided?
- What is the sign messaging?
- What artwork or icons are employed?
- What colours are used?
- What hardware is included?
- Does your sign system include multi-language translations or braille?
How Site Surveys Were Done before SignAgent
The traditional method for conducting a site survey is slow, painstaking and prone to errors.
In the old scenario, the surveyor would typically travel the 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 were collected with paper and pencil. All of this information would then be organized and entered into a database of some kind once the surveyor returned to the office. Even then, the information was spread out over different folders and applications. This process made collecting data difficult to work with and share with collaborators and vendors.
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.
How SignAgent’s Mobile App Streamlines Sign Surveying
SignAgent’s mobile app (available here for iPhone and iPad) vastly reduces the time it takes to complete sign surveys. The photos and other information are all 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.
Who Conducts the Survey & Who Can Access the Information?
If you have staff dedicated to managing wayfinding assets, with a bit of basic onboarding you can conduct your own sign surveys. If you don’t have the internal bandwidth to complete that work, we occasionally conduct sign surveys for our clients. We’re also happy to refer you to professional sign surveyors when we’re not available to do the work.
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 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.
In the above webinar video, Jacob demonstrates how sign surveys are completed using SignAgent's mobile app.
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.
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).
- 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).
On the Job Site…
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?
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.
Would you like to try SignAgent and the SignAgent mobile app?
Click the button below to arrange a demonstration and a free trial.