Signs of the times

Signage and visual display play an important part in creating the right experience in a venue, from marketing messages to the “wow factor” 

Signage, visual displays and interior graphics can be integral to a bar’s look and branding rather than an after-thought.These should all be important considerations at the design stage, according to Mark Bithrey, design director at B3 Designers which has worked on London bars and restaurants such as Babel, Carbon and Roka.“External signage, particularly with bigger brands, is always considered from the offset,” he says.“Working closely with the client to understand core principles of the brand is an essential starting point.The ‘curb’ appeal of each site is a considered element and therefore the signage needs to be both eye-catching and recognisable, especially when working with a larger branded concept.”

With internal graphics and signage playing a vital role in a venue’s interior, B3 Designers sometimes works with brands to integrate these into the interior design. “For example, we might arrange iconic brand images, graphic posters, staff photos or slogans on a wall in such a way that it forms a graphic pattern,” Mark explains. Working with illustrators, artists and graphic designers, artwork can be applied to a wall or ceiling that creates a visually striking feature or statement.“Artwork can also incorporate directional signage, special offers or brand quotes, for instance,” Mark points out.“This works well because the customer information is integrated into the overall design scheme.”

Next month, the latest designs and technologies for displays will be showcased at the Screenmedia expo, taking place on May 16 and 17 at Earls Court in London. Show director Mark Pigou of organiser Screen Events points out that digital screens are becoming a familiar sight in pubs, clubs, and bars, used to create ambience, promote a venue’s offers or carry third- party advertising.“More and more, too, they’re appearing in unusual shapes, sizes and positions, breaking the confines of the rectangle, accompanying jukeboxes, or even being installed in tabletops,” Mark comments. He points out that, increasingly, screen media are interactive, typically linking with smartphones and social media so that, for example, a tweet on Twitter using a bar’s name with a hashtag will appear on the screens in that location.

Mark points out that there are real business benefits.“For screens contributing to the interior design and those promoting the offer, the bottom lines are self-evident: attracting customers, keeping them on site longer, and up-selling or cross-selling them.” Getting third parties to advertise on a venue’s screens is a good revenue stream but, as Mark points out, this is notoriously difficult for single locations to crack.“By far the more effective route is to sign up to one of the networks that span multiple venues and sell the advertising on your behalf – taking a healthy cut, of course.”

Other novel ideas include the new pee- controlled video games for urinals which have been installed at venues such as The Exhibit in Balham, south London, and Ta Bouche in Cambridge. Developed by Captive Media, the display screens fit above existing urinals and the game is controlled solely by a gentleman directing his pee. Not only does it encourage male customers to stay in the bar for longer and recommend it to friends, but the units can be used to carry messages linked to promotions.

Also for washrooms in bars and clubs, Trendy Vend has come up with cosmetic and grooming stations that offer a range of products, from lip gloss and hairspray to deodorant and aftershave. Each of the machines has a built-in 19-inch high- definition advertising screen providing a targeted media platform that has been used by leading brands such as Bourjois,Wrigley  and Warner Bros.The machines can already be seen at top venues such as Gilgamesh, JuJu and Anaya in London and PlayGround and Alma de Cuba in Liverpool – celebrities such as Coleen Rooney have been spotted using them.Talia Baccino, who founded Trendy Vend with her sister Kayleigh, explains:“They not only provide a fantastic service to venues’ customers but also act as a platform for venues to promote upcoming offers and events on the built-in screens. With remote access to all of our machines and an in-house design team to create advertisements, venues can change their on- screen promotions whenever they wish.”

Another innovation to arrive in the UK is Screen Wizzard, described as a futuristic take on traditional blackboard signs. Inspired by neon advertising hoardings in China, it allows people to daub messages and images onto a back-lit LED screen using special neon pens.The screens are sized to fit in a window but can also hang from the ceiling or are robust enough to use outside. Each Screen Wizzard can display a bright neon static image or can be easily configured to display a dazzling array of colour – and then changed with the wipe of a cloth.

Whether going for high-tech solutions or low-tech chalkboards, the range of display materials available for bars is greater than ever. Promotional merchandise specialist Anything Promotional has responded to demand by launching a separate online catalogue called Anything POS, dedicated solely to display and signage solutions. Display products now available include mirrors, table-top holders, and internal and external banners.

For bars looking for illuminated displays but without a large price tag,Artillus Illuminating Solutions has released two new LED light boxes.The slim Magnetite is only 18mm deep, using a digital spot grid panel to provide illumination from high white edge-lit LEDs.Available in standard A sizes from A4 up to A0, they are designed so that poster inserts can be easily changed by simply lifting off the front cover with a plastic sucker.The other new LED light box, the Diamante, is 20mm deep with a 25mm clip frame front with rounded corner inserts.As with the Magnetite, the 12v LED provides shadow-free, even illumination across the whole face of the light box.The Diamante is manufactured in silver anodised aluminium and also available in stand A sizes. Whether looking for economic solutions like the Diamante or the latest “wow factor” technology, bars and clubs now have an incredible arsenal of options to help them communicate and engage with their customers.

  • For more on Screenmedia expo, visit
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