I’m a big fan of signs.
No, not the creepy M. Night Shyamalan movie featuring Mel Gibson in his pre-Aramaic days. I am referring, of course, to the wayfinding devices that populate airports, retail centers, hospitals and churches.
Signs are helpful, because signs help large groups of people move through large spaces with relative ease. Connecting in Atlanta airport and need to find your flight to Des Moines? No problem. Check the monitor for your gate, then head to the right terminal and the right gate courtesy of the large overhead signage. Heading to a new mall and want to park by Macy’s? Not an issue. Look for the 15′ tall sign as you enter the property, and it’ll direct you around the building and drop you off at your destination.
A well-designed, just-the-right-amount-of-information sign can be a searcher’s best friend. Facility designers pay special attention to signage because they want guests to gain a sense familiarity from the first moments of arrival.
But signage never trumps people.
For every sign, you should have a person who can help interpret that sign or intercept a confused guest. In an airport, that might be a gate attendant. In a retail space, it may be a shelf stocker. In your church, that’s going to be a greeter.
As big, bright, and bold as your signage may be, it will never replace the personal touch of someone to help navigate the journey. A sign can’t read your guest’s body language. A sign can’t sense uncertainty. A sign can’t shake a hand or introduce to a new friend or answer questions of any depth.
Signs direct. People assist.
Signs point. People take.
Signs provide sterile answers. People ask follow up questions.
Don’t get rid of your signs. By all means, review them. Revise them. Add to them. Spend some money on them.
But recognize that signs don’t connect with people. People connect with people. Invest in your signs, yes, but accompany them with people, and seek to create that emotional connection this weekend.