Signs and Maps: Brand Yourself as "Helpful"

March 4, 2010 | Branding, Design Basics

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I recently attended an event with the Maine Women’s Network group. It was held on a Tuesday night starting at 5:45 pm. As I scrambled to get out of the office to get to the event, I decided to double check the address.

Ugh. I realized it was being held Southern Maine Community College. I knew from previous experience that the signage on the campus is terrible and it’s very difficult to figure out where these public events are being held.

So, I stopped and went back to the MWN web site to get a specific address. Their web site said:

McKernan Hospitality Center
Southern Maine Community College
Fort Road / McKernan Road
South Portland, ME 04106

I started by typing that “address” into Google maps. Entering that intersection got me no where, but Google did show an address of 2 Fort Road. In fact, there does not appear to even be a McKernan Road, according to Google. However, it did find a point on the map which had me practically on a pier out in the ocean. Here is a screen shot of that, along with the actual location of the building.

Incorrect google map result

Incorrect Google map result

So, basically I drove around the SMCC campus multiple times. There is very little signage on campus. I stopped several pedestrians to ask about the building or the address and no one had heard of it. Apparently, it’s a building mostly used for rental purposes, so the students were not familiar with it. I actually parked my car twice before finding the right place.

I arrived late for the networking event, and was harried and frustrated by the time I got there. Later in the evening I spoke with several other attendees who had also been lost and confused by the location. Unfortunately, for MWN this negativity transfers over to their brand. I came away feeling a sort of overall negativity towards the event and therefore the organization.

Be Helpful

It’s easy to point fingers at Google, at SMCC and even at me for being unable to find the place. But the reality is this is an opportunity for the Network to foster their brand as being helpful. The group is a non-profit group that “is a statewide resource for building professional and personal relationships among women who want to connect and make a difference–in the workplace, in the community and across the state.” They need to put themselves in the shoes of the attendees.

Your typical attendee is not going to know this building, is likely to rely on Google maps for directions, and will not find helpful way-finding signs on the SMCC campus. Therefore, the Maine Women’s Network can preempt any problems by providing driving directions and a detailed map.

Let me show you how.

Driving directions

Turn by turn driving directions should be provided. Because the location is on a peninsula with only one main road in, you can start there.

The event is held at the McKernan Hospitality Center on the SMCC campus.

  1. Follow Broadway towards the SMCC campus .
  2. Turn Right onto Benjamin Pickett Dr. (also called Breakwater Dr.)
  3. Turn Left onto Fort Rd, (you will enter the SMCC campus)
  4. Take a right into the second or third driveway, there is parking on either side of the building. Please see map.

Informational Map

The Maine Women’s Network should include a map, like the one I created here, on their own web site.

Map to find networking event

Map highlighting location of the event. Click to enlarge.

Conclusion

No one likes to feel stupid, stressed out, or like they’re wasting their time. Not knowing where you’re going is going to make you feel that way. So, put yourself in your customer’s shoes, help them find where they need to go. Signage, directions, and maps all help your customers.

Graphic designers tend to get caught up in the look and feel of brand identity. And in this case, I would recommend the map itself be branded with the MWN’s unique look and feel. It should be created in their corporate colors (rather than red and gray), it should have their logo and contact information on there, etc. But more important that than is the offering of helpful information to put your customers or clients at ease.

I’m going to send this map over the Maine Women’s Network and I hope they are able to post it on their web site. Who else needs a good map?

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