The Total Language of a Sign

The total language of a sign – not only what it communicates but how it communicates – must be considered for signage to be maximally effective. There are multiple components which make up the total language of a sign and must be considered by designers and manufacturers to properly execute a spatial vision for their clients.

Before we consider what components go into the language of a sign, we must first consider the purpose of a sign or signage system. Different signage elements combine to assist the primary functions of orientation and information. Signs orient and they inform. They organize spaces, clarify one’s sense of direction, and help determine both the flow and behaviour of users within an environment. When signage is standardized to a specific communicative language, it brings visual harmony to a larger space, as well as coherence. This coherence affords users a sense of comfort by providing them with readable information, understandable by all. They will feel welcomed and structured within a space, contributing to their sense of personal security.

In order to create this sense of personal security, the total language of a sign must communicate effectively. This means that users of your space should be able to read, absorb and use the message of your signage instantly.

Total signage language includes the following elements:

  • Content: Once a client is attracted to a sign, it must communicate something to them. This can be done through language most readily; however, language should be kept simple, concise and to the point. Wordy signs that use too much jargon will be immediately dismissed as clients seek out simpler, usable information about the environment.
  • Graphics: If your sign does not use written language, it might use graphics to communicate a message. These could be directional cues (in the case of arrows) or identification images (figures to signify the function of a certain space). These should follow universal images wherever possible as users will come to expect certain methods of graphic communication. New imagery can confuse how they interact with your space.
  • Shape: The shape of a sign should be intuitive. This is not always as straight-forward as it sounds and includes considerations about the environment in which a sign appears, what other design elements are around and what is appearing on the sign itself. Oftentimes, the simpler the design is, the better it functions so keep shapes straightforward according to your needs.
  • Colour: Colour can be very helpful for communicating information about your brand or for separating regions within a larger architectural space, particularly when different areas are marked for different functions or services. Colour can also be detrimental to a sign if it makes language difficult to read or graphics difficult to see. Pick appropriate colours to communicate most effectively.
  • Location: Of course, where a sign is placed is part of its overall language. People have come to expect that signs (particularly directional signs) appear in certain places such as overhead, before rounding corners, or in front of elevators. Follow these standardized placements to make sure your sign is seen and communicates most effectively.
  • Lighting: Signage lighting is crucially important because it ensures that all of the thought you have put into your sign is worth it in the end because, ultimately, the sign can be seen. Lighting can include design elements within the sign itself (whether using front or back lit letters or lightboxes) or can be part of the architectural design of a room (in the case of spotlighting a sign). Either way, visibility is a major consideration in the total language of a sign and ultimately allows it to fully communicate.


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A Perfect Blend of Artisanal Work and Technology

A long legacy of experience in artisanal work and techniques is only as good as it is adaptable. These days, being adaptable means incorporating technology in ways that streamline processes and increase quality and efficiency without affecting the craftsmanship of the final product.

Behrends Group has a combined experience of at least 205 years in our foundry alone and these experts use the human touch and eye to execute every project to the highest standard of perfection. Having long-standing employees – many of whom have devoted their entire career to working with Behrends Group – means that the creative possibilities are endless. By having a strong foundation of knowledge and experience, such a team is better able to push the limits of what can be done with the designs and the materials at hand.

At the same time as this experience is central to the quality of products we offer, being at the forefront of technological innovation has always factored heavily into our work as well. Our design team is proficient at using the best technology to craft designs (whether two-dimensional drawings or three-dimensional renderings) that will exceed your expectations. Our fabrication team uses all kinds of advanced machinery as well as 3D printing and other innovative techniques. Finally, our installation –team uses the best tools of the trade and know-how about environmental factors and material quality to ensure that what we have spent time designing and developing also looks its absolute best.

This perfect balance of knowledge-keeping and experience while being open to new innovations sets Behrends apart. It is easy for other companies to replicate where we are at with technology, but without the advanced repertoire we have accumulated over the years, testing and crafting every type of project imaginable, there are still limits on the possibility of both signage design and execution. We have said it before and we will say it again: Every sign is a learning situation and, at Behrends, we love to be pioneers in the industry, pushing the boundaries of what is possible while delivering high-quality, custom signage every time.

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Parks Canada Historic Plaque

Behrends has been working closely with Parks Canada for many years in providing commemorative and historical plaques. Click on the link below to see the write up from Sign Media Canada on one of the most recent commemorative plaques.


Herb Belcourt Plaque and Park Unveiling

A Lifetime of Leadership and Service: Plaque and park unveiled in honour of Metis businessman and philanthropist Herb Belcourt

On May 10, Herb Belcourt Park was unveiled at Sherwood Drive and Oak Street in Sherwood Park. The park is named in honour of local businessman, community leader, and philanthropist Herb Belcourt. Belcourt is a founder of Belcourt Construction, Canative Housing Corporation and the Belcourt Brosseau Metis Award Fund, which supports Metis students furthering their education. To honour Belcourt’s years of service and contributions to the community, Sherwood Park and Strathcona County commissioned a plaque from Behrends to adorn the newly renamed park.

The cast aluminum plaque is mounted on a stone fixture and features an image of Herb with his two young great-grandsons, Liam and Jackson. The detailed and lifelike rendering of Belcourt and his great-grandsons was achieved using PhotoSculpt – a technology that allows us to translate photographs into cast metal. This combining of a traditional medium and craftsmanship with cutting edge technology to produce a timeless memorial exemplifies the quality work Behrends is known for.

The unveiling was attended by Herb Belcourt, his wife Lesley, family, friends, and supporters including representatives from the Alberta RCMP and the Edmonton Police Service who paid their respects to Belcourt for his service as Aboriginal Advisor to the Commanding Officer at “K” Division of the RCMP.  Belcourt also recently received the Canadian Council for Aboriginal Business Hall of Fame Lifetime Achievement Award in January 2017.



Original Picture
Original Picture



Completed plaque source:
Completed plaque

Custom Award Plaques & Statues Cultivate an Organization’s Culture

Custom award statues and plaques from Behrends Group communicate the sincerity and value of the award through their high quality and unique design. Every organization, whether it is a business, a non-profit group, an athletic team, or a public institution, succeeds because of the individuals it is made of. The best work, commitment, and innovation comes from a team of motivated people who feel recognized, appreciated, and inspired by their organization and leaders.


An official system of recognition and awards is a great way to recognize the accomplishments and contributions of outstanding employees, volunteers, and teammates, fostering an environment in which individuals feel valued and motivated to succeed. External expressions of recognition and gratitude are also important. Presenting official tokens of recognition and gratitude to donors and leaders highlights and honours your organization’s relationship with its community.


Recognition and award systems are an investment in your organization that will pay off in increased motivation, productivity, and commitment. Team members who feel recognized and valued for their contributions, who feel like their organization is invested in their fulfillment and emotional wellbeing at work, will respond with a reciprocal sense of responsibility for the organization’s wellbeing and success, and investment in their work.


For non-profit organizations and public institutions, recognition tools such as donor walls, demonstrate your organization’s ties to the community, fostering a mutual appreciation and promoting community involvement. While certificates of recognition and verbal or written praise and commendation are great ways to show appreciation on a regular basis, some contributions deserve the special recognition communicated by a more solid object: as such, award statues and plaques are lasting and personal reminders of the recipients’ accomplishments and contributions.


High quality, custom award statues and plaques add substance and weight to an award presentation, making the recognition especially meaningful. Displaying awards and recognition plaques is also a great way to showcase your team’s talents to the public. Whether you need a one off special award, or are developing an entire recognition system, Behrends Group’s design team will create a unique object that expresses your gratitude and appreciation, and communicates your brand’s image and values. Our manufacturing expertise and commitment to high quality materials and techniques are reflected in the quality of our products, ensuring that our custom award statues and plaques are truly meaningful objects.


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The Versatility of a Plaque


At Behrends Foundry, we have manufactured countless plaques over the years. We have seen the humble plaque be used in innumerable creative ways and have always been impressed by the diversity of options and versatility that it provides. We started our business with plaques and know that there are many application it can be made to serve. The following list is just some of the ways that we have seen plaques used over the years – and believe us, it is not exhaustive!
Address Plaques: Custom address plaques are part of the finishing touches of one’s exterior home. Address plaques offer a timeless look with outstanding quality metals that withstand the most extreme of weather conditions. Whether you have built your dream home, have just purchased your forever home or are looking to upgrade the appearance of the home you have lived in for years, address plaques are a simple way to add stylish flair to your home’s exterior – flair that reflects your individual tastes and what kind of statement you want your home to make about you and your family.
Donor Recognition: Donor recognition walls are a growing trend for non-profit, non-governmental and governmental organizations alike. When funding or volunteer labour for a project comes from external donors, particularly in the launching of a project, it has become customary to designate prominent space in offices and facilities as a way to show gratitude. Plaques are wonderful, permanent and lasting way to commemorate those who contributed so much to your organization.
Historical Markers/Interpretive Panels: Panels are ideal for any type of interpretive exhibit where patrons will be in need of guidance as to the purpose of the exhibit or the history relevant to that space. Excellent quality ones tend to combine imaginative text, rich design and evocative imagery to make a place come alive to patrons who visit there. Rather than only containing information such as directions or instructions, interpretive panels create an individual’s sense of historical presence or contemporary legacy. Some of the most prominent panels are those which are plaques cast in bronze because this metal lends a strong presence to these pieces and can accumulate natural patinas with time, giving the viewer a sense of historicity and cultural longevity.
Tree Markers: Tree plaques are a great way commemorate any number of occasions that require a sense of permanence while also keeping a memory alive. Tree plaques are small markers placed next to tree is public parks and places in order to remind patrons of events that took place there, important individuals within the community, or for families to memorialize the life of a loved one who has since passed. Behrends Group was commissioned to create plaques for trees in the Athlete’s Village during the Pan Am/Parapan Am Games. A plaque was made for each of the 41 trees along with a larger main plaque that identified the area and purpose of the project, which was translated into English, French, Spanish and Braille.
Bench Dedication: Spring and summer are the seasons of outdoor fun and whether we end up hitting the trails or soaking in the sun at a park, there will always be benches around for us to take a rest on and soak up the sun. Some people have memorialized loved ones through plaques on benches that are found on trails they used to enjoy walking on. Bench plaques are also a great way to commemorate important community individuals, organizations or historical events.
Grave Markers: Personalized memorial plaques from Behrends Group stand the test of time and all the elements. They deliver your loved ones’ message to future generations who will pay their respects and for others who want to learn something about those who came before us. The longevity of our medium (cast bronze) combined with the content you and your loved one desire will create a meaningful message for everyone involved.
Urn Gardens: Urn burial plots usually have space enough for two urns and a headstone, and can be arranged in a number of ways. Once the urns are buried, the plot may be marked with a commemorative plaque, headstone, sculpture or monument. These pieces are of incredible importance to loved ones revisiting the site, and should portray perfectly the legacy of the deceased. This may be in the form of a cherished quote, an embossed favourite photograph, or signature artistic designs – any trademark aspects of your loved one that will forever capture their spirit and remind visitors of the joy that they brought to the world.
Stable Signage: At Behrends Group, we love being trusted with honouring your special relationship with your horse and recommend bronze plaques produced in our foundry to enhance the prestige and honour of your stable’s appearance. We specialize in stable signage, including branding (if it is a business for you!) and nameplates for every horse under your care. In the sad event that a horse passes on, we are also honoured to take care of his or her memorial plaques to pay tribute to your companionship.
Other applications include place markers, trophies and awards, restaurant, hotel and other service-industry signage. Ultimately the possibilities with plaques are almost limitless. If you want durability, beauty and to create a sense of true legacy, we are happy to consult with you for your custom plaque needs.

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