Donor Recognition Systems: More Than Just Saying “Thanks”

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. These walls tend to be a stylistic opportunity to recognize those important to the organization while being a beautiful addition to the environment.

Gratitude and style are not the only reasons for commissioning donor recognition systems for your space. Inspiration, commitment and awareness are also outcomes of effective systems. It is important to recognize that even though the intention behind them is recognition, like all signage, these systems communicate something about your organization. Because they occupy prominent and foremost positions in the visual landscape of your building, it is important to carefully consider what message you are sending. These systems must be attractive, engaging, technologically advanced and professional – qualities that your brand emulates in order to inspire confidence in your donors, from the past and in the future.

A combination of sources reveals that the best donor recognition systems should include the following elements to be successful.


Adequate gratitude – Making contributors feel appreciated is the primary reason for employing a visible recognition system.

Flexibility – If you are going to recognize contributors to your organization, you should be prepared and able to give thanks to all of them whether they are donors, volunteers, staff and so forth.

Accommodation – Excellent recognition systems offer the ability to add to them over time. Good designs will have this capability built-in to avoid the future disaster of not being able to add contributors.

Updating Capabilities – Some recognition systems have space allocated to updating donors on how their contributions have made a difference. If this is a one-time deal, this can be a permanent part of your regular display.

Challenges Beyond recognition, inspiration is a key priority of these systems. Depending on how things are laid out, the end result should be encouraging to future donors, inspiring them to match or exceed the giving of their peers.

Naming opportunities – If there have been substantial contributions made by a regular, major donor, there should be the opportunity for naming those contributors in a prominent way.

High-Profile Publicity – Where you put your donor recognition system and how it fits into the environment around it changes its profile level. For contributors, it is likely very important that their name appear in high-traffic, high-visibility spaces.

Marketing and Outreach – If donor recognition systems do not double as recruiting tools for future contributors, they are not doing their job.

Technology – In some cases, the addition of technological components might be of interest to certain organizations. These components offer the following benefits: appealing to a wider demographic audience, the possibility of regular updates and added information, the appearance of modern tools to increase the prestige of your organization, and the ability to combine the display with Web-based recognition systems.

When your recognition system comes from Behrends, you have the opportunity to include the latest, cutting-edge technology into your display. Over the years, we have been involved in the design and fabrication of hundreds of recognition systems and as our clients’ organizations have grown, so too have the number of people they need to recognize. Versatile technology or “digital media content management” is our innovative solution to making static displays dynamic and adaptable to your changing needs. Large-scale LED screens can fit seamlessly into the look of your display giving you the capability to expand what you want to say through cloud-based, touch-screen technology. As Behrends is a licensed dealer of Wondersign technology, working with us allows you to maximize your display space by using the power of the “endless display”.

In coming to Behrends Group for your donor recognition system needs, you are employing the skills and talents of a diverse group of professionals who have made a name for themselves in this niche part of the industry. We have years of experience with hundreds of large-scale projects for some of the most prominent institutions in Canada including the University of Alberta, the Royal Alexandra Hospital, the TELUS World of Science, the University of Arizona, Rundle College, and many others. Our innovative designs and unparalleled fabrication techniques blend creativity, tradition, and modernity into brilliant final products that will exceed the expectations of you and your contributors. Finally, at Behrends Group, we are grateful to our clients from all walks of life, and showing their gratitude through beautiful recognition systems is one of our most rewarding business endeavours.


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3D Printing

At Behrends Group, we keep on top of the latest technological innovations to keep our products and processes both cutting-edge and the highest quality. Nowhere has innovation been more key as in the realm of 3D printing and its applications to our custom signage industry.

3D printing is the process of manufacturing solid objects from the creation of a computer-generated 3D file. The printing of such objects is done through an additive process, meaning that the material is successively layered again and again until the final project is created. Each of the layers functions as a horizontal cross-section of the overall finished product. It all starts with the virtual design of what you want to make, whether that be the creation of a new design or a scanned copy of another object. 3D modeling software then takes the design and slices it into thousands of those horizontal cross-sections which are each uploaded to the 3D printer. The printer reads each slice (as a 2D image) and then creates the layers that build up into an object with barely noticeable transitions between layers.

3D printers differ by way of their use of technology but virtually all of them employ this additive method. In terms of its application to the signage industry, nowhere is its potential felt more than in bronze casting. Typically, in terms of sculpture, a clay model is crafted first and is what the end-product will be formed from. A mold created from the clay picks up all of its subtle details and is applied in layers to capture the original surface.

3D printing eliminates the need to sculpt with clay by allowing for the design and creation of a model to be created in a completely digital process. The model is printed, then fitted with a silicone rubber exterior molding before being cast in bronze, as usual. The 3D printed model is lost in the process, just as the clay sculptures are lost in the traditional method. What remains is a beautiful, highly-detailed bronze sculpture that originated entirely from a professional designer’s imagination and vision. This need not only be applicable to sculpture but can revolutionize other bronze casting such as plaques and interpretive signage.

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Firefighters Have Always Been Alberta’s Heroes

With the devastating wildfires that ripped across the province of Alberta last month, firefighters have reached hero status as they battle the blazes. Small cities like Fort McMurray and High Level faced total evacuation and much property damage has occurred. And yet, if it were not for Alberta firefighters, the

With the devastating wildfires that ripped across the province of Alberta last month, firefighters have reached hero status as they battle the blazes. Small cities like Fort McMurray and High Level faced total evacuation and much property damage has occurred. And yet, if it were not for Alberta firefighters, the response to the emergency might have been far different and even more devastating. Ready to race into the danger zones without a second thought, firefighters have come to symbolize true bravery, courage and self-sacrifice.

Firefighters have always been Alberta’s heroes and nowhere is this truer than in the City of Edmonton where a group called the Edmonton Firefighters Memorial Society has sought to memorialize fallen firefighters since 1997. According to the association’s mandate, the society rose from a desire to recognize those members of the Edmonton Fire Department who had given the supreme sacrifice in the service of the citizens of Edmonton.

Members of the Edmonton Fire Department were instrumental in helping to control the blaze that threatened to engulf all of Fort McMurray and devastated over 2400 architectural structures in the city. Luckily, all of the firefighters made it out without being harmed.

For anyone passing by the Edmonton Firefighters Memorial Plaza, located at 10350 – 83 Avenue, the statue entitled “The Rescue” – which depicts the rescue of a young girl whose home is on fire – cannot help but serve as a stark reminder of the recent heroism of firefighters in this province today.

Behrends Group is honoured to help keep the memory of Edmonton’s fallen firefighters alive by fabricating the statue for the plaza, designed by artist Danec Mozdanski, and producing the plaques which name those who have fallen. At the same time, our work in the plaza serves as a reminder of those brave individuals who continue to rush into the face of uncertainty for the sake of helping others.

Firefighters have always been Alberta’s heroes. This past month, which showed some of the worst wildfire battles in Canadian history, proves that places like the Edmonton Firefighters Memorial Plaza matter and belong at the center of a community’s memory. We are proud to have created the space for such an honour.


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4 Things Every Custom Artisan Foundry Needs

At Behrends, the Foundry has been at the heart of our legacy for the past six decades and although we have branched out into very innovative and exciting areas like architectural signage and experiential graphic design, we still stay true to what our artisan foundry has always provided: outstanding custom metal-work that offers unparalleled signage creations. Our signage is known for creating outstanding impressions from the first to those that last, and although a lot goes into creating these design works, there are a few key things that our custom artisan foundry simply couldn’t exist without.

1. Vision and Experience

Both of these factors go hand-in-hand because even the most innovative design visions still need to be realistic and functional. Our design team consults with your business or organization to determine what kind of statement you want to make and aims to exceed your expectations. We have the knowledge and experience to determine what is possible and can push the limits of the imagination to develop something truly unique and previously unseen. At the same time, we are used to solving countless design problems in different climates, environments and built structures simply because of how long we have been in the industry and because of the talented individuals on our team. You can trust that, with us, your project will be functional, long-lasting and will also have the “wow” factor you are looking for.

2. Artisan Craftspeople

Vision means little with the talented artisan craftspeople to execute that vision perfectly every time. Our emphasis on artisanal work is what sets us apart and what sets you apart when you invest in our products. Using traditional, and sometimes non-mechanized, methods we offer hand-crafted work that is both unique and professional. In a world of mass, anonymous production, we are adamant about employing tradespeople who have been in the business for years and offer experience, insights and techniques that newcomers or outsourced manufacturers often lack.

3. Knowledgeable Metal Technicians

One very important component of our foundry work is the quality of the metals that go into every pour because a design is only as good as the materials used to produce it. Our smelters are experts at getting metal chemistry and temperatures just right to have the perfect pour, every time. Choose from a variety of materials and finishes to suit your look and we will take care of the rest.

4. Experienced Installers

After a signage project has been made into reality, it needs to be properly mounted so its legacy and longevity matches the materials used and the vision dreamed up. From the highest building to sidewalk plaques, Behrends installation workers have found themselves in some pretty amazing situations, getting brilliant projects up to the satisfaction of our clients. Custom jobs require flexible installations and individuals with trouble-shooting or problem-solving dispositions. Without the absolute best team members in installation, all of our sales, design and building efforts might go to waste, so we take special pride in celebrating incredible installation work and the team members who do it.IMG_5815IMG_6969IMG_8048


Diversity In Plaque Design With Inlaid And Recessed Plaques

There are many diverse uses for plaques. They can be used for memorialization, for commemoration at historical or meaningful sites, to mark the dedication of a space or structure, for recognition and awards, or even for uses as simple as home address signs. On their own or as part of a larger project, plaques are a sophisticated and attractive way to communicate a lot of information and meaning. Cast plaques get a lot of attention for their durability and timeless style, but recessed and inlaid plaques also offer interesting design options.


On a recessed plaque, the text or image is etched into the material so it is recessed, instead of raised as in a cast plaque. Etching produces detailed and precise images and text, for a look that can be either classic or modern. Another feature of recessed plaques is that by recessing the images and text, the surface appearance and texture is brought to the forefront, which can be a striking design choice.

Cast bronze wall marker

Inlay is a technique that uses multiple materials. An inlaid object has different materials embedded in it, flush with its surface, to produce an image, text, or ornamentation. For example, a metal plaque can be inlaid into a wood or stone setting, or can incorporate different kinds of inlaid metals. This mixed medium technique brings contrast and richness to a design. Inlaying a plaque integrates it into its setting and makes it part of the larger structure. For example, a house number sign can be set into a stone pillar or wall. Infrastructure signage can be inlaid into sidewalks and walls.


The 100th Anniversary Flanders Field memorial is a Behrends project that we are particularly proud of. It incorporates many techniques, including examples of both recessed and inlaid plaques. The bronze poem plaque features an etched reproduction of John McRae’s original handwritten poem. The bright bronze surface contrasts with the recessed hand writing, and can be compared to the more traditional cast, raised text of the rest of the plaque. There are also eight bronze poppy plaques inlaid into the memorial’s stonework.

Cast Cast Bronze Plaque

There are many uses for plaques, and they are matched by a similar variety of techniques and design options to match any design vision. Recessed and inlaid plaques are just two of these techniques that can be used to personalize your project.


To see more plaques visit our plaques page here


Interpretive Panels and things to Consider When Designing Your Signage

What are 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.  Interpretive signs are commonly used in museums, galleries, for art work and historical sites to help guests interpret the exhibit by explaining the piece or providing additional background information.

Designing Interpretive Panels

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 cast in bronze because it lends a strong presence to these pieces and can accumulate natural patinas with time, giving the viewer a sense of historicity and cultural longevity.

Cast bronze plaque

Using Cast Bronze for Interpretive Panels

Why is bronze so popular? Certain mediums, when used often enough for similar applications, start to gain an authority on their own and become the desired taste of a specific style of message. Bronze is long-lasting and offers a sense of stability and permanence to any structure. Especially popular with corporate clients and professionals, bronze can lend itself well to any office building or the sophisticated home. The variety available in bronze is very large and diverse depending on your preference for the typeface (font) or how you want to finish your lettering.
As mentioned, the final look of bronze can change over time, developing patinas, or the greenish layers that unfold on bronze over time. The look of aged bronze conjures up images of old Europe and important art institutions. Many clients love this style, particularly for artisanal sculptural or statue work, as the green finish that comes to bronze with time carries the weight and prestige of history with it. With Behrends, this natural process can easily be mimicked and sped up with the application of various processes to develop patinas, and we have had multiple requests to do so in our 60+ years in the industry.
The level of variety available with bronze is directly related to our long and diverse experience with it. Since this is what Behrends started out doing, we have perfected many different techniques involving bronze allowing you to customize a variety of details to make your plaque your very own. Bronze is a great choice for custom designed cast metal plaques like bas relief because it is able to hold high levels of fine detail, is durable and long-lasting, and has a wide range of available finishes and patinas.

Custom Cast Bronze plaque   Custom cast bronze plaque   Gresibachplaques (1)

Important Items to Consider When Choosing Your Panel Designer

Here are some important things to consider when choosing the designer of your interpretive panels, especially when you are considering Behrends Group. We have gotten this stuff down to a science so for brilliant results every time, come to us.

  • People decide within seconds whether or not they want to read your sign so the design and writing are both critical. It has to be interesting and easy-to-read, with a simple typography and not too much or too little writing.
  • Quality text means quality writing as well. Too much jargon or technical writing might be off-putting for your patrons . The writing also has to be active and engaging to capture the attention of your audience and bring them into the world you are interpreting for them.
  • Visuals that may or may not be included on your interpretive panel should offer different information than the writing but also corresponds to the story that is being told. The same thing goes for maps as well, if needed.


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