Creating Historical Memory through Signage

Signs seem like an indispensable necessity these days, but the busy landscape that we are accustomed to seeing in our daily lives is actually a modern invention. The deluge of advertising and wayfinding signs that get filtered through our brains every minute of the day is enormous. From traffic signs to business signs and everything in-between, we are taught how to move and where to go because of signs. We build our lives around them and, in turn, our lives are built by them. Signs even shape our memories, particularly how we interact with our landscapes but also how we interpret history and deal with authority.

Historical memory is increasingly at the forefront of government and public consciousness as we come to better understand how monuments, signage and memorials shape the way we cultivate memories. How do spaces do this? The idea is that certain spatial structures and design will reinforce a specific way of interacting among people within it and that this develops a certain model of order in the mind which provides justification for certain historical narratives. Space is shaped by carefully chosen elements and, in turn, perpetuates those elements by all those who encounter it within that space.

If this seems a bit far-fetched, know that the field of experiential graphic design is one of the most important industries of our time. Space becomes a carefully chosen amalgam of elements that elicit particular feelings and behaviours according to specific goals. This is the art and science of placemaking and as governments and businesses continue to see success in cultivating certain preferences through space, it will only continue to rise in its importance.

The emotional aspect of shaping historical memory comes to the fore especially when trying to cultivate a particular narrative among a population. Civic pride, nationalism, historical knowledge and a general social cohesion are all important reasons to put forth specific relevant information that is both meaningful to those who will engage with it and also cultivates a sense of unity. Sometimes called the poetics of a space, this method of placemaking is centered around creating an experience that goes deeper than overt texts or messages. Instead, implicit environmental cues are heightened to create a seamlessness between the individual, their feelings and the spaces they inhabit.

Behrends Group has an unparalleled level of experience in bringing historical memory alive in constructed spaces. In multiple civic, provincial and federal contracts, Behrends has excelled at crafting specific sites of memory through beautiful bronze plaques, signage and monuments. No matter where you travel in the city, the style of our products has prescribed the voice of leadership and elected governmental authority. We take pride in having every unique plaque pass through the hands of our skilled craftsmen as we excel in creating lasting impressions, unified voices and pride in where people come from.