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Case Study

Zoo Bring Signage Production In-House, Creates Weather-Proof Full-Color Signs – Instantly

February 27, 2023
Now we can have nice all-weather signs to put up for the day…And can get it done instantaneously.
T.C. Pellett, Marketing and Corporate Relationship Director
Seneca Park Zoo

The Seneca Park Zoo, located in Rochester, NY, needed to do something about its undersized signage. For years, the outdoor year-round facility was creating one-off plastic laminate signs for the facility’s dozens of animal paddocks and multiple recycling receptacles. This process caused several challenges, including the laminate not being able to withstand the harsh northeast region conditions for more than a few months. These signs couldn’t be easily replaced or updated, and didn’t mesh well with the zoo’s environmentally friendly mission. The Seneca Park Zoo needed a time and cost-effective way to create small signage that could survive summer and winter conditions, leaving little to no environmental impact and staying in-line with the zoo’s public image.

Seneca Park Zoo Society, the non-profit supporting the zoo’s missions, did not have the funds for a dedicated in-house design staff to produce the small signage. They contracted with an outside company for their larger signs, but to keep costs down, created smaller signs on 8.5” x 11” paper which were then laminated. Turnaround time could be several days, so as a result, last-minute announcements such as, “Sea lions are unavailable today due to pool cleaning,” typically were handwritten and tacked up at the main gate.

And the plastic lamination? It didn’t hold up in the extreme range of elements this outdoor facility saw year-round, and the signs were contrary to the zoo’s mission of leaving little to no negative environmental impact.

“Those plastic signs definitely didn’t support our goal of being stewards of the environment,” said T.C. Pellett, Marketing and Corporate Relations Director for Seneca Park Zoo.

Toshiba’s weather-proof solution

The Toshiba America Business Solutions office in Rochester partnered with the society and created an innovative and elegantly simple solution. To meet the unique needs of the Seneca Park Zoo Society, Toshiba paired the award-winning Toshiba e-STUDIO color multifunction product (MFP) with AquaAce paper. Relying on the Toshiba MFP’s accurate text and rich, vibrant color output, the zoo could now create environmentally friendly and visually appealing signage on-site, responding quickly to its daily needs while still matching the existing corporate persona, colors and logo.

AquaAce is a durable, waterproof paper that stands up to New York’s extreme outdoor environment and better suits the active, youthful visitors of the Seneca Park Zoo. Because AquaAce supports photo-quality printing, the new signage is now more descriptive and interactive for the zoo’s public. Additionally, the zoo found that the AquaAce signs lasted 80 percent longer than the plastic laminate, reducing the number of sign reprints required throughout the year and ultimately improving operational costs.Consistent communication on the fly

Consistent communication on the fly

At the Seneca Park Zoo, life never stands still. Throughout all four seasons, the zoo welcomes more than 400,000 visitors to its 20-acre facility, where over 80 species are on display at any given time.

“We’re a small zoo,” says Pellett, “but we’re part of the global Species Survival Plan that helps to save many animals from extinction.” As a result, new animals constantly arrive from zoos worldwide, while others depart—each time necessitating signage to communicate where the animal has gone and the reason for it.

Events, kids’ camps, seminars and promotions change daily as well. And several recent major expansions increased the Seneca Park Zoo campus to make way for more up-close exhibits. Additionally, the zoo has more than 25 separate recycling containers that require clear, easy to read and simple to understand signage.

Seneca Park Zoo is open year-round, so these changes occur in the public eye. Guests need to know, for example, if an exhibit is unavailable for the day or that a walkway is closed for construction. With each change in the life of the zoo comes the need for clear, consistent communication through signage. Until recently, this presented a series of nagging problems.

“We want our signage to look good in order to enhance the guest experience, and we want to support our corporate image with graphics that use our fonts, designs and logo—in color,” says Pellett. “It’s also important that we educate the public about the fact that we’re a ‘green’ facility.”

With this Toshiba MFP and Aqua Ace solution in-house, the two-person Seneca Park Zoo marketing/public relations staff now has become its own signage production center, completely eliminating the need for an outside vendor to create small signs.

“There’s money in the budget for the large, wide-format signs at the zoo,” says Pellett. “But for signs on this small scale, the new system is perfect. For instance, we have a butterfly exhibit that’s open spring through fall. In the winter, when the butterflies go away, we turn it into a backyard bird habitat, so we create small signs to explain the change.”

Staying environmentally friendly

Toshiba’s color e-STUDIO MFP and Aqua Ace duo also assist with last-minute scheduling changes which are no longer announced in black marker. Sea lions indisposed? The staff lets the public know with a professional-looking sign.

“We now can have nice all-weather signs to put up for the day featuring a photo of the sea lion in full color. And we can get it done instantaneously. It makes us look good, and seamlessly follows our marketing strategy with zoo images, fonts and logos,” added Pellett.

The AquaAce paper has found additional usage beyond signage as well. Now, the Seneca Park Zoo’s daily schedule of special events also includes small-scale signage, durable activity worksheets and colorful, picture-laden zoo maps. For example, in celebration of the Year of the Frog, the zoo held a series of amphibian-themed events. As guests arrived, small-scale signs directed them to the “Frog Temporary Tattoo Station” and “Frog Jump” event on the lawn across from the FROGS! exhibit. For other youth-oriented events, such as scavenger hunts and summer camps, the staff finds the AquaAce paper indispensable for their promotional collateral materials. Pellett adds, “You can’t tear it and you can pour water directly on it. It’s kid-proof!”

Seneca Park Zoo also uses these long-lasting, weather-proof, kid-proof, small-scale signs to label their recycling bins and some animal paddocks, as well as to support marketing and fundraising activities. Overall, the system has dramatically reduced the cost of producing signs, while increasing the outdoor lifespan of the signs themselves. The printer solution has enabled quick turnaround times, which help the marketing/PR staff be more responsive to the needs of grounds keepers and animal handlers.

“Being ‘green’ and environmentally friendly is critical now more than ever,” Pellett concludes. “As a zoo, we have a responsibility to be an educational resource as well as an advocate for animals. As such, we should not use products that will adversely affect animals’ habitats. So by cutting down our paper use, reducing our waste and eliminating the use of plastic laminate, we demonstrate to the public that we ‘walk the talk,’ all while communicating the evolving circumstances of the zoo’s offerings in a way that is consistent and colorful. Toshiba and AquaAce have provided the perfect solution for us.”

1. Vibrant color printing in superb clarity with rich text renditions
2. Environmentally friendly signage that outlasts harsh weather conditions
3. Economic print solution that negates need for outside print vendor
4. Turnkey offering that produces instant signage