Signs of the times

Lindsay Burnham of Astley describes the challenges of providing a comprehensive wayfinding solution for Durham University

Getting from A to B or classroom to classroom is the ultimate aim of any educational wayfinding system, and while it might sound straight forward, success is not always easy. Getting it wrong could mean visitors to your school or university are left confused and have a poor impression of your institution.

Keeping in line with the surroundings is important so making sure you use similar colours and logos to your other brand items is a good start.

As members of the North East Universities Purchasing Consortia Framework Agreement we were invited to tender for the Durham University Signage framework. 

The University had already rebranded their external wayfinding signage previously; however, as a large institution with several campuses, there was still a considerable amount of ongoing and future work to do.

Following successful award of the contract, we began by looking at the site plans before walking round the site to get the feel of a visitor. This is always a helpful exercise; putting yourself in the position of the end user means you can truly understand the complexities of the site.

Looking at the existing signs and discussing the brand guidelines with the team, we created design visuals for sign-off. The visuals became the starting point for the scheme’s signage manual which was fully developed post sign-off as a reference tool for all involved in the project. 

From this, technical drawings were compiled by our CAD design department in order for us to work on prototype examples. These sample signs are the first time the signage will be seen in reality and form the sign-off benchmark before commencing manufacture.

The signage scheme at the University consists of satin stainless steel fabricated to a curved profile shape in a variety of sizes to suit the install environment. We selected the T316 grade of stainless steel which is non-corrosive and therefore will protect the signage from rust.

The suite includes wall-mounted signs used primarily as building identification signs accompanied by a secondary scheme used as directional signs.

In addition, we produced panels mounted between two satin stainless steel posts which acted as directional information signs as well as larger versions which displayed campus maps. 

Our ongoing working partnership is based on agreed KPIs which means that we are responsible for the following actions within the scope of our works:

• Preparing visuals / artwork for approval
• Carrying out site surveys where appropriate to ensure that new signs will complement the fabric of the building
• Recycling existing signs when necessary
• The supply and installation of all new signage requirements

In addition to implementing the existing brand guidelines we also worked with various members of the University Projects and Estates Department to rationalise their suite of internal wayfinding signage which will be incorporated into the new build developments at the University. This signage includes door nameplates, fire and health and safety signage and directional signage.

As many of the internal wayfinding signage is installed in areas of high footfall of staff and students the signs were treated with a clear lacquer to protect them from damage.

2014 will mark the fourth year Astley has worked with this world leading institution. | T: 0191 491 0097



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