Give us a sign
University signage is perhaps an under-researched area of contemporary higher education. According to a recent report in Vital signs signage is a vital aspect of university life for staff, students and visitors. Indeed it seems to be critical for health and safety as well as a core aspect of the student experience:
“Educational buildings are used by a range of demographic groups, from small children to mature students, with a variety of needs and requirements.A good signage strategy is the starting point to make sure that all staff, students and visitors can move around the school or campus in an efficient, clear and secure way.“Educational wayfinding signage needs to be clear, concise, accurate, durable and stylish,” said Lindsay Burnham, marketing manager for Astley, an established sign provider in the education sector.
She continued: “Not only does the information need to be correct and visible, it also has to meet all health and safety regulations to maintain the wellbeing of the individuals.”Signage can also play a part in a student’s academic achievements, as Burnham explained: “Attending a new a school or university is daunting for any student and being able to work their way round the campus, to be in the right place at the right time, is a key factor as to whether they feel settled in their new place of study and ultimately that they perform well and are successful.”
A monolithic approach?
I suspect there is a pretty good correlation between signage strategy and rankings if only anyone could be bothered to work it out. Back in the 90s there was a real fashion for monolith style institutional signage (or tombstones as Rosemary Stamp used to call them). But this is not enough and we can barely imagine how universities would fall apart without proper signage.
I must admit though I was impressed with the digital signage around the campus at Keele University which I saw on a recent visit:
Clearly though there is a chance that institutions may try to cut a few corners and under-invest in this critical area:
Sign providers recommend a carefully planned signage strategy from the early stages of a new build project, so costs can be factored into a budget. “Otherwise, clients have to choose a lower value signage package which may not reflect the quality of the rest of the build,” said Burnham.
I think we can all imagine the chaos which might ensue.