Select Page

How to devise a winning wayfinding scheme

How to devise a winning wayfinding scheme

(Clockwise) Paddington Portable (top left),  Sian Kelly, Director of The Sign Design Society, Here East and Groupama Stadium

Want to ensure that your wayfinding scheme is recognised at this year’s British Sign Awards? Sian Kelly, Director of the Sign Design Society (SDS), explains what you need to do to ensure success.

Having been invited to join the judging panel for the 2016 competition, I was delighted when, as part of an initiative to raise the profile of the discipline, the Sign Design Society (SDS) was invited to set the criteria and judge the wayfinding category for the 2017 edition of British Sign Awards.

Although the judging process was the same as for all of the awards, the new panel included greater representation from the wayfinding design community. So when the shortlisted candidates were fed back to Awards HQ, it prompted an interesting question …  would the result have been any different if judged by a predominantly sign trade led panel?

Groupama Stadium wayfinding winner

Groupama Stadium by Populous Activate won the 2017 British Sign Awards Wayfinding Project of the Year

The fundamental purpose of a wayfinding scheme is to help people navigate to and through a place. While signs are the outcome most associated with wayfinding, there are other tools such as lighting, people, landmarks and the architectural design that have a part to play.

With signs, it’s about ensuring the information is placed where it’s needed and can be easily interpreted by people on the move.  Increasingly, in today’s experience economy, clients are also looking for a design that is distinctive, reflects the character of the brand or fits the architectural style of the building. For wayfinding sign schemes there are three factors to address before plans are passed for fabrication and installation – location, information design and sign form design.

As visiting the sites for the ultimate test was out of the question, the judges focussed on the content and sign forms. They were looking for:

  • Innovative design, rather than an established sign system, that expressed the character of the brand or delivered added interest.
  • Solutions that demonstrated a true consideration of the user and/or client objectives. For example with roadside signs ensuring the information is of sufficient scale and not too overwhelming so that drivers can read it and take appropriate action safely;
  • Compliance with accepted good practice in sign design – focussing particularly on the size, spacing and legibility of the font, colour contrast, ease of interpretation of graphics, symbols, maps and plans.


Here East by DN&Co

Here East by DN&Co was Highly Commended at the 2017 British Sign Awards

This year’s entries included a wide range of impressive projects, both temporary and permanent across many different environments.  A common thread running through the shortlisted candidates (Paddington Portable by Maynard Design; Here East by DN&Co) and the eventual winner Groupama Stadium (Populous Activate) was the uniqueness of the design.  Each project also demonstrated a clear understanding of the both the functional and aesthetic requirements needed to meet client requirements.

Large-scale graphics and suspended signs ensure that fans attending matches at the Groupama Stadium will see the information clearly through the crowds. The angular and geometric graphics align well with the architecture to provide a cohesive integrated design.


Paddington Portable by Maynard Design

Paddington Portable by Maynard Design was Highly Commended at the 2017 British Sign Awards

By contrast, Paddington Portable provides a flexible solution to promote events, using subtle references to the eponymous bear to engage passers-by. DN&Co’s Here East scheme also engages visitors with a design that reflects the focus of activities within this digital and creative campus.

We’ll never know if the final result would have changed with a different panel composition.  Based on evaluating entries on the functional performance and design criteria described above, I like to think that there would have been an alignment of views. Although individual judges had different views on the relative positions of the shortlisted candidates, there was common agreement about which three projects should make the cut.”

Sian Kelly is alsoa director of The Velvet Principle, a wayfinding and experiential graphic design consultancy. 

For further information on the Sign Design Society, visit:

For further information on The Velvet Principle, visit:

For further information on the British Sign Awards, visit:


Leave a Reply

The latest Projects, Features & News

Discover the latest projects, industry news and new products for the UK sign and graphics industry.

Recent Tweets