Talks archive

This section features the content from our our previous talks. We hope you will find it useful.  Where you see the  sign you will be able to listen again to the talk recording.  Please note this facility is for member's only if you would like to join the Sign Design Society please click here for our packages.

The talk recordings are password protected, please email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. for the latest password.

NB: This is strictly for reference only. None of this work can be used for any commercial gain without the written permission of the author and/or company/administration.


Our Christmas Talkfest

A joint SDS and IDA event hosted by the University of Reading: a festive celebration of signs, wayfinding, typography & information design

IMG 3510This year for the SDS Christmas Party we're joining forces with the Information Design Association(IDA) for a selection of short talks from a mix of speakers across both industry and academia. The talks will cover a diverse range of topics within information design, typography, sign design and wayfinding that we hope will inspire and challenge.

As well the chance to meet and see the work of the next generation of designers and see some of their work, you'll have an opportunity to view material from the University of Reading’s world class archives, including the Otto and Marie Neurath Isotype Collection.

Some things will remain the same, with food, drink and plenty of time to network.

So come and join us in Reading for a veritable selection of treats to kick off the Christmas festive season.

Get ahead faster

Get ahead faster: Join Sander on his wayfinding experiment at SDS

A talk by Sander Baumann DesignWorkPlan Amsterdam

Sander will take us on a journey though time to talk about wayfinding, technology and using our senses to get around. This will be a highly energetic talk with experiments, discussion and passion for wayfinding.

dwp talk sds september mail promo 01


Sander Baumann runs designworkplan from Amsterdam with a passion for everything wayfinding related.

The best way to introduce you to this talk is to let Sander do it himself, he has made you a video below.

Marco Polo Airport

Venice Marco Polo Airport: identity and wayfinding for the gateway to the city

As part of the development and expansion of their passenger facilities, Venice Marco Polo Airport appointed Pascall+Watson to redesign and rebrand their wayfinding. The expanded airport facilities included a new water transport terminal, terminal connections, and a new arrivals and departures concourse.

Part of the brief involved developing a media strategy that would enhance commercial opportunities without compromising the clarity of the passenger information. The resulting design provides an innovative and holistic approach to wayfinding. It maximises passenger orientation, movement and dwell time within the constraints imposed by the architecture.

Venice sign examples 640px

The Silent Salesman

Traditional retail is evolving rapidly, responding to the growth of online shopping and changing demographics. We’re seeing the emergence of new terms – multi-channel, show-rooming, retail as theatre. Within this changing landscape, retail destinations are having to work harder than ever to deliver added value to shoppers.

With customer experience a key competitive platform, providing effective information to communicate what’s available and ensure that shoppers can find their way round a shopping centre is a basic requirement. During this talk, Sean and Sian from The Velvet Principle will explore the challenges and discuss what makes a good wayfinding implementation. Supported by examples from Sean’s 20 years of experience of developing and implementing wayfinding solutions for shopping centres across the world.


The Velvet Principle is a specialist wayfinding, branding and experiential graphic design consultancy, jointly founded by Sian Kelly and Sean Brereton. Since forming in 2010, the company has worked on various retail and corporate office projects both in the UK and internationally.

Sian Kelly is the Operations Director of The Velvet Principle, prior to which her career was very much on the client side, with roles in business development, marketing and strategy within Coca-Cola, The National Physical Laboratory and, more recently, the governments’ innovation agency - The Technology Strategy Board (now called Innovate UK), where she was responsible for developing and implementing the UK’s technology strategy for the Creative Industries. Sian is very interested in the contribution that technology can make in helping people understand their environment and maximise their experience.

Sean Brereton is the Creative Director of The Velvet Principle. He studied Information Graphics and after two years with a small agency, Pointer Communication, he joined Design Research Unit as sign designer on a variety of transportation projects. These included the new DLR station at Canary Wharf, a commission which expanded into the site-wide statutory signs package for the Canary Wharf estate and Canary Wharf Tower.

Prior to that Sean was with Leslie Jones Architects, then Anderson Design and Marketing (later adopted by Saatchi & Saatchi) working on retail developments across the UK and destination branding for the retail property industry. Appointed Operations Director, Sean headed up the retail destinations team with projects in Dubai and Abu Dhabi and the UK retail property sector.

velvet 69

Hong Kong Signscape

Hong Kong’s signscape: a typology
The sight of signs cascading over the streets in Hong Kong is an indelible experience for all visitors, but signs are an important element amidst the hyper density and verticality of the city and have become an inherent part of its architecture and urban environment. This talk will trace the development of urban signage in Hong Kong from its origins in Chinese calligraphic practices to current design practices. A typology will be presented (in the tradition of an architectural ‘pattern language’ developed by Alexandar et al. in 1977), consisting of four main classes of sign – Shopfront, Building, Extension, Mobile - attempting to understand the underlying patterns of the interactions between verbal message, graphic language, people, architecture and urban space.

Keith Tam is associate professor at the Department of Typography and Graphic Communication, University of Reading, where he directs the MA Information Design programme. Previously he was head of Communication Design at the Hong Kong Polytechnic University, where he also founded IDL, a research and consultancy unit at the School of Design. His interests include document design (especially complex multilingual documents), wayfinding, tourist information design and the relationship between graphic language, architecture and urban space.

ymt pawn shop

Flags as Signs of identity

A Three Thousand Year Story

A talk by Graham Bartram – Chief Vexillologist at the Flag Institute

One of the most elegant and eye catching ways of identifying and celebrating places, routes and events is perhaps less often used in contemporary wayfinding design. But flags have been used since the earliest times for such purposes and, carefully employed, they can bring added character, especially where identity is an important consideration.
Tonight's talk will cover a short history of flags, from their origins in Ancient Egypt, Rome and Phoenecia, through the great Mediterranean trading cities, to the modern concept of a national flag. It will look at the basic principals of flag design, with examples from current affairs, such as the work being done on a new flag for New Zealand, and the development of county flags in the UK. The talk will discuss the importance of flags as national symbols, their use in modern nation building efforts and will consider how they can be used for functional and practical purposes to enhance our daily interaction with the built environment.

Graham Bartram is the Chief Vexillologist of the Flag Institute and has been interested in flags since he was a schoolboy in Ghana. He became professionally involved when, as a software design engineer, he worked on a CD-ROM atlas in the 1990’s and decided to sort out the flag images. Since then he has designed many new flags, including those of Tristan da Cunha, the UK Border Force, the UK Supreme Court, the Thames Diamond Jubilee Pageant and St Margaret’s Westminster. He edits the MOD’s flag book (actually a website), BR20 Flags of All Nations, and advises the UK Government on flags and flag protocol. Since 1999 he has been the Secretary-General for Congresses of FIAV, the international flag organization.

flags picture

Looking but not seeing

How we perceive unfamiliar environments

A talk by David Foster, University of Manchester

Before all else, analysers of wayfinding issues and creators of signing, designed to address perceived wayfinding difficulties, must be aware of physical and cognitive factors influencing those navigating such environments. It is salutary, however, to observe that our knowledge of how we interact visually with the world is surprisingly incomplete. Where we look from one minute to the next is difficult to predict and what we see when we do look is uncertain. Although our perception of the environment seems faithful, much of the detail is guesswork.
This talk will provide an introduction to vision in natural scenes, the factors that influence gaze, search, and detection, and how one relates to the other. Particular attention will be given to the role of colour in scene analysis and how our ability to interpret colour information varies from one person to another.

David Foster is Director of Research and Professor of Vision Systems in the School of Electrical and Electronic Engineering, University of Manchester. He has published about 200 research articles on topics such as scene analysis and visual perception, object and shape recognition, hyperspectral imaging, and normal and impaired colour vision. He is Editor in Chief of the international journal Vision Research.


Bespoke or Standardised?

A talk by Julian Maynard, Director, Maynard

Signage projects usually offer a choice; does the designer use an existing solution, or pursue a new one? Perhaps naturally the designer’s urge is to push for the latter approach, though this is often at odds with project constraints such as cost and programme.

Julian will talk about his practice’s work in developing new signing systems for public realm and transport projects. He will discuss the success of the Southampton City project and signage family, subsequently adopted by Portsmouth and Hampshire, and consider the challenge of delivering a consistent product from two manufacturers. He will also give an insight into developing new systems for Crossrail and London Bridge Station and the challenge of achieving design quality in large engineering-led infrastructure projects.

We hope his experience and opinions will provide insights and provoke discussion amongst members.
Julian trained in industrial design at Manchester Metropolitan University and the Royal College of Art in London. He is a fellow of the Chartered Society of Designers and has an impressive track record of leading multi-disciplinary teams on transport and public realm projects. His experience includes Waterloo International Terminal, Jubilee Line Extension stations, TfNSW wayfinding and is currently Principal Designer for the linewide architectural components package on Crossrail, about which he presented to the Society a few years ago.
Maynard is a London based multidisciplinary design consultancy working in the fields of wayfinding, graphic design, product and environmental design for clients within the transport and urban realm sectors.
As a practice Maynard are fascinated by the intricacies of how things work, and share a common belief that good efficient design can bring clarity and simplicity to a rapidly advancing world.

Canada's challenge - signing its biggest city

Toronto kicked off their wayfinding initiative in 2011 as a direct consequence of their 2007 Walk21 Conference, Putting Pedestrians First, and development of the city's Walk Strategy that identified pedestrian wayfinding as fundamental to the creation of a walkable city. The strategy transformed from an originally pedestrian-centric solution comparable to other 'legible city' projects, such as London, New York and Vancouver, to become a comprehensive multimodal strategy covering pedestrian, vehicular, cyclist and transit wayfinding needs.

This talk will explore project successes and failures to date and lessons learnt from the application of international best practices in the context of Toronto. It will also debate the complexities of implementing a 'seamless' solution in a multi-agency environment.

Juan Pablo Rioseco is an information and graphic designer working as Principal Consultant with Steer Davies Gleave.
James Brown is a design and wayfinding strategist working as Principal Consultant with Steer Davies Gleave.

Steer Davies Gleave is leading a team of consultants to deliver a pedestrian wayfinding pilot in Toronto’s Financial District; a vehicular signage destination policy; enhanced transit information; a cycling wayfinding; and a new wayfinding system for Toronto's extensive parks and trails. Steer Davies Gleave is a leading independent transport consultancy based in London with 15 offices across Europe, Latin and North America. Our Design for Movement practice embraces environmental, product, digital and graphic design to realise user-centered solutions that make our transport systems and public places understandable, accessible, and enjoyable for all.

Toronto Wayfinding Crop

The Wayfinding Doctor

Harm’s background is in economics and information science. He observes that both economics and wayfinding are about human decision making and information processing.
In a familiar environment, wayfinding is unconscious and intuitive, people having acquired a mental map by learning and experience, accruing knowledge.
In an unfamiliar environment people are dependent on “knowledge in the world”.
Perceptual wayfinding is about how people can immediately make sense of the environment they must negotiate to reach a destination.

For Harm, wayfinding is fascinating and he has been exploring and investigating the science for the past 25 years, the fruit of which is expressed in many of Eurorouting’s projects, on of which, the Fries Museum was awarded a commendation in the Society’s 2013 competition.

In this presentation he will share his experiences and insights about design, technology,
cognitive science and semiotics.

At the end of the day, Harm says, it is all about how we can guide, protect and enable people in the public domain. That must be the foundation of our “wayfinding community” , something which exists and is relevant well beyond the discipline of design.

Harm Wondaal was born and raised in the Netherlands. He graduated in 1982 and since 1990 he has been the owner and managing director of Eurorouting in Leeuwarden. He is also the founder of GuidingPeople (2013), a research and development organisation for innovative solutions
for searching and finding.

picture Harm Wondaal talk 750x500

Universal Signage - See, Touch, Hear



The first ever World report on disability, produced jointly by WHO and the World Bank in 2011, suggests that more than a billion people in the world today experience disability. It is widely acknowledged that our environment can no longer exclude them. Technical solutions exist, which ensure equitable access for people with special needs and bring comfort and safety to all.

Although the concept of Universal Design began in the 1950s, good examples remain too rare and do not always meet individual expectations.
This presentation will provide concrete solutions for signage according to Universal Design and taking into account the needs of people with disabilities. The concept of Universal Signage is based on the combination of visual, acoustic and tactile features, so that everyone can receive and interpret way-finding information, regardless of their disability.

This presentation will take stock of the use of touch and sounds in complement to the sight for way finding. The innovative solutions that will be presented aim at showing that accessibility can be esthetic and that signage professionals have solutions that are not anymore a constraint but an added value. A collaboration between designer Ruedi Baur and Eo Guidage will also be presented.

Sylvain Denoncin is co-owner of the companies Eo Guidage, Access For All and Univaccess, he is also president of the Accessibility Professionals Association in France (AFPAPH).”

Universal signage 750x500

How did you get here?

The secret life of wayfinding

A talk by Andrew Barker

Date: 6.30 pm Thursday 14th January

Do you know what people are doing when they are wayfinding? Do you know what people really do to find their way somewhere?

Andrew Barker has conducted research to get a glimpse into a world that is hidden in plain sight. Using a mix of questionnaires, ethnographic approaches, and diary-keeping, this research gives insights into the strategies people use to find their way (from “I followed the sign” to “I followed a lady in red shoes”). It also uncovers the range of everyday tasks that necessitate wayfinding, and looks at questions such as whether people use different strategies if the on their own or in a group.

Join us for a peek into this exotic world.

Promoting the bicycle

How we can sign our way out of the traffic congestion nightmare

A talk by Paul Mason of Cicero Translations

Date: 6.30 pm Thursday 14th April

In 2010 Moira Gemmill, Design Director at the V&A in London, spoke to the Society about her work which helped turn the museum into a global leader.  In April last year Moira was killed in a road traffic accident whist cycling in the city. This talk will be given within a few days of the anniversary of her death.

Paul Mason is a dedicated advocate of cycling as a form of transport. He believes that widening existing roads and building new ones will not solve the chronic traffic congestion problem faced by the UK.  Rather, we need to reduce the volume of traffic through a method which is hidden in plain view.

Britain is 50 years behind the Netherlands and Denmark in re-enabling short journeys by bike or on foot, thereby creating a healthier and happier society.

Where am I?

Street nameplates - as important as ever

A talk by Vincent Stops, policy officer at London TravelWatch

Thursday 13th November 2014 at The Gallery at 6.30pm

One of the most basic types of sign in the public environment is the street nameplate. Whilst many people nowadays use in-vehicle or hand-held forms of satnav, this is not universal and street nameplates remain essential for finding or confirming where you are in the urban built environment. Most importantly, for the emergency services responding to incidents it is essential that callers can tell them quickly and unequivocally where they are.

Where is this?

an audit of station name signing

A talk by John Cartledge, former Deputy Chief Executive, London TravelWatch

Thursday February 12th 2014 6:30pm

In 2004, the Information Design Unit of Enterprise IG was commissioned by London TravelWatch to carry out an audit of station name signs on the main line rail network in and around London. This talk will present the findings.

The audit confirmed that although station name signs carry vital information for passengers less familiar with the locations, the railway companies had no set standards for the number of signs or their positioning. Many stations had too few, they were poorly maintained and particularly difficult to see after dark or from trains passing through stations at speed. Moreover, they were often wrongly aligned, subject to graffiti and vandalism, obscured by advertising, and use text which is too small.

Meet you by the Blue Cockerel

bigbluecockerel 500pxThe importance and vitality of Placemarking

A talk by Billy Griffin, Artisan, Dublin

Thursday December 11th 2014, 6.30pm (talk will be followed by the Christmas party.)

With the increase in both visual communication and life’s everyday complexities, coupled with the massive and rapid growth of IT based navigation systems, the traditional response to wayfinding challenges in large spaces, often emerging organically and without discernable character or logic, may not be wholly appropriate.

An amorphous space, whether external or within a built structure, may be designed to be ‘democratic’, but how should it best be made coherent, to invite and respond to those exploring, whilst ensuring swift progress for those on a mission?

Waverley Station, Edinburgh

How the wayfinding was planned and the signing delivered

A talk by Stuart Dodds and Maria Pether

Thursday 2nd October 2014 at The Gallery at 6.30pm

In the first six months of this year, Merson Sign Design (MSD) and Merson Signs completed the wayfinding planning, manufacture and installation of new campus-wide signing at Waverley Station, Edinburgh as part of ongoing redevelopment of this major rail interchange at Scotland's capital.

Reducing Risk:

Safety Signs & Markings - their role in the US

A talk by Geoffrey Peckham, CEO, Clarion Safety Systems, Milford, Pennsylvania

6:30pm Wednesday 10th September 2014

In the United States, when someone gets hurt as the result of an accident, lawsuits commonly occur. In fact, 'failure to warn' and 'inadequate warnings' are the two most common allegations in product liability litigation in U.S. courts.

The Seamless Airport Terminal

Wayfinding, Space and Planning

A talk by James Speed, Pascall & Watson Architects

6.00pm Thursday 10th July 2014 at The Gallery

NB Talk will be followed by our Summer Party.

Airports continue to develop as part of the global race for economic development. Recently we have seen the rise of the “mega-hub” with “developing economies” seeking to exploit their geographic position and economic potential.

Fear and Loathing on the New York subway

The continuing dispute over how to design the transit map

A talk by Peter Lloyd

6.30pm Thursday 5th June 2014 at The Gallery

The 110-year-old subway in New York - the largest and most complex system on the planet - challenges mapmakers with a tough problem of information design.

SIGNWRITING: A thriving profession

A Talk and live demonstration by Wayne Tanswell

6.30pm Thursday 1st May 2014 at The Gallery

Wayne Tanswell became a traditional sign writer the day he left school in 1980, when he accepted a lift from a sign writer who was looking for an apprentice. Plastic signs were just taking off, and he thought he was learning a dying trade. Now, more than 30 years on, he’s never been busier, and attributes his success to the fact that "People don't want the perfection of computers any more. They want to see letters with feathered edges and the texture of brush strokes."

The ‘FaceSymbol’ Project:

Assisting understanding of Biometric Passport Controls

A talk by Richard Hodgkinson, FISTC

6.30pm Monday 7th April at The Gallery

Biometric (‘ePassport’) controls are being introduced at ports, airports and international rail terminals to improve speed and efficiency for arriving travellers without compromising the security of UK borders. To be effective, instructions at these largely automated controls must be easily and rapidly recognisable, comprehensible and consistent to users no matter their language and culture.

Guide Dogs - Wayfinding without signs:

The role and importance of assistance dogs

A Talk by John Welsman, Guide Dogs for the Blind Association

6.30pm Tuesday 11th March at The Gallery

The Society's mission extends well beyond a simple interpretation of its name and tonight's talk describes a classically important and vital aid to navigation beyond the field of fixed signing.

Dogs play a valuable role in supporting many disabled people with tasks in their daily lives. For a blind person, a guide dog is a valuable companion who assists their owner in getting around safely. An assistance dog can support its owner in carrying out many day to day physical activities which their disability limits them from achieving independently.

Much of the support that both guide and assistance dogs provides is in supporting their owner to access shops, restaurants, entertainment venues, leisure facilities, health services, public transport and many other daily activities common to all members of society.

Mile-a-minute typography

A Talk by Richard Simon, Applied

6.30pm Tuesday 4th February at The Gallery


In December 1961 Herbert Spencer published an article in Typographica 4 called Mile-a-minute Typography. In it he voiced the "urgent need to review the whole system of British road signs and especially to adopt simple pictorial symbols in place of the wordy and often ambiguous notices at present in use".

Spencer's work directly influenced the establishment of the Worboys Committee to review signage on British roads, which in turn led to the publication of the "Traffic Signs Regulations and General Directions" in January 1965, a document that still directs the design of traffic signs in the UK.

Member tweets

Who's Online

We have 196 guests and no members online

Contact Us

  • Sign Design Society,
    Flat 60,
    The Eye,
    Barrier Road,
    Chatham, Kent,
    ME4 4SD.
  • +44 (0)203 488 0774
Copyright © The Sign Design Society 2015