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.

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Destination London 2012

A panel discussion with Kevin Owens, Richard Hill and Richard Scott

Wednesday 4th December 2013 at 6.30pm

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London 2012 was perhaps the largest, most complex and challenging wayfinding project ever undertaken in the UK. At the centre was the Olympic Park.

The Park took seven years to build from winning the bid in 2005 to the opening ceremony on 27 July 2012. The Park included nine new competition venues. During the four weeks of the games four million people visited the Park and at its peak it hosted 200,000 at any one time.

The project faced some unique design challenges, from creating and implementing a visual identity to delivering environments and structures to exacting requirements which showcased the best of British design.

The London Olympic Committee of the Olympic and Paralympic Games (LOCOG) had the responsibility of putting on the Games. And all the time the world was watching…and waiting.

Concentric circle maps: simplicity versus coherence

A talk and live webinar by Maxwell Roberts, University of Essex

6.30pm Wednesday 6th November at Gensler

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"Simplicity versus Coherence: What concentric circles maps tell us about usability and aesthetics of schematic map design”

With the completion of London’s new orbital railway in 2012, schematic maps based on circles to emphasise the new connectivity started to emerge. Less than impressed by these attempts, Max produced a new version of the capital's rail network based on concentric circles and spokes. Intending this as a light-hearted exploration of novel design techniques, the last thing he expected was for the internet to go haywire!

Traffic Signs Policy Review

A talk and live webinar by Graham Hanson

6.30pm Thursday 3rd October 2013 at The Gallery


“The UK's road traffic signing system is recognised as one of the most effective in the world and much emulated by others.  However, since its’ conception in the early 1960's, the way we use our roads and the number of vehicles on them together with how they are regulated has changed very considerably. 

Accordingly the last Government instituted a full review which has been the subject of extensive consultation by the DfT and Graham Hanson will set out the progress that the Department has made to policy since “Signing the Way” was published in 2011. 

Bomber Command Memorial

A talk and live webinar by Richard Kindersley

6pm Thursday 5th September 2013 at The Gallery

Bomber Command web
My Studio was commissioned three years ago to design the graphics for the new Memorial including designing an original typeface to reflect the architecture.

My talk will chart the process of designing and drawing the alphabet with some insight into the discussions with the client and the eventual carving into the Portland stone elevation of the main structure. I will also discuss the reasons behind opposition to the Memorial and the lack of recognition of the 55,573 airmen who lost their lives during the campaign. Contemporary history suggests that Bomber Harris shortened the war but for reasons he never imagined, so these intriguing points will be raised during the talk.

Wayfinding for sustainable cities

A talk by Mike Rawlinson, Design Director, City ID

wayfinding-for-sustainable-citiesThe talk will illustrate the challenge of evolving a wayfinding strategy developed by City ID and Endpoint ME for what aims to be one of the world's most sustainable urban development, Masdar City, UAE. This multibillion pound development, masterplanned by Foster and Partners, is an emerging global hub for renewable energy and clean technologies that will position Masdar at the heart of this emerging global industry.

No unauthorised admission: Wayfinding for a military site

A talk by Andrew Barker

no-unauthorised-admission-wayfinding-for-a-military-site2Just what is the signing strategy for the new high-security Northwood HQ which is the MoD’s Headquarters as well as Nato’s UK base? Our presence in Afghanistan is managed from this top secret military site.

Did the site need signage at all? Are visitors and strangers permitted to know what any of the buildings are? In theory once admitted visitors are allowed to wander unaccompanied, in practice one can be interrogated at any time by men carrying serious weapons

Some of the plans I was given didn¹t name or identify the function of any rooms, this was because the construction workers didn¹t need to know. I needed to know, and one of the challenges was to get the information I needed.

Pedestrian sign design for the external urban realm

A talk by Roger Crabtree

pedestrian-sign-design-for-the-external-urban-realmA product designer’s perspective

The external urban realm is a highly demanding environment for product design. With 24/12 exposure, a 10 to 15 year life expectancy, heavy public use and even facing aggressive vandalism, pedestrian signage systems must work very hard to always perform well and look good. This is a challenging brief, not always successfully delivered.

This illustrated talk will reflect on the pitfalls and summarise through successful example on how to get it right.

Roger Crabtree has a breadth of knowledge in environmental design, gained over many years with leading design consultancies, serving key clients such as Adshel, JCDecaux, Cityspace, Dublin Docklands and local councils including Bristol, Liverpool and Islington.

Voyages of Discovery

A talk by David Gibson

For centuries travelers have headed off to unfamiliar places, some carried maps to guide them, while others were charting new routes and territories as they ventured forth. In either case they went with hopes of finding something, a destination, a new route, a pot of gold. Likewise twenty-first century travelers are on the move for all kinds of reasons. Unlike their forebears, these modern day explorers have a host of tools at their disposal to help them find their way.

Transforming the V&A

A talk by Moira Gemmill, Director of V&A’s FuturePlan

transforming-the-v-aMoira Gemmil is responsible for planning and implementing FuturePlan, the V&A's programme of restoration, refurbishment and redesign of the galleries and public spaces.

Working with the best architects and designers, both new and emerging as well as experienced and established practices, FuturePlan’s mission is to restore contemporary design innovation into the heart of the museum.

FuturePlan Phase 1 (2000- 2009) is now complete. 70% of the museum has been revitalised over the 10 year period at a cost of £120 million. FuturePlan Phase 2 (2010 – 2019) is already underway and includes ambitious restoration and new-build plans for the South Kensington site as well as extending V&A’s presence beyond London.

Wayfinding in the public realm

A talk by Sue Manley

Our city centres, and the type of visitors and their demands,change over time. The talk will concentrate on wayfinding in the urban context. By using a number of case studies such as the City of London, Cambridge and Durham we can see how some places have evolved to respond to contemporary life yet the grain and key landmarks still refer to an earlier time. Wayfinding needs to address these changing requirements
by identifying what is important to visitors now, yet retaining the character and references that make these city centres so distinctive.

Orientation in the Landhaus

A talk by Christian Mariacher of Atelier Mariacher

orientation-in-the-landhaus1Orientation in the Landhaus, Innsbruck, Austria -  Shaping a mental model of a public space by the use of design.

The 'Landhaus' is the seat of the Tyrolean parliament and government. The building, which is situated in the centre of the city of Innsbruck in Austria, poses a complex orientation-problem for visitors.It consists of several inter-linked buildings from different historical periods, each of which contain a range of public-orientated functions from administrative and legislative to public representation.

The birds and the bees

A talk and live webinar by
Colette Jeffrey, Designer, Researcher and Lecturer

6pm Thursday 4th July 2013 at The Gallery, followed by our "Summer soirée"

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What can we learn from pigeons and bees and their navigation behaviour? Can animals help us solve human wayfinding problems?

After fifteen years of creating signage systems and wayfinding strategies for airports, hospitals, museums and libraries, Colette is now questioning all that she thought she knew about how people find their way. She will share her ideas on why we get lost in a visually inspiring, thought-provoking talk.

Kevin Lynch (the inventor of the term ‘way finding’) believes that the ‘terror’ of being lost comes from us needing to be orientated in our surroundings. Peter White, the Radio 4 presenter who gave April’s SDS talk talked about his fears when wayfinding but he believes that a high proportion of people are lost and that we should not be worried about being lost. We should be creating environments where it’s okay to be lost.

Hand-painted Cambodia: Street signs from Phnom Penh and beyond

A talk by Sam Roberts

6th June at The Gallery

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Flying pigs, retro hairstyles and hand grenades will all feature in this talk about the art and craft of Cambodia's street advertising.

The story of the signs and the people who paint them will be introduced with reference to Cambodian art, culture and history. This story is inseparable from events in Cambodia over the last 40 years, notably the impact of the infamous Khmer Rouge regime. This crushed both art and commerce, the two spheres of activity straddled by these hand-painted signs. Their rise and gradual fall since this time brings us up to the current day and the uncertain future faced by this characteristic feature of Cambodia’s streets.

Geographic Information Systems - bringing wayfinding data to life!

A talk and live webinar by Damien McCloud, Arup

Thursday 2nd May 2013 at Arup

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Wayfinding is all about Location and Place, and key modern tools in the planning and resolution of wayfinding problems can be Geographical Information Systems or GIS.

In its simplest form, GIS simply means the management and visualisation of any data with a geographical location and the idea is hardly new - one of the first uses of spatial analysis being the analysis of the geographic incidence of cholera in Paris in the early 18th century.

Defining a City

defining-a-cityHow an informed choice of materials can influence a design and define the values of a City. A talk by Ivan Bennett of Transport for London

Product design has a strong heritage within Transport for London (TfL), and the range of products within its environments is diverse: signage, customer information products, station furniture, gate-line equipment, architectural fittings and ironmongery, furniture and fittings, customer security products and secondary revenue products.

The London Underground Map

A talk by Maxwell Roberts

Sometimes called a design classic, sometimes a design icon, the London Underground map has been a part of London for decades. Over the years, with more and more additions, the challenge to produce clear attractive maps that keep to the rules, places increasing demands on its designers.

International signage: Pitfalls and how to avoid them

A talk by Paul Mason

We can all think of examples of mistranslated or incomprehensible signs and notices we have come across. This talk will focus on:

  • How to make even non verbal (i.e. pictorial or iconic) signage truly international
  • The importance of briefing translators properly about the context and likely readership of a proposed sign
  • How to decide on the order of languages in multilingual signs
  • How to ensure the layout works for every language.

Delivery of a major wayfinding signage project

A talk by Stuart Dodds

How do you go about designing, manufacturing and installing 30,000 wayfinding signs at Heathrow Terminal 5? What is involved in delivering signage to the Channel Tunnel rail line and the new high speed service?

This talk will look at what needs to be considered to deliver a large scale project, from the initial client aspirations, through product design, to installation and post project review. We’ll be looking at the various processes we have to go through including some tasks that perhaps many won’t be familiar with.

Dubai: a metropolis new to metro

dubai-a-metropolis-new-to-metro cropA talk by Tony Howard, Managing Director, Transport Design Consultancy (TDC)

Dubai Metro opened in 2009. It is the first passenger railway in the UAE and set to be one of the world's largest fully automated metros when completely operational. Picture a bustling cosmopolitan city exposed to the elements on the edge of a desert; a place where people are not accustomed to travelling on public transport, except taxis and buses which add to already congested roads. Then build an ambitious metro network - what do first time users do? Tony Howard talks about the challenge to establish a dual language wayfinding and signing system intuitive to navigate by locals and visitors alike.

Bringing meaning to place

Connecting communities with wayfinding, narratives and graphic artworks

A talk by Richard Wolfströme

How do you connect people to a place?
How do you give people a sense of ownership of their environment?
How do you reveal a place to be rich in meaning and potential?
How do you get a sense of where you are and where you are going?

Designing for a City

A talk by Sam Gullam, founder of Lacock Gullam

During the last decade there has been a significant increase in the desire of city authorities to provide information that helps people to move around and navigate the public realm. However, they find it difficult to implement the required systems with a holistic approach, even if they set out with the intent to provide a seamless journey for the user.


A talk by Julian Maynard, Maynard Design

crossrailCrossrail is the new high frequency, convenient and accessible railway for London and the South East. From 2018 Crossrail will make travelling easier and quicker. It will reduce crowding on London’s transport network, carrying more than 1500 passengers in each train during peak periods.

In partnership with Atkins/Grimshaw our scope of work was to design a unified family of common products and systems, creating a Crossrail line wide identity within the station environments and maximising cost-efficiencies through a common design. Our aim was to design a modern, minimal, elegant and functional transport system that enhances the passenger experience.

Visual clues in light

A talk by Speirs + Major

Visual clues in lightLight is an intrinsic part of our lives, our cultural make up and our means of experiencing spaces and places. It is a precious and difficult medium to work with which should be used in a considered and measured manner. The most successful results are those when light becomes a subtle, imperceptible quality of a space.

This illustrated talk by Keith Bradshaw and Telli Nourkeyhani, will draw a parallel between the role of light and signs in our cities. It will aim to show that conceptually and physically integrated light enhances the quality of how we experience and comprehend spaces, find our ways around and behave in them. 

Wayfinding and signing in Asia

A talk by Nic Banks, Founder of Atelier Pacific

wayfinding-and-signing-in-asiaIn recent years, many parts of Asia have become high-density urban environments where people are more mobile than ever before, both in terms of physical travel due to the rapid development of transportation systems, and daily communication due to increased technology networks.

As such, a visual (pictorial-based) system that can be understood in a cross-cultural environment is important  to fulfil the need of communication across this change of boundaries. However, some cultural norms or elements may be lost through this process of change, so designers are faced with the challenge of how to integrate cultural elements with signage design  ‘standards’ so as to produce ‘contextual’ environmental graphics in different ethnic regions/borders. 

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