Articles and features

This section features material gathered from multiple sources - or submitted by our members - that is worth just hanging onto. Some of the material was supplied for our Directions magazine and is 'members only'.

References are acknowledged wherever possible and all copyrights must be strictly observed. None of this work can be used for any commercial gain without the written permission of the author and/or company/administration.

Back To School

First issued in Directions 43

Back-to-school 1
State of the art school buildings can improve educational standards and have a positive effect on everyone who uses them. In 2001 the Government launched a five year investment-backed strategy to improve school buildings, information and communications technology (ICT) in order to radically improve the quality of education provision for all children in UK and create high-quality resources for the whole community.

Battle of the serif

First issued in Directions 51

Picture 4 800pixels

The M1 motorway is over fifty years old, and the iconic road signs that guide people along it are even older. Margaret Calvert worked with Jock Kinneir to produce the modern system of traffic signing introduced in UK in 1964. This system has been copied throughout the world and received much acclaim, being described as the “corporate identity of Britain”. Margaret wrote this insightful article sharing her experience of the project, largely focusing on the sign typeface, for the book ‘Graphic Design Since 1950’ produced by Alliance Graphique Internationale (AGI) in 2007.

Blind navigation

First issued in Directions 45

By June Bretherton

Many years ago, I was asked to provide an article for the Institute of Navigation’s magazine about how blind people navigate. I was asked by the ‘Directions’ compilers if I could let them have a copy, but have decided that it would be more appropriate to write something up-to-date instead. There is a similarity in many aspects of finding your way when you cannot use sight to that implemented by sailors out in the depths of the ocean.

Can historic cities be accessible?

First issued in Directions 49

There are many European historic cities, but are they accessible? June Bretherton & David Whitehead from JBC have been exploring attitudes to people with disabilities and identifying problems they face in different countries, focusing on historic city centres. Their thinking and research is ‘a work in progress’, looking at both traditional signage and also accessible alternatives in cities throughout Europe.

Capturing The Zeitgeist

First issued in Directions 42

Capturing the Zeitgeist 1 crop
The 2007 Designweek Awards shortlisted three projects in the Museums, Galleries and Visitor attractions categories. They were The Hong Kong Wetland Park, Louise T Blouin Institute, and Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum in Glasgow. Surprisingly, none were eventually selected for an award. In the case of Kelvingrove the judges had been expecting a great deal from a long awaited revamp of the historic building and its displays but weren’t impressed... citing amongst other things that

the work that had gone on within the historic building had been let down by what was deemed to be a fairly ordinary identity and wayfinding system.

Connecting Liverpool

First issued in Directions 37

connecting-liverpool 1Liverpool has been a much neglected city until recently. Now, with the lure of becoming a City of Culture the taps have been turned on. With its rich mix of old and new buildings and its enviable waterfront, and following the successful signing of Bristol, Wood & Wood were asked to sort out its wayfinding.

As part of Liverpool’s dramatic regeneration and transformation, a city-wide pedestrian wayfinding system is already helping to connect people with the city’s rich culture and heritage. In November 2004 I talked to members of the Sign Design Society about how privileged I feel to have been involved in this project, from its aspirational beginnings to the conclusion of this first phase.

Roger Crabtree, Wood & Wood Design.

The rest of this article is only viewable by members

Expert Guidance

First issued in Directions 40

Navigation, orientation and wayfinding are just a few of the terms we use to refer to the process of finding your way. Many factors contribute to the ease with which the task of wayfinding is successfully completed. Clear signs can help but they are just one element of a wayfinding system.

Expressing identity through wayfinding

First issued in Directions 49

By Sue Manley

Durham Millburngate Bridge-crop 800pixels
Towns and cities have their own particular character and qualities. Now more than ever, cities need to differentiate themselves from other similar places to attract more visitors and encourage them to explore. Sue Manley from Placemarque shares her experience
of designing wayfinding solutions, including city maps for three very different cities.

Exuberant gothic …or Adventures in the undercroft

First issued in Directions 47

exuberant-gothic-or-adventures-in-the-undercroft 1-crop

The train shed was designed by Victorian engineer William Barlow and when St Pancras was originally completed in 1868 the station had the largest single-span roof in the world, 100 feet high at its apex. As a result of Betjeman’s campaigning, St Pancras was designated a Grade 1 listed building in 1967 and over forty years’ later his influence still resonates. Betjeman wrote:

… the great arc of Barlow’s train shed gaping to devour incoming engines, and the sudden burst of exuberant Gothic of the hotel…

Frank Pick

Frank-pick1As head of the London Underground in the 1910s and 1920s and of the newly merged London Transport in the 1930s, FRANK PICK (1878-1941) was instrumental in establishing the world’s most progressive public transport system and an exemplar of design management.

From the red, white and blue roundel that has symbolised the London Underground since the 1910s and the diagrammatic map which enabled 1930s Londoners to find theirZ way around the fast-expanding underground train network, to publicity posters and upholstery fabrics created by famous artists such as Man Ray and Edward Nash, many of the best known – and best loved – images of London were commissioned by one man, Frank Pick.

Gothenburg - Some innovative ideas!

First issued in Directions 41

June Bretherton

Recently, whilst acting as a consultant on museum and gallery access for the National Portrait Gallery, I was asked to show some visitors from Sweden around the current "Fame!" Exhibition. The visitors were from Gothenburg City Council and SRF, the Swedish equivalent of RNIB.


First issued in Directions 37

In January, a record number of people heard June Bretherton of JBC London give a talk to the Society called ‘Inclusive Design’. This is what she said...

I was trained and worked as a teacher until I lost my sight in 1984. Four years later I started my own business, originally providing rehabilitation training and advice to newly impaired people. From 1995 my work developed into providing equality awareness training through a wide variety of channels including the Arts. I was joined by several colleagues and our organisation, JBC London, can now provide a wide spectrum of support including access audits and advice on DDA compliance. We are frequently called upon by many organisations including several design companies.

Keeping Track

First issued in Directions 38

From the Double Sausage to Double Dutch by way of the Double Arrow

SDS Chairman Barry Gray presented to the Society’s December meeting his illustrated review of 40 years’ experience and observation of the branding and wayfinding programmes for the UK’s rail network.

Report and commentary by Clive Chizlett

London as a living map

First issued in Directions 38

london-as-a-living-map 1Design Manager at Transport for London HQ, Innes Ferguson, outlined his proposal for network information points across London to the April meeting of the Society and its guests. Clive Chizlett reports

  • Where are you exactly?
  • Postal address...
  • Grid reference to the nearest metre...
  • Latitude and longitude in degrees, minutes and seconds relative to the Greenwich Meridian and the Equator...
  • Page number in the A-Z guide...
  • What is your nearest underground station?

Having got to the exit of the underground station nearest to my home, I have only reached the end of the beginning of my search. Now come the problems of location and orientation. Where am I exactly and in which direction is Orchard Way? I need help...

Melbourne: A regionally coordinated pedestrian signage project

First issued in Directions 51

Melbourne_A Regionally Coordinated Pedestrian Signage Project

By Bruce Herbes

Bruce Herbes from Visualvoice tells us about the work he has done to create a user-friendly, integrated signage system that will enable people to choose the most appropriate, sustainable travel options for them to explore and enjoy the region. The solutions include a map-based family of signs, supported by directional and route-marking signs. This article gives an overview of the design, the research and the implementation of the project.

Multilingual signage...can it ever work?

First issued in Directions 49

Paul Mason, a seasoned traveller, linguist and MD of Cicero Translations, shares his Top 10 things to think about when considering multi-lingual signs, following on from his talk to the SDS entitled “International signage: pitfalls and how to avoid them.”

Nobody's Perfect

First issued in Directions 37

Last year, Keith Bright of the University of Reading talked to the Society about the research projects which he is undertaking at the University. Clive Chizlett tells the story...

"By the year 2006 some 60% of the UK population will be aged between 65 and 95 years, about 39.6 million men and women. But, even in our salad days, it is likely that some of us were partially disabled, or needed aids to sight or hearing, or were none too quick in processing received information.

In the year after the Disability Discrimination Act became law, it is salutory to remind ourselves of some of the disabilities that it addresses."

Radical Thinking by Clive Chizlett

First issued in Directions 44

Our December talk in London was centred upon a review of ‘showing the way’ around the British Museum. The Museum has functioned for some 250 years as an archive and gallery which specialises in social and cultural aspects of human history world-wide. Branches of the Museum that are dedicated to the exact sciences and to natural history are located in South Kensington; the principal, headquarters building remains, where first established, in Bloomsbury, London.

Sign09 - A rewarding first for the society

First issued in Directions 50

By Mike Wolff, Chairman, The Sign Design Society

sign09 1The purpose of Sign09 was to bring together and inform people involved in the discipline, to offer education and networking opportunities and to improve awareness of the social and commercial importance of this often underestimated aspect of environmental design. From 3rd to 11th December 2009, IIID and the Sign Design Society organized a 9-day seminar on signage and wayfinding in Vienna, Austria. The seminar was a joint initiative between the International Institute for Information Design (IIID) and the Sign Design Society (SDS), with the overall goal to contribute to a better understanding of the importance of signing and wayfinding and to encourage greater focus in the design disciplines, industry and education.

Signing In Amman

First issued in Directions 48

By Essam Abu Awad

signing-in-amman crop

A visitor to Amman in Jordan will immediately notice the huge amount of advertising and signboards that adorn the buildings. They attract attention because of their size, location, design and the materials used. They reflect both the profession of the graphic designer and the state of the signage industry in Jordan.

Symbols To Help World Citizens....

First issued in Directions 44

In our ever-changing world, people and jobs are always on the move. The universal language of good, standardized graphical symbols is, therefore, a strong potential boon for citizens everywhere. Symbols can already be easily seen on their own or as part of signs in all kinds of places – in the home or office; in the car or on the beach ; in a factory or airport. In fact, we come across graphical symbols in just about every human activity. They are there to inform and guide, sometimes to warn, but always constituting an aid for us, as we go about our daily business. ISO technical committee ‘ISO/TC 145, Graphical symbols’ is at the forefront of a wide-ranging programme of graphical symbol standardization.

Tactile Graphics

First issued in Directions 41

RNIB - National Centre for Tactile Diagrams, Dr. Sarah Morley Wilkins

The importance of clear signage and maps is, of course, most evident when we find ourselves in an unfamiliar environment. These resources provide us with the independence to navigate around such an environment, without the reliance on other people who are familiar with it.

Talking maps... An access for all story

First issued in Directions 45

Loz Simpson is a sculptor. Not just a sculptor, but one with a very special interest and skill. Since the year 2000 he has worked in the field of tactile interpretation for museums, galleries and public places. In fact, he has become recognised as a leading figure within the burgeoning ‘Access for All’ movement. He works closely with RNIB as well as several other leading organisations and museums and has produced numerous works aimed at extending the same enjoyment of art experienced by the sighted to the visually impaired, thus allowing art to reach the entirety of its audience in a way that is not normally possible. This work has even extended to describing landscapes including Mount Everest itself.

The Dog Rose Trust

First issued in Directions 40

Think in broader terms

dog rose trust 1
It is too easy to think of signs in terms of directional indicators or information boards and we should remind ourselves that the dictionary defines a sign as ‘a gesture expressing a meaning, a signal, a mark with a meaning, a symbol, an emblem’ and so on... If we think in these broader terms then it is easier to make designs more accessible to a wider range of people and that includes people with disabilities.

Transantiago. . . Designing a new public transport navigation system

First issued in Directions 48

Sanitago and mountains thumb

Transantiago is a public transport plan for Santiago in Chile. It has been a controversial re-definition of public transport for a congested yet thriving Latin American city. Focusing on a user-centred design perspective, the new navigation system that supports the transport plan is a remarkable achievement. rodrigo ramírez, a designer on the information design team, describes the cultural user-observations and focuses on the navigation issues in order to explain how design decisions were taken, and what lessons can be learnt.

Typography and the Ageing Eye: Typeface Legibility for Older Viewers with Vision Problems

Article by Paul Nini  First published on

The population is rapidly ageing and becoming a larger share of the marketplace. Thirteen percent of the population is currently over 65 years old. In 30 years that group will double to 66 million people. People change as they age. Sensory, cognitive and motor abilities decline. The built environment is not typically created with the needs of the aging population in mind. How does the choice of typeface in signage systems, for example, impact the older viewer who is experiencing vision problems typical to that age group? Are certain typefaces more suitable to the aging eye?

Watch Out For The Signs!

First issued in Directions 43

watch-out-for-the-signs 1a
Architecture sometimes presents an almost insoluble signing problem. But at the Bethnal Green Museum of Childhood finding one’s way around is easy. It’s housed in a light and airy Victorian cast iron building with mezzanine and first floor galleries around three sides. Wide staircases at each side give access to these upper floors where almost all the exhibits are displayed.

We are going for a walk

First issued in Directions 46

We are going for a walk 03

Walking is something we used to do all the time, indeed in past times the majority of us walked everywhere, not only in our towns and cities but between them too.

What makes a good sign?

First issued in Directions 47

By Dominic Koole

BBC News Published: 25/09/2008

The speed camera sign is instantly recognisable but the “no stopping” sign isn’t. As a review of British road signs is launched, what makes some good and others bad?

“Hurrah . . . For The Life Of A Sailor . . .”

First issued in Directions 42

Hurrah for the life of a sailor 1The HMS Belfast is a warship which was retired from service in the 1950’s in its original state and is now permanently moored in the Thames near Tower Bridge.

This massive fully armoured ship was designed to eliminate the enemy, with every square inch devoted to this purpose. As a museum it is a very different and difficult environment for the visitor: enclosed cramped spaces, vertical stairways, corridors crammed with equipment and cabling. Once you leave the open decks, all sense of orientation is lost and few managed to find their way to see all areas open to the public.

Member tweets

Who's Online

We have 204 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