Signs of Change : Adapting to a New Visitor Experience

Updated: Sep 2, 2020

There’s a lot to do to keep staff and visitors safe as the world opens back up. The last thing you need these days is to worry about your signage not doing its job. As you create new and safe visitor experiences, consider some of the ways your signage can help you. Everything from interpretive panels and maps to directional and regulation signage are tools that will support you, your staff and your guests.

Blue, green and red park sign made with powder-coated graphics on aluminum
These regulatory signs are sure to need updating with the latest health and safety rules.

Some attractions and sites may have also chosen to have less staff around in the coming months. With fewer guides and interpreters, informative signs are a must. This may be an opportunity to take an inventory of the interpretive panels you have, and see what can be done to update, add or replace the signs around your signage.

New rules

Chances are, you will need to put up directional signs to control the flow of traffic and social distancing rules. You may also need panels with current Covid rules and regulations; these may be from local authorities or policies your site has put in place.

You may also have to control line-ups, especially at sites with popular exhibits, natural wonders or artifacts. It’s a great idea to add some signs where people are waiting with additional information. If the area is high-traffic, such as the lion or hippo exhibit at a zoo or near a popular ride, why not add some signs with fun facts, history, archival photos and documents- there are a lot of choices! It gives visitors something to do while they’re waiting and can also keep people spaced out so they’re not all piling up to read the one sign with all the information on it!

wayfinding sign interpretive panel
Information, fun facts and orientation all in one sign!

Keep Your Distance!

To prevent too many people from touching or getting too close to signs (meaning less sanitizing over time), they should be easy to read from a distance. If you have older signs that are hard to spot and read, it’s probably time to update.

green trail sign with birds on custom powder-coated graphics
Bright colors, high contrast and legible text makes this sign easy to read from a safe distance.

Bright colors, high contrast and the proper font size really help people notice signs and interact with them without being too close. For easy of readership in the 1-4’ range, the minimum font sizes are as follows: titles: 72 point; subtitles: 48 point; body text: 24 point; and captions: 18 point. There are great guides online to help you layout your signs in legible and engaging ways that your visitors will appreciate.

Help Visitors Find Their Own Way

With less staff around helping visitors learn and find their way, signs are essential. With a good wayfinding system in place, people can take self-guided tours. Along the way, place interpretive panels with lots of information, to make up for the lack of interpreters or guides.

Wayfinding and experiential graphics are unique specialties and there are a variety of engaging options when designing a system to help your visitors get the best out of their experience. You can learn more about the specialities at the SEGD (Society for Experiential Graphic Design). It’s a great resource for information and inspiration.

Time for New Signs

Of course, if new signs aren’t an option, there’s always diligent maintenance of existing signage. This goes for signage that’s front and center (visitor areas, trailheads, exhibition areas, etc.) as well as for signs that are a little more out of the way (further along trails or in public areas like washrooms and parking lots). Check the overgrowth situation, as it’s easy to cut back the greenery around signs to make them easier to spot. Exterior signs, especially those in public areas or on trails, can easily become obscured by trees, vines, tall grasses and dirt- anyone can take a few minutes to clean up the area.

If you end up needing to order new signs, think carefully about the material you choose. These days, you want easy-to-clean materials, and if possible, products with anti-bacterial properties. If you have less staff around to maintain the site, an easy-to-clean material reduces stress.

Choose materials that can withstand years of extreme weather and traffic.

Some other criteria to consider are sunlight and weather resistance. A fade-resistant material ensures signs don’t fade, making it easier for visitors to read the information. If your signs are outside, you will definitely want a material that can stand up to whatever weather you’re dealing with- high humidity, cold winters, lots of rain, or constant sun exposure. You also want signs that don’t have a lot of glare factor, so people can see them well even in bright sunlight.

With some time and effort, you can assess your wayfinding and signage situation and decide what’s right for you and your visitors. You can check out our website for more information and inspiration.

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