Natural History Museum launches £150,000 wayfinding tender

The museum is looking to update its signage and wayfinding for the first time in 16 years to align with its new brand identity and improve the visitor experience.

The Natural History Museum has launched a tender valued at £150,000 for the design of a new signage and wayfinding system.

The last major signage project was carried out 16 years ago in 2007, in a bid to align the signage at both its South Kensington and Tring sites when the current zoning at South Kensington was introduced. Since this system is largely still in place, some older signage remains alongside newer signs that do not follow the same model, resulting in inconsistency and confusion, according to the Natural History Museum.

The museum recognises that visitors find the South Kensington and Tring sites “confusing to navigate, and that the right orientational information is not always provided in the right place”, which often results in uneven distribution of visitors across the space.

Following the introduction of its new brand identity, the museum hopes for a new signage and wayfinding system for both South Kensington and Tring, which will help its audience navigate the sites, displays, collections and events. The South Kensington site consists of a number of buildings of different ages and designed for different purposes, and is surrounded by five acres of publicly accessible gardens.

The brief details that the signage and wayfinding will have to align with the new brand identity. The Natural History Museum has recently completed a signage and wayfinding audit and strategy and the chosen studio will be able to use the findings to help shape proposals. The museum also recently commissioned a set of pictograms which align with its new brand font.

Consistency and clarity are key aims for the new system, according to the museum, so the chosen studio must consider how on-site signage links with its online approach.

In terms of deliverables, the brief lists that for South Kensington the system should cover the whole site, excluding the garden on Cromwell Road and Queens Gate – which form part of the Urban Nature Project.

For Tring, it should cover external, front of house and publicly visible back of house areas, as well as a small number of signs relating to the legacy of the Rothschild family at Tring, to be delivered earlier than the main project.

The aim is to create a “welcoming, inviting and accessible environment” that will appeal to both its current and future audiences, says the Natural History Museum.  Proposals should follow the brand style guidelines, integrate the new pictograms and lay out “a clear hierarchy and structure” for the signs as well as differentiating between “varying signage needs whilst maintaining a single coordinated design scheme”, according to the brief.

Designers submitting proposals should also “describe how the system will function and provide components, including the types and locations; consider the visitor experience at entrances, which may result in proposals to improve or provide orientation points”, and encompass both physical and onsite digital signage for wayfinding.

New maps for both sites are also in the scope of the brief and are required to be graphic not interactive.

The closing date to submit proposals is 14 September 2023 with the contract due to start later this year on 11 December and run until 25 July 2025. To see the full brief and other documents, register interest here.

Featured image courtesy of Trustees of the Natural History Museum London; banner image Natural History Museum branding by Pentagram and Nomad

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