The Elephant made easy

Anyone who has passed by the big, pink shopping centre in London’s Elephant & Castle will appreciate the value of Lippa Pearce’s latest project.

Anyone who has passed by the big, pink shopping centre in London’s Elephant & Castle will appreciate the value of Lippa Pearce’s latest project. The area’s busy network of roads has spawned a subway system beneath which would put Spaghetti Junction to shame. To make matters worse, the local signage was out of date, tatty and not particularly clear.

Until Lippa Pearce came to the rescue with a new set of signs. These give information on transport, places and routes and are located on Elephant & Castle’s subway and walkways. They form part of a campaign by Southwark Council to spruce up the area, which includes the installation of CCTVs.

‘Our over-riding concern was to simplify things, so we were led by function rather than aesthetic design. We came up with clear, legible signs to reduce the chaos,’ says Lippa Pearce design director Domenic Lippa. The use of recognisable symbols for transport and directions means they can be understood by non-English speakers.

Much of the project was technical. It involved dividing the area into destinations and routes and deciding where to put the signs and which information to put on them.

Signage company Harkess-Ord helped Lippa Pearce with research, manufactured the signs and liaised with Southwark Council on planning details.

‘We tried not to give all the answers at all the points. The original signage had listed roads as far as half a mile away. The new signs are designed to guide you, giving one piece of information at a time,’ says Lippa, with a missionary zeal. He lived in the area for five years and knows how confusing it can be.

All but one of the 95 signs are made of dark blue vitreous enamel and brushed stainless steel and are curved for a softer shape; each is branded with the Elephant & Castle elephant crest. They have won seals of approval from the Employers Forum, local businesses, social workers and the disabled.

Client: Southwark Council

Designer: Lippa Pearce

Signage company: Harkess-Ord

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