NHM unveils signage scheme

The Natural History Museum has this week put the finishing touches to the final stage of a three-year wayfinding and navigation project across its London and Tring sites. The museum’s in-house team has completed internal signage, part of a wider project that has spanned strategy, branding, and both internal and external navigation and wayfinding.

The brief, set in 2003 by the then visitor office strategy manager Gail Nolan, addressed issues of visual coherence and the physicality of signage at the museum in a bid to help it cope with its annual 3.8 million visitors, while using the identity to strengthen the brand.

NHM graphic designer Marc Desmeules, who worked on the project, explains, ‘One of the key things we had to look at was to distinguish marketing signage [promoting temporary exhibitions] from the navigation and information system. The signage also had to be a permanent feature – previously we had about four different systems with various designers changing graphics.’

NHM 3D designer Simon Caslaw explains that some of the existing signage obstructed events at the museum, so the team had to find a way of displaying the information so that it would take up as little space as possible or would be removable.

To make sense of the NHM’s 24 galleries, the design team has created a colour-coded system corresponding to particular areas of interest, while picto grams and symbols arranged in a hierarchical manner provide basic information.

‘The nearer that you are to the source, the more information about that area is displayed. The further away you are, the less information there is,’ explains Desmeules. Desmeules has also created a navigation map of the NHM that shows both perspective and gradient.

Hat Trick Design created the museum’s latest identity in 2004, while Holmes Wood worked on its exterior wayfind ing in 2006. The overall strategy for way finding and navigation was created by the now def unct Information Design Unit at Enterprise IG (DW 9 February 2006). The museum’s in-house team also consulted with English Heritage.


• 2004/2005: Hat Trick Design creates a Design Week Awardwinning brand identity for the Natural History Museum

• February 2006: Holmes Wood appointed to work on exterior wayfinding and navigation

• February 2006: NHM under -takes an internal signage redesign, with strategy by Enterprise IG, now known as The Brand Union

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