Signs of Change—Adapting to a New Visitor Experience

Signs of Change—Adapting to a New Visitor Experience

Read Time: 2.5 minutes

By Melanie Daigle, ALTO™️ I FOLIA™️ by SH

Watching over the past few months as countries have opened back up, it’s become clear that we are not interacting with the world the way we used to. Behaviors have changed, especially in public spaces. Now, those who are maintaining and designing public spaces have to consider how to keep people safe in those spaces, and that means everyone from maintenance staff to volunteers to visitors.

A sign’s role in social distancing is key. They are working overtime in the directional and regulatory roles, providing the visual cues people need to follow a particular path or learn site-specific health and safety rules. We are living in a new world of line-ups and marks on the floor telling us where to stand, and even if we think we are used to it, we look to signs in public places to direct us.

Interpretive signs or panels play a more subtle role in keeping people safe. Those that are legible from several feet away allow visitors to learn more about their environment, while maintaining a safe distance from others. If signs at a site are crammed with small text and faded images, it only encourages people to get closer to the sign simply to read it and others who have been forced to do the same.

With attractions like zoos, theme parks and museums open again, the issue of keeping people apart needs some creative problem-solving. A few well-placed interpretive panels can help manage crowds, especially in line-ups or in high-traffic areas like exhibits or rides. A few fun facts, a timeline, photos or some engaging infographics gives visitors something to peruse while they’re waiting. It also keeps people spaced out so they’re not all piling up to read the one sign with all the information on it.

We can also consider that many attractions and sites have limited staff these days. With fewer guides and interpreters, informative signs are a must. 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. This is an opportunity for creative minds to develop truly self-sustaining experiences that do not rely on physical contact, but on imagination and visual and aural discovery.

For anyone working on a project with a lot of signs or panels on site, this is an opportunity to take an inventory and see what can be done to update, add or replace the signs that are not pulling their weight. Older signs that are hard to spot and read will most likely need replacing.

As sites develop new and safe visitor experiences, it is worth considering how to use traditional signage as a powerful tool to convey information of all kinds. Signs help people keep their distance from each other. Signs made with the right materials are easy to sanitize. Interpretive panels take the burden off of staff. Signs are more than just text; with a combination of photos and graphic elements, it can be legible and accessible to a variety of people. Ultimately, the signs and panels arrayed throughout sites of any kind contribute to a full, engaging experience.


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