What Makes for Quality and Effective School Signage?

School signage is often overlooked by comparison to corporate signage, and even compared to higher educational organisations such as colleges and universities. Signage in schools is no less vital, however, and plays a wide range of important roles inside a school. From building the school’s reputation as an educational institution to ensuring that everyone can safely find their way to an emergency exit, signage is manifested in schools in such a way that they cannot safely and effectively operate without it.

We’re going to take a look in more detail at these different but equally crucial functions played by signage in schools, and in particular, how schools can make sure that their signage achieves these functions more effectively. Does school signage simply need to be readable to be effective? Or is there much more to it? Read on to learn everything that you need to know.

Excuse me, where’s the library?

Schools consist of departments broken down by subject area, and each department usually has several classrooms. Between lessons, hundreds or even thousands of pupils and staff have to move from classroom to classroom in a very short space of time. If just one child or teacher is late to a lesson, then the whole class suffers.

There’s also the consideration of new pupils. Schools want to help them settle in and feel comfortable in their new surroundings as much as possible, as it can be a scary and intimidating time when starting in a new school. Therefore, clear and effective wayfinding signage is paramount to the everyday functioning of the school.

Another chokepoint in schools occurs in the morning and evening when busses and cars arrive in the tens and hundreds. The importance of wayfinding signage is most clearly seen on the first day of the school year – children are excited to be back with their friends, and parents are probably glad to have them back in school too. This can very easily be soured by frustration, however, due to ineffective directional signage.

Evaluate your wayfinding signage

It’s imperative that parents can park, drop off their children and leave efficiently to avoid making everyone late for work and to create a good impression of the school. An easy way to evaluate the effectiveness of your existing signage is to look at it with ‘prospective parent goggles’ on – pretend that you’re a first-time visitor and try to navigate using only the cues of directional signage.

Start from the main road. Can you see the school from the road? Or is signage required to welcome visitors and guide them towards the reception? One solution could be to stock up on temporary signage, such as banners, for the first week of school to help keep traffic flowing and minimise stress levels.

Now you’re on the campus – can you find the reception easily? Depending on the size of the campus, traditional signposts to the most important destinations can be particularly effective here. It’s not practical to signpost every single department or room, though, and it can be frustrating and inconvenient to parents and visitors to have to visit the reception every time to ask for directions.

‘You are here’-style maps of the campus with a colour-coded directory listing can be mounted in signs and placed at strategic locations such as the car park, the reception and areas where multiple paths converge. Of primary importance, however, is the need to keep maps and directories simple and easy to read. Too much information can be just as frustrating and ineffective as none at all.

Safety signage is regulated by numerous health and safety laws and local authority rules, but as you view the campus with your ‘prospective parent goggles’, ensure that emergency exit signs are visible wherever you are. Your wayfinding system should complement your safety signage to provide a truly effective directional solution.

Signage as branding

As well as aiding in navigation and safety, school signage is also an integral part of the institution’s image and thus its reputation. Modern, correctly installed and well-maintained signage can be used to create a professional and welcoming atmosphere for both the students and those all-important prospective parents. The style and design of the signage sets the tone for what happens inside the buildings, helping school managers to build an environment conducive to learning.

Branded signs should feature the school’s logo or crest; its values and philosophy, summed up by a slogan; and some contact information, such as a website, phone number and email address. The signage could also be cleverly designed to incorporate any brand colours, such as those reflected in the school’s uniform.

The design and quality of school signage is critical. There isn’t necessarily a ‘right’ way to design a school sign, but the signage should reflect the school in as many ways as possible in order to be effective. For example, consider the different effects created by using a sleek, modern sans-serif typeface compared to one styled like handwritten calligraphy. Both can make for great signs, but communicate very different messages.

This is necessary to ensure that your signage fulfils its purposes and doesn’t inadvertently put people off at first sight due to poor quality or design, which would naturally convey the message of a poor quality school. Careful use of quality design in your signage will ensure that the school is recognised as an educational institution with a distinctive set of ethics, standards, values and approaches to learning.

Whether it’s for primary schools, nurseries, private schools, comprehensives, academies or even specialist schools, The Sussex Sign Company can work with you to produce an all-encompassing signage solution that coherently and clearly conveys the values and philosophy of your school. We have a wealth of experience with all forms of signage, from main entrance signs, notice boards and welcome signs to information display boards and directional signage. Get in touch through our website to learn more. Call us on 01273 417057.