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Directional Signs

Directional SignsA successful directional sign system, (also known as a wayfinding solution) should be easy to understand, especially to those with a visual impairment and should be clear, concise and consistent in content.

To ensure efficient wayfinding, all general public access buildings should have a complete directional sign system. Such a system should provide clear guidance to and from destinations and ensure adequate signing for emergency situations.

When considering a new sign system for a project it is essential to spend sufficient time at the planning stage to examine the project in detail, to access the functions therein and their implications for a signage system. Carrying out this detailed analysis will ensure that the optimum solution will be created for the project.

Signs fall into four main groups:

  1. Information Signs, which in general are for orientation purposes including directories, maps and plans,
  2. Directional Signs direct to destinations usually by the use of text and arrows,
  3. Identification / Location Signs are usually at the destination point to advise that you have arrived at the facility you require and
  4. Safety / Mandatory Signs give information about fire exits / fire equipment or other hazards.

With the implementation of the Disability Discrimination Act [1995 revised October 1999] design teams are now obliged to recognise the diversity of needs their facilities have to meet and take reasonable measures to ensure those needs are met.

It is worth noting that the Act states that service providers will be required to make reasonable effort to ensure disabled people can use their services easily. This includes the provision of accessible signage, which is an essential element in gaining access to those services. Compliance was required by 2004, therefore if a design team is planning to implement a sign system for a building project, either new or refurbishment, that allows general public access it is a requirement to incorporate a sign system suitable to the visually impaired.

Whether designing a sign system for normally sighted people or those with visual impairments, the rules are generally the same. Clarity is all-important so it is best to utilise words that the user will understand and relate to the user’s needs. Consistency is important thus the wording used on a directory should match that found at the final destination point to avoid confusion. Typestyles should be carefully considered along with the sign contrast in relation to background and text colour.

Having briefly dealt with the content of directional signs it is also important to mention the location of signs within a building. Consistency of sign positions is most important, for instance in a building with many levels it would be best to situate directional / information signs in similar positions.

Signs should be positioned at the same height throughout the building except for those signs which include a control element e.g. lifts or door entry systems.

In conclusion, a carefully planned and well-designed directional sign system can not only complement the aesthetics of a well designed building but can also make visitors feel more comfortable within surroundings that may not immediately be familiar to them.

With over twenty eight year’s experience Frank McKee can provide the design and implementation of sign systems to meet all the above criteria.


One of the largest projects in the United Kingdom in recent year’s has been the surveying and scheduling of many buildings for the BBC, to allow their resigning programme to be completed by the nominated sign contractor. One of the largest single building sites in the UK was Television Centre in London, over one million square feet, and scheduled by Frank McKee.

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Frank W. McKee, 3 Beechill Court, Belfast BT8 7PN Northern Ireland
Tel: 028 9070 5232
| Mobile: 078 3166 1601

Email: fwmckee@aol.com