Successfully moving visitors through a new events building.
Aspects, the new £8m purpose built events centre will welcome local, national and global visitors over many years. It’s located in the stunning grounds of the Arboretum and offers users of the facility uninterrupted views of the UK’s year-round centre of Remembrance.
Like the Remembrance Centre itself, Aspects can be described as an epitome of contemporary design. Conceived by the same designers, Glenn Howells Architects, and built by the same contractors Stepnall Ltd, Aspects shares the same qualities and warmth as the original Remembrance Centre.
The look and feel of Aspects, however, has been elevated to differentiate itself onsite as the well-received events centre that comfortably sits amongst landmarks of national importance.
After the successful opening in October 2018, users can enjoy modern facilities for a variety of purposes including but not limited to formal or informal meetings, large conferences for up to 500 people, banqueting for up to 300 people, exhibitions, team building activities, group dining, gift fairs, training and more.
As the construction phase neared its end, attention turned to signage and wayfinding solutions needed for Aspects. Brand Jam in partnership with Hardy Signs were invited to tender for a ‘Front of House’ signage package alongside other independent companies with a specialism for wayfinding and signage design and manufacturing.
We presented a thoughtful and carefully drafted tender submission which included detailed designs with full costings within budget to key members of the project team at the National Memorial Arboretum.
We were delighted to receive the call confirming that our bid was successful. We became the creative partners trusted to deliver this final and significant part of the build.
The brief: what the National Memorial Arboretum required…
The project team at the National Memorial Arboretum required a signage package that ensured all spaces within Aspects are easily identified, understood and reflective of the buildings location. In particular, Sarah Oakden asked for a ‘clever use of materials in the design, especially those which can be found in the wider Arboretum and ones which have meaning and/or symbolism’. Also, to ensure longevity, the signage required was to be accessible enough to work with different themes and decors in this current and future refurbishments.
Using these instructions, Brand Jam and Hardy Signs forged ahead with intelligent design and skilled signage manufacturing to deliver all of these requests. Sarah Oakden notes:
“We really felt that Brand Jam and Hardy Signs understood what it was we wanted to achieve; perhaps more than we did at the start. We are thrilled with the design and installation work and really feel that it brings out the personality of the building, which in itself was very carefully designed.”
Sarah Oakden – Head of Marketing, National Memorial Arboretum
Our interpretation of the brief
The initial step was to complete a site visit and talk to key stakeholders managing the project. As lead creatives, we need to completely understand how the building works, move through the space to identify a number of different orientation options, and realise the best vantage points for where both internal and external signage should sit for maximum usage.
We listened to stakeholder views carefully and met the objectives outlined above using a creative vision that stayed true to the National Memorial Arboretum’s existing branding. In total 34 signs of the highest quality were designed, manufactured and installed on time and within budget.
The creative vision
Our design team headed up by Chris Robinson (Creative Director), mapped out our vision for each of the required signs. As designers, we had to consider a number of key factors including the efficient use of clean and contemporary lines found within the building. We also had to incorporate the use of a universally understood language as Aspects will be used by a varied audience such as young children, adults, veterans, corporate attendees, group travel organisers and the general public. Finally, It was imperative that we leaned towards a sympathetic use of current brand guidelines as we considered and carefully chose relevant materials that served to highlight the symbolism of where Aspects is situated.
The desired level of synergy amongst all of these key design elements was achieved using sympathetic colourways, typography and thoughtful material application. We decided that the overall look and feel of the signs needed to be contemporary using clean lines that are sympathetic to the Architects vision for the building. We felt it was important not to over design the space with bold colour palettes and fancy typography. Equally, a balanced approached between functional signage (toilet door signs for example) and more expressive signage such as interpretation panels was very much needed.
Fonts and typography
The fonts used and typographic style was chosen to encourage continuity. Having its own clear identity but staying close to brand allowed the Aspects signage to have a separate yet familiar connection to the Remembrance Centre. Variations of the chosen font enabled the signage to be legible and easily understood by the Arboretum’s diverse audiences and disparate visitors. Our choice of a dark colourway with with crisp white lettering advocates a high end contemporary feel. It also echoed some of the natural colours found and used within and around the Arboretum.
The signs in detail
To achieve successful wayfinding, it was important to move people through the Remembrance Centre and towards Aspects with minimal fuss and complexity. The events building is located within the grounds of the Arboretum and as you approach it from Heroes’ Square, you are immediately greeted with a show piece sign on the exterior of the building near the main entrance. Its bold presence immediately defines the building. And, the large crisp 3D white lettering welcomes users during the day which then transforms into a warm halo lightening effect as dusk falls. As some events are held in the evening, this subtle halo effect would draw users to Aspects without being too overbearing.
Our functional signage
Once inside, functional signage was designed to move visitors around Aspects, indicating the location of significant areas such as the main banqueting suite, the meeting rooms, toilets and cloakroom. These signs also convey necessary statutory information such as fire evacuation points, CCTV usage and the premise licence. Although practical, these important signs were made to look attractive using a clean style that was pleasing and easy to read.
Our more innovative and symbolic signage
A different creative approach was used for symbolic signs. The donor recognition panel required a stronger visual presence with a clear, undoubting expression of thanks to all of the generous donors who had gifted monies towards the build of Aspects.
Meeting rooms that stand out
The room naming signs and interpretation panels located within each of the meeting rooms needed to embody the location of Aspects. The name of each room was inspired by five species of tree planted within the Arboretum grounds. To emphasise this natural landscape, we deliberately designed each name plate to have a clear visual connection to the tree each individual meeting room shared its name with. We chose wood rather than standardised metal plating to provide a tactile, sensory experience to visitors. Beautiful, natural wood for “Alder’, ‘Hornbeam’, ‘Chestnut’ ‘Willow’ and ‘Oak’ were locally sourced and cut into 3D letters and numbers by Hardy Signs.
Interpretation panels that draw you in
Continuing with the theme of wood, you can find interpretation panels offering detailed information about the tree species and where they can be found within the grounds of the Arboretum inside each meeting room. We chose to use large wavney edge planks to highlight the grain and individual characteristics of each tree. They were oiled to enrich the natural grain patterns. Interpretation lettering was then applied to the boards using cut vinyl and acrylic which was easy to read and subtle enough not to overshadow the natural characteristics of the individual wood. We deliberately designed them in this way for maximum visual impact whilst being incredibly tactile. We also believed the design would encourage visitors to go on to enjoy the Arboretum grounds once their event had concluded.
Making the most of the stunning views
As you sit within Aspects, full height glazed walls offer uninterrupted view across the Arboretum. To help inform the visitors about the different ‘aspects’ of each view, two types of interpretation panels were designed. An all-weather stainless steel unit for the external terrace and a free-standing frameless clear acrylic unit for the internal seating areas. Both styles were designed to offer visitors easy access to information without interrupting the vista.
Hardy Signs’ Skilled Manufacturing
Whilst Brand Jam had a clear creative vision for Aspects, Hardy Signs, a trusted and reliable sign manufacturing company, brought the wayfinding to life. Our designs were different and unique but we knew Tom Hardy, (Operations Director of Hardy Signs) and his team would be able to understand our approach and supply the best quality materials to give the National Memorial Arboretum the look and feel they asked for. Tom Hardy notes:
“We are particularly proud of the natural wooden elements within this signage scheme. Our skilled manufacturing team have interpreted the unique concepts created by Chris and his team at Brand Jam and have used the latest technology to craft three-dimensional lettering from locally sourced, rustic, raw materials in Willow, Alder, Oak, Chestnut and Hornbeam… the results are stunning”
Tom Hardy – Operations Director, Hardy Signs
After the successful completion of the design, manufacturing and install of the signage and wayfinding processes, Chris Robinson reflected on the project saying ‘We are immensely proud of the unique signage solutions we designed for Aspects. The Arboretum is such an important place both locally and nationally it’s been a honour to work on the project’.
The final outcome of the project has been incredibly satisfying for all involved. It was important to give Aspects a unique identity that will stand the test of time. All of the signs were designed to complement the building and to amplify the clean contemporary lines developed by the Architects. Sarah Oakden said:
“Aspects is an extremely important building for us, enabling us to not only provide a befitting environment for those that have given so much for their country, but allowing us to broaden our services for new types of visitor to help with our future sustainability. We are delighted with the interpretation of our brief, the final signage solution and the service provided by both companies throughout the project.”