Helping visitors explore and discover National Maritime Museum with a new wayfinding scheme

To support the opening of four new galleries opening in September 2018, CCD were contracted by Royal Museums Greenwich (RMG) to develop and design a new wayfinding scheme for National Maritime Museum in Greenwich, London.

Client: Royal Museums Greenwich
Location: Greenwich, London

Transform Awards Europe 2019: GOLD – Wayfinding or Signage award

British Sign Awards 2018: Highly Commended – Wayfinding Scheme of the Year award

Bold, Colourful Design

Uniquely for museum wayfinding, CCD took a bold, colourful approach. This is a clear departure from standard museum wayfinding that is usually text-based and reliant on mapping.

The hierarchy of information on the signs was a very deliberate way of enticing visitors to explore, the imagery providing preview of what can be discovered in each gallery as well as helping non-English speaking visitors to navigate.

A bespoke set of pictograms was designed for maximum legibility and align with NMM’s branding. RMG use the font Cera Pro for all their communications so the pictograms were designed to match the characteristics of the font so they look and feel like an extension of the character set. The background colours of the signs utilise the RMG brand, Battleship grey was used as a neutral background colour so that all other imagery and colours stood out.

The Head of Marketing approved the wayfinding scheme design as an extension of the NMM brand, which was an important part of the brief.

“Epic Exploration”

 The scheme needed to align with Royal Museums Greenwich’s new brand strategy, launched in April 2017, positioning the museum as “an epic place of exploration”, and use this to help visitors to explore and immerse themselves in the experience.  

A significant challenge was the architectural disconnect between the original museum building and extension. The wayfinding needed to make the museum permeable, unite the two spaces and deliver epic exploration to visitors.

Key to the museum was showcasing the world-class collections and encouraging visitation to the other Royal Museums Greenwich sites: Royal Observatory, Cutty Sark and Queens House. 

Humanising the challenges

To humanise the problems at hand, CCD talked with both staff and visitors using a range of research.  

Feedback from front-of-house staff workshops highlighted that visitors struggled to find facilities, such as the toilets, and were often unaware that there were two entrances. In response to these insights, a key part of our strategy was identifying these areas as a basic need and focusing on directing to entrances and onward travel beyond.  

CCD used a variety of ethnographic methods to understand visitors and inform the strategy:

Behavioural observations helped to identify visitor pain points. ‘Undercover’ work, such as asking visitors where to find specific facilities, reinforced the insights from front-of-house staff that basic facilities were difficult to find.

Interviews with visitors gave us deeper understanding of causes behind frustration or confusion with the building layout, including entrances, exits, vertical circulation and onward travel. 

The wayfinding design extended to digital screens at the museum. CCD and the in-house design team co-designed the ‘Welcome Hubs’.

These large scale displays act as an access point to find out more about the museum offer with maps of the museum and the rest of the Royal Museums Greenwich sites, along with digital displays that provided a list of ‘What’s on’.

The project led to further work with RMG, including the wayfinding strategy and design for the Prince Philip Maritime Collections Centre.

The Front Of House staff all believe that the wayfinding in place is working as intended, encouraging visitors into the galleries on the upper floors. The simplistic style of the signage is easy to understand for a range of our visitors and the imagery works well to give an insight about gallery content. The team are not being asked as many questions about locations of galleries and how to reach the upper floors as the visitors are able to locate them using the wayfinding.

Elizabeth Dixson - General Manager - Royal Museums Greenwich