Work in Progress: Kirklees College

We’ve just completed our second project for Kirklees College, a package of interior wayfinding signs for The Wheelwright Centre, part of the campus at Dewsbury.

The Centre was formerly Wheelwright Grammar School for Boys and is now home to the much respected Batley School of Art & Design.  A large Victorian building with 135 rooms over six levels, it’s been extended over time and sits in its own grounds.

All the walls along the corridors are used as display spaces for student work (a really nice feature of the building) so directional signs are kept to a minimum at key junctions.

When we first talked to the College about wayfinding within buildings we were told that previous attempts had not worked that well — many of the College’s buildings are complex spaces which users find difficult to find their way around, department names on modular directional signs and directories needed frequent updating, the high spec system used in some buildings was easily damaged and both costly and time consuming to replace.  They liked the idea of colour coding levels and had recently put up some low spec signs to test this idea.  We were asked to suggest a new scheme, incorporating the colour coding, which was then put into one of their smaller buildings as a prototype phase.

The first thing we did was simplify the material specification, focusing on robustness and finish to address the issue of damage.  Identification, information and directional signs are manufactured in sheet aluminium which is painted and silk screen printed with a protective matt lacquer finish.  The signs are fitted using concealed fixings.

Wayfinding is based around the room numbering system.  Each room is clearly identified by its unique reference with the first two characters representing the building and level.  Rooms are then included on directional signs and directories, which also feature key facilities such as learning resources, places to eat and toilets.  Accessible routes are also included on directions where appropriate.

Typical floor directory

Each level has a directory, located at key access points (generally at entrance points and by lifts and stairs) which includes a building directory and a plan of the floor you are on showing room numbers, key facilities, lifts and stairs with a “you are here” marker.  Artwork for the directories is set up by Picto and printed out on to rip-proof poster paper which is sandwiched between two sheets of toughened glass.  The glass is supported on security fixings which can only be removed via a special tool.  Changes can be quickly incorporated and new posters output and fitted by the College, making it cost-effective.  The College’s system of colour coding and chevron branding runs through all the signs.

This very simple scheme can be adapted to the specific needs of a particular building, for example the glass directories were replaced with printed foamex in a space used by students with special needs.

left: The Wheelwright Centre front facade, right: colour coded 3D graphics are used to draw attention to the student social space located in the basement


Implementing the scheme in the Wheelwright Centre had its own challenges.  Because of the way the site has evolved and been extended at different times it is a labyrinth of corridors, levels and staircases, making to difficult to know which level you are on, find your way to a specific room, let alone back out again !

At first we really struggled with how to direct people around this building.  During the survey we just had to keep walking round and round until a logic could be established.  The hub of the building is the lift and staircase which runs around it, giving access to every floor — we called this Central lift & stairs (using symbols for the lift and stairs).  There are three other staircases which give good access — the West stairs runs between Levels 2, 4 and 6; the South stairs runs between Levels 1, 3 and 5 and the East stairs between Levels 3 and 5.  All the walls along the corridors are used as display spaces for student work (a really nice feature of the building) so directional signs are kept to a minimum at key junctions and always incorporate the direction back to the Central hub.  The student cafe and social space, located in the basement level are given added prominence using 3D colour coded aluminium graphics.

New signs at the Wheelwright Centre, left: clear identification of levels using the colour coding, right: room number incorporating chevron detail

The College have just asked us to look at a third, equally as challenging building…watch this space !

  • Labelfreak

    Reply November 12th, 2011 7:17 pm

    Really smart solutions… Goes to show what a big impact signage can have from an aesthetic perspective as well as a practical one. I imagine that if all of the signs in such an old building are of this style that it really helps the spaces look so much more up to date?

  • Karen Matula

    Reply November 29th, 2011 10:02 am

    The new signage has really given Wheelwright a new look. It’s amazing what change in style can do. Although an Los building the new look blends in well. I for one am delighted.

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