Library signage and wayfinding


Explore York Libraries & Archives


Public Sector



Project Description:

Library signage and wayfinding

Scope of Service:

Brand and Experience

Strategy and Transformation

Project size: 


Project Value:



Phase 1: February 2016

Phase 2: Ongoing

We can help make change happen

To find out more please contact us:
Tel: +44(0)1423 789388
Email: clientservices@sovibrant.co.uk
SoVibrant Ltd, Hornbeam House, Hornbeam
Park, Harrogate HG2 8QT


One of the first library and archives services to transfer from council control to a not-for-profit ‘Industrial Provident Society’, a form of community benefit society, York Libraries and Archives became known as Explore York Libraries and Archives Mutual Limited, or Explore for short. In order to create a sustainable future for the archive service a project was developed under the name of York: Gateway to History. One of the objectives of this project was to relocate the City Archives from unsuitable accommodation in the city to the first floor of the Grade II listed Central Library building (York Explore). This involved the creation of a new environmentally controlled archive storage facility, a refurbished public Quiet Study area and new Reading and Family History Rooms. A programme of community engagement work was also developed to set the foundations for an inclusive and representative archive service. This project was supported by a £1.5million grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund.

SoVibrant was commissioned to update the library’s signage and wayfinding. SoVibrant’s Strategy and Transformation team undertook research and surveys to determine how people use the library and archives and what needs to change. The Brand and Experience team then designed an updated wayfinding system for implementation throughout the building.

Phase 1 focused mainly on attracting visitors to the newly located archives on the first floor in a more welcoming way. Phase 2 brings the new brand into the wayfinding as well as making it clearer for visitors when browsing the library and archives.

The Challenge

Various challenges made this project particularly interesting:

Grade II Listed building implications

York Explore is a Grade II listed building and, the second most archeologically significant area in York after the Minster. Fixing and manufacturing restraints had to be considered carefully throughout the design process resulting in freestanding items and removable adhesive use, avoiding damage to the listed shelving.

Flexible solution required

As the funding was provided by the Heritage Lottery Fund, it was important to provide a cost-effective, high quality yet long-lasting solution to meet Explore’s requirements. SoVibrant provided items, which could be moved easily around the library with the flexibility to change usage if required. Freestanding, interchangeable panels were also introduced to allow the Explore team to change displays as and when without incurring extra charges.

Accessibility compatibility

A fully accessible facility, the Library and Archive service’s signage has to comply with all accessibility standards. This meant balancing the design with the brand look and feel, colours and fonts, whilst making sure the signage provided the correct contrast and visibility levels for all users of Explore.

The Results

Now complete, Phase 1 comprises:

  • Eye-catching posters attracting and directing people to the first floor level of York Explore encouraging them to explore the archives.
  • Shelf inserts highlighting archive items available for customers to explore, providing high level information for passers-by, as well as more detailed information for customers who dwell by the entrance desk.
  • Entrance desk wrap that provides a more welcoming entrance to customers, informing them that anyone can use the archives which, research showed, was previously unknown.

Phase 2, which is yet to be completed, includes a comprehensive redesign of the existing signage throughout the building, including external wayfinding and promotional signs and historical information for the archeologically important Multangular Tower in the Museum Gardens.

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