A national standard for education 34

Australian Catholic University
10,500 signs across 7 campuses in 5 states across Australia. All backed by a standardised national signage and wayfinding strategy and implemented in under a year. We couldn’t be prouder of this project.

A national reputation

ACU has seven campuses across Australia; in Adelaide, Ballarat, Brisbane, Canberra, Melbourne, North Sydney and Strathfield. As Australia’s pre-eminent Catholic university and committed to education with a greater purpose, ACU has built a favourable reputation; deeply engaged with industry and society and nestled comfortably in the top 3% of universities worldwide.

With seven campuses across five states, there are not just academics to manage either. There’s the grounds, buildings, facilities and the likelihood students may find themselves at more than one campus during their educational journey.

A challenge arises when expansion and growth take a scale of such national proportion. A lack of consistency across campuses was just the beginning but one that ACU needed help and expertise to resolve.

A national wayfinding solution

Every campus was maintaining a different naming system, a different numerical system for buildings and faculties and a signage and wayfinding system that had, over some years, drifted into an inconsistency that made wayfinding multiple campuses hard and referring to campus buildings and facilities even harder.

Add to this an imminent rebrand that would need to be retrofitted as soon as able and ACU needed to partner with a company that wasn’t just going to develop a wayfinding solution that would solve the problem today – but one that would offer a solution for tomorrow. One that would walk them through the process, develop a strategic approach and be open to change along the way.

The ACU chose Diadem to partner with them and provide the end-to-end wayfinding and signage solution and implementation. From early 2016 through to late 2017, Diadem would develop the strategy, numerical system, building lexicon and conceptual designs at a national scale. Following design documentation, procurement and implementation; with a high profile rebrand along the way, five stages were completed across a national implementation schedule and against a focused timeline.

The aim: to develop an integrated and logical naming strategy across all stages of the journey that brings ACU in line with university multicampus practices.

A five-stage solution

Stage 1 – Audit and strategy

Working with academics and deans from across the campuses, Diadem ensured the strategy was coherent with the leadership vision for a standardised wayfinding system across every campus, nationally. An audit of the existing signage and wayfinding uncovered where students struggled the most and where there were opportunities to solve problems with clever design.

Stage 2 – Internal signage and wayfinding

With a simplified strategy featuring appropriately identified buildings, numerical wayfinding systems and timetabling codes, the signage had to also live up to the strategic intent and desire to keep the place names consistent with the saints they were named after. The design documentation required significant liaison to ensure the intent was appropriately met.

Stage 3 – External signage and wayfinding

External wayfinding ensured navigating buildings, identifying amenities and finding facilities weren’t encumbered by the broad spectrum of building names, faculties and classifications.

In addition, one of the more important elements to a university campus’ signage and wayfinding is gate identification; Diadem’s solution ensured students and visitors could enter campus grounds with clear direction and identification.

Stage 4 – VDA and Sky signs

A detailed viewing distance analysis (VDA) was carried out ensuring the correct viewing angles, appropriate signage sizing and lighting solutions informed the signage design. Sky signs were then designed, documented, procured and implemented nationally, ensuring each campus held high the ACU and its new brand.

Stage 5 – Bespoke signage and completion

At the completion of a national signage and wayfinding implementation, there’s always a few interesting designs, development or changes once in context. Following the overall rollout, a final phase was given to ensuring every sign in every campus was meeting the needs of students and faculty members and those odd jobs collected along the way, were completed with the calibre and care of the rollout itself.

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