Back to blog

Interpretive signage

Interpretive signage and getting it right the first time

Interpretive signage projects require considerable investment so it is important to “Get it right”. All too often interpretive signage projects are commissioned that have completely missed the basic rules of interpretive signage design. Before commissioning a project it’s important to understand what interpretive signage is?

“A communication process designed to reveal meanings and relationships of our cultural and natural heritage to the public. It tells a story and brings meaning and interest of a subject for the enjoyment of the visitor”

There is four basic steps to follow, these are Planning, Designing, Fabrication and Installation.


Effective interpretive planning is the KEY to cost effective use of limited resources and to
producing attractive and effective signs.


In this vital and challenging step, you arrange the visual elements of the sign, including:

  • text;
  • graphics;
  • photos;
  • sign materials; and
  • support / base.

Always remember that a sign must be read and understood to be effective.


Consider the final selection of the sign material based on research. Which material is the best for your application is as controversial to many as religion and politics?


This process may be simple or complex. The designer and landscape architect should always be involved in this stage to maintain the overall design integrity. This stage is often thought of as minor and too many times has resulted in a catastrophe. It should not be left to an installer without any instructions or direction.

Before designing an interpretive sign these four points should considered:

  • Can real objects be used or incorporated in the design?
  • Who will design the sign? How much design experience do they have?
  • Where will the sign be located and in what direction will it be oriented?
  • Will the public be reading the sign from road or trail? Walking or from a bike?

Through the implementation of these tips, rules, suggestions and wisdom… Your Interpretive Project will not only be graphically pleasing… it will succeed in conveying your message… which in turn will give your reader an enjoyable experience!

Interpretive signs in Albany, Western Australia

Consider the natural environment – This is especially important in coastal installations.


Interpretive signs in Albany, Western Australia

Are people going to be able to read what you’ve installed?

Interpretive signs in Whyalla, South Australia

Don’t tell everything. Tell less, but tell it well – and use a typeface that people can read!


Interpretive signs in Bright, South Australia

All signs can be vandalized, some more than others. In areas of high incidence of vandalism, an inexpensive “replaceable format” system maybe a good option. Don’t use a high cost material that does not withstand abuse in a remote area.


Interpretive sign in Bright, South Australia. Bad UV quality

Durability and maintenance – you get what you pay for! If you use a low quality vinyl in a High UV exposure environment, this is what can happen. The best quality vinyl won’t last longer than 7 years.
Credit: Text from “Sign Sense- Principles of Planning, Design, Fabrication, and Installation” by Richard F. Ostergaard

By Tangelo Creative on February 2, 2018 

Tags: , , ,

Contact us

15 Phillimore Street
Fremantle WA 6160

T +61 08 9430 4166

Subscribe to our newsletter

Tell us about your project