Sign Designs for Zoo Opening with Social Distancing

The last few months has seen Crooks Design producing various graphic and sign designs for the opening of two Suffolk zoos. Banham Zoo and Africa Alive are part if the Zoological Society of East Anglia. These much loved institutions found themselves in huge difficulties being forced to shutdown during what would be their busiest time of the year. I helped out with their ‘Be Amazing’ campaign as they raised funds in order to keep operating during lockdown. More information on their fundraising campaign can be found here.

Zoo opening entrance signs
Entrance to Banham Zoo showing social distancing signage and wayfinders.

As they moved to open, they need additional support to help redesign the zoos for a new visitor experience. The project has involved site walkthroughs in order to establish what was required to make the visitors and staff safe. We also needed to communicate changes to the zoo layout and food ordering processes. In total all we produced over 200 new sign designs. These ranged from simple social distancing measures to large menu boards and information stations.  As the ZSEA marketing team were on furlough, they also needed to get help from a freelance graphic designer to send various items to print that were already in production. These included large entrance signage and restaurant designs.

One of the most fundamental changes was to covert the seated dining area to a takeout operation. This involved a communicating a clear customer journey through the restaurant. Designing signs that offered clear instructions has helped limit the queuing time. Easy to digest menu boards make ordering food quick and easy and new ordering point sign designs identify how the diners can exit the restaurant quickly and safely.

Sign designs for zoo opening
Examples of A Board sign designs and wayfinders. The A Boards allow the zoo to move the signs depending on visitor numbers and guidance.

To help with reducing wait times for food, we also produced new takeaway food outlets. These utilised buildings that would otherwise be used for school visits. The new food outlets needed their own brand identity and logo designs. This would also help visitors navigate around the park and identify with the food offers. The food outlet designs also needed to be ready to adapt to the ever changing situation. In order to achieve this, I designed a system where the main branding was on a permanent Foamex sign. The menu boards were then over-fixed using industrial velcro. This will allow us to change the food offers on a regular basis. The food offers can change depending on tastes, availability and allow the zoo to offer a more seasonal appropriate menu. For example, a cafe that offers hot dogs in the summer can now offer hot chocolates in winter with minimal cost in producing new sign designs. Check out this news article more information about the cafe logo designs.

Food ordering signs
Menu board and food collection point signs. We transformed the existing restaurants to takeaway operations.

The key to the majority of the signs was to introduce flexibility. The ability for the zoos to alter the signage will allow them to adapt to changing advice. Early customer feedback forms highlighted that the visitors felt safe and we wanted to build on this. Sign designs can be costly if we have to change them on a regular basis so this had to part of the design consideration from the beginning. Using A Boards which can be moved were deployed at various locations throughout the zoos. Observing visitor flow and responding accordingly made maximum use of this signage. We also made use of the existing infrastructure. Previously the zoo had signs promoting events and photo boards which are currently no available. We utilised these boards to promote the new food offers and as wayfinders. As the structures remain in place, we can quickly return these to their previous use once restrictions allow.

Sign designs for Africa Alive
New food outlet signage and social distance sign designs for Africa Alive

We also developed a reference system for each sign. Printing the reference on the sign provides the management team a way to quickly brief in a  new sign as and when required. The sign printer also has a copy of each reference so they understand the size and material. The zoo installation team then use this reference to know exactly which sign needs to change.

The zoos are now fully open and the visitor feedback has been very positive. The zoos have been using the A Boards to manage the queues and people feel safe. This has lead to positive reviews which has increased visitor numbers.  The food outlets are also working well. This has helped increase visitor spend.

If you have a similar signage project and need an experienced designer to help you design the signs and assist with the project management, please get in touch.