This Fresh From The Field features interpretive signage and a wayfinding system for tourism icon Rainbow Springs Nature Park by ThoughtFullDesign.
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Interpretative Signage Brief:
The existing park information was dry, dated and wordy. Although factual, it was presented in a manner that neither captured nor catered to the diverse range of Rainbow Springs visitors. The brief identified an opportunity to showcase Rainbow Springs as one of New Zealand’s leading nature parks. Inform visitors, elevate the park attractions and reinvigorate the overall user experience.
Interpretative Signage Response:
As part of the ThoughtFull team, wayfinding and environmental designer Jarrad Caine developed the initial concept and managed the design through to implementation. Jarrad writes their “strategy was to ‘surprise and delight’ by delivering information in a quirky, fun and engaging tone that allowed visitors to cherry pick facts and absorb as little or as much content as they desired.”
Colour was critical to the system, set deep in the Rotorua bush under a heavy tree canopy, the park environment presented an opportunity for vibrancy so the system would allow the information to pop against the dark greens of the native bush backdrop. The ‘rainbow’ palette denotes a colour for each different type of attraction within the park; Kiwi Burrow is red, Reptiles Rock is orange, Trout’s Eye View is turquoise etc.
Each of the 50+ individual information panels was designed as an antidote to the traditional text-heavy museum and park signage. The Rainbow Springs solution favoured large images (to help international visitors identify what they are looking at) and bite-sized copy with engaging, entertaining (and often surprising!) information on each attraction. The content is purposefully conversational and designed for families to engage with together.
The content was elicited from the parks specialists throughout the research stage, was crafted into digestible bite sized pieces of information, interweaving history, culture, endangerment status and unique features. Raw, rough cut, locally-sourced, recycled Macrocarpa sleepers were chosen as the material to display the information panels. While this had obvious financial benefits, the primary purpose was to ensure they were sustainable and easily updated.
Wayfinding Signage Brief:
The pre-existing wayfinding system in the park suffered from poor terminology, a lack of consistency and less than ideal location planning which resulted in general visitor confusion and frustration. The brief called for a user-centred, functional wayfinding system that promotes self-navigation, is sympathetic to the environment and aligns with Rainbow Springs new brand position.
Wayfinding Signage Response:
Through a series of workshops, user testing and journey mapping the ThoughtFull design team identified two fundamental principles that informed the wayfinding concept design.
1. The system must be a balance between reassurance and discovery: visitors want to know where they are, but also need to feel free to wander and experience the joy of stumbling upon discoveries.
2. The system must be hard-wearing, be able to be implemented by the grounds team on-site, and just as importantly, fixed or replaced as the weather and resident species contribute to the wear-and-tear.
Inspired by the pragmatic yet welcoming approach of both DOC and national park signage, Jarrad notes “we created a suite of wayfinding totem poles, which are purposefully unpretentious and well-fitted to their environment. We proposed a lightweight family consisting of a directional and destination totems accompanied by a larger orientation totem for key locations and a series of ‘pin on’ tags to house regulatory messaging.”
Leveraging the new, vibrant ‘rainbow’ palette, the totems are mostly clustered together in small groups around the park, the bright colours act as beacons against the dark, lush native bush. Throughout the park, the use of the colour clearly defines the various park precincts. To complement the structure of the information panels raw, rough cut, locally-sourced, recycled macrocarpa sleepers were chosen for the totems, and again taking the lead from national park signage, they were produced using router paint filled techniques.
CD: Geoff Suvalko
DD: Georgina Clarke
Design: Jarrad Caine
Copy Writer: Kim Fraser (Claude & Co)