Sir John Soane’s Museum

Sir John Soane's Museum

September 2016

Visitor Experience and Signage Design

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Thomas.Matthews have been working with The Sir John Soane’s Museum to design new museum signage and visitor flow as part of the finishing touches of their five year capital improvement project ‘The opening up of the Soane’.

Sir John Soane intended that visitors discover the museum in their own unique way, and that there be no interpretation of the objects on display. This created a challenge: how do we design a signage system that doesn’t overburden this delicate and beautiful space but also does the increasingly important job of guiding visitors? Inspired by workshops and interviews with visitors and staff, our team created solutions that are sensitive to the needs of visitors, the wishes of Sir John Soane and the requirements of this ever-popular museum.

An integral part of the new visitor experience, that we proposed, is the mapping of a new visitor flow system that gently promotes multiple routes through the museum. Simple concepts such as, single entrance and exit, streamlining queue activity, and providing relevant information at key moments along the user journey, underpin the new approach that the museum have adopted.

Bruce Boucher, director of the Soane says “We are looking forward to ‘opening up the Soane’ this September with a considered and sensitive visitor flow strategy, and newly improved signage created by a design team that took the time to understand the nature of the organisation, the building and its history. Thomas.Matthews have helped us deliver these strategic finishing touches and have been a pleasure to work with”.

Our re-design has been applied to both internal and external signage, creating an aesthetic communion between the different elements, which help conform the museum’s wayfinding. The listed nature of the idiosyncratic house-museum, which is maintained almost exactly as Sir John Soane left it, is a key challenge to solve through design. We created signage solutions that are either free-standing, or attached in a non-invasive way.

The particular light and luminescence of the museum’s interior spaces, and the craft and materiality of exhibits, greatly inspired our process. For signage we chose a material palette that included mirrored acrylic, stained wood and metal: materials that are gentle on the fabric of the building, allow for flexibility, now and in the future, and most importantly serve the needs of the museum visitors and staff.

Through the project we have enhanced the museum brand identity through the elegant use of typography and colour. In honour of Sir John Soane, who was an early proponent of sans serif typefaces, the design team chose to work with Figgins font inspired by the 19th Century London foundry. The authentic Regency interior of the building informed additional brand colours that enhance the existing museum palette, these have been used in specific signage solutions.

Thomas.Matthews undertook the project as a straight-forward signage brief and have adeptly stepped up to advise us on reviewing visitor flow, signage strategy and brand guidelines with confidence and professionalism. We value how their engaged design team has supported us through this project and helped deliver our long planned opening up of the museum experience”. Xanthe Arvanitakis, operations and commercial director.