Innovative, seasonal wayfinding for Castle Howard

Our innovative seasonal wayfinding signs and maps scheme for this historic Yorkshire estate has improved visitor flow and greatly reduced requests for directions.

Brand development and wayfinding for historic estate

We worked closely with the estate management team through 2004/5, after winning a competitive tender to develop the estate branding for use in wayfinding signs. Our bid was successful due to the quality of work, and our in-depth proposal to work with the estate owners and management to improve visitor routing, signs and maps, and so enhance the visitor experience.

Defining wayfinding requirements

Our first step was to talk with visitor guides, gardeners, staff and groundspeople and build a picture of the problems that were being encountered by staff and visitors. During this exercise we discovered the extent to which staff were being distracted by visitors who had lost their way, or were unable to find places they wanted to get to. Many hours of general staff time were being spent giving directions and leading people to their destination.

The seasonal nature of Castle Howard’s public opening presented a challenge. For several months each year the estate is a private home to the residents and staff, and year-round direction signs were seen as unwanted intrusion during the closed period.

Developing and implementing the solutions

With such a large and diverse environment, the wayfinding project provided information in 2 phases, each with a slightly different feel. Phase 1 covered the stable courtyard, retail outlets and cafés. Phase 2 covered the Grade I listed buildings (designed by Charles Vanburgh & Nicholas Hawksmoor) landscapes, woodland walks and outdoor attractions.

Intensive route-walking and information gathering helped to generate a clear picture of how visitors needed to move around the estate, from first arrival at the car parks and holiday park, through garden walks, tours, event participation or visits to attractions, and then back to their arrival point.

We designed maps and signs with clear directions and consistent branding for vehicle directions, car parking and pedestrian and mobility vehicle routes around the estate. To fit the seasonal opening nature of the estate, signs are designed to be taken apart and stored at the end of the season. A sign location map then helps staff relocate the signs correctly each season was also provided.

Improved visitor flow and reduced direction requests

Castle Howard management and staff have been delighted with the improved flow of visitors to the estate. Visitors now find it easy to get to their destination and the volume of direction requests has decreased greatly and is now at a manageable level.

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