Considered landscape settings are the tapestry against which interpretive signs are hung. Addressing one without the other may sometimes be necessary, but such an outcome is always sub-optimal.
Landscapes define the experience on offer whilst interpretation signs help people attribute values and meanings to the encounter.
Along the way, visitor orientation signs exist to guide the visitor and ensure they they can undertake their chosen activity confident of where they are in the landscape and where they are going.
Without this bedrock of visitor security - of people sure their location and positioned within a node that sets them aside from the main visitor flow corridors around them – interpretation signs are of limited utility.
With these features in place however, interpretation signs can then look to determine the signage structural design, sign content and graphic styles needed to communicate their messages effectively.
In this way the graphics derive directly from the combination of the theme being presented and the imagery being used to underpin this.
The text then commonly sits as a caption to the graphic material and in this way a tight integration and equality is achieved between text and imagery.
To further support this process we commonly use deep etching of images to ensure that the visual element directly relevant to the content being portrayed is clearly presented.
We do not use standard interpretive sign design templates for our work but rather approach each design job from first principles whereby the content and function of the sign dictates the layout.
This variety of responses is reflected in the gallery below featuring a sample of our interpretation sign designs.
Visitors should approach each interpretation sign with a sense of encountering new content that is presented in its own unique setting as informed by the relevant messages being conveyed.
This approach does increase the design challenges involved with a given project as every interpretive sign in effect becomes an "original" undertaking. The vibrance it delivers to an interpretive signage ensemble however more than makes up for this additional creative investment.
Two examples of our work in this regard comes in the case of a series of interpretive signs we produced for the Walls of China precinct in Mungo National Park and for the Green Head Walkway in Western Australia.
Foremost in this regard is the option in areas with internet coverage of publishing the sign content in HTML so that it can be easily translated into the visitor's native language via the internet browser on their mobile device.
The functionality of this process has been dramatically increased by the decision by Apple in mid 2017 to give iPhone cameras the capacity to read QR codes. Now both Apple and Android devices have this functionality and users no longer need to have downloaded a third party QR code reader app to snap these easy-to-use web page links.
The additional major benefit of this is evident when people go to take a photo of a trail map at a trackhead. There the camera can pick out the QR code and prompt them to link to the download page.
Here in the case of the system now in place at the Three Sisters in the Blue Mountains, they can access a quality PDF trail guide including maps and trail descriptions that they can embed onto their phones for use in areas remote from internet coverage.
The key point to note here is that visitors do not have to have prepared for this experience in advance by downloading an app to their phone before they set out to visit the location.
Rather it takes advantage of the inbuilt functionality of their phone's internet browser and camera. This equity and simplicity of access is a crucial element that needs to underpin digital support for interpretive signage.