nataure tourism services logo Feature interpretation signs at the Mount Canobolas Summit Precinct, Mount Canobolas SCA

Interpretive signage

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Nature Tourism Services provide bespoke interpretation
signs. Webapps enhance user accessibility.

Interpretation signage at entry to Great Victorian Railtrail Aboriginal cultural heritage interpretation signage and pavement installation at Mount Canobolas summit interpretive signage at the Meeting place, Mungo National Park interpretation signage on the Furneaux Geotrail, Flinders Island Visitor orientation signage seasonal changeover at Falls Creek Alpine Resort interpretive entry signage on the Ballina Cultural Ways interprretive post connecting with digital trail, Lissner Park, Charters Towers Visitor orientation node and bus stop, Falls Creek Alpine Resort visitor interpretation and orientation sign, Three Bays Walkway, Western Australia interpretive entry node, Wallaces Heritage Trail, Bogong High Plains interpretive display, Warrumbungle Visitor Centre interpretation signs, summit of Mount Canobolas Interpretation sign, Mungo Woolshed interpration node, Ballina Cultural Ways pathway interpretation and visitor orientation sign at entry to Murray to Mountains Railtrail, Bright Interpretation node at Watchbed Creek entry along Bogong High Plains Road interpretation sign outisde the Woodford Academy in the Blue Mountains interpretive sign in summit precinct, Mount Canobolas interpretation signs in the Chelsea Australian Garden at Olinda visitor orientation signage at Falls Creek in heavy winter snow interpretive post at Three Mile Scrub, Brisbane interpretation signage along the Ballina Cultural Ways path Zanci woolshed interpretive signage interpretation sign, Furneaux Geotrail

Interpretive signs invite users to attach positive meanings and values to their experiences in heritage settings. There are two types of interpretation signs – traditional and digitally integrated.

Traditional interpretation signs are the classic stand-alone entities where the sign content, aesthetic and narrative is limited to what is installed onsite.

Digitally integrated interpretation signs by comparison have customised webapp support meaning they also stand as a portal to a richer online experience.

At a functional level this includes publishing the sign content in HTML to ensure it can be read or heard by a user irrespective of their physical ability or native language. Additional content can also be provided such as to allow the user to follow their own lines of enquiry in relation to the interpretive messages.

interpretive signage and webapp in the Chelsea Australian Garden at Olinda

Above: A webapp both publishing sign content in HTML and providing a guided tour of the garden by the designer Phillip Johnson was created as an integral part of the design and roll out of the interpretive signage for the Chelsea Australian Garden at Olinda in 2022. View the webapp ...


Given the variability of internet coverage across natural areas, both types of signage are important tools for land managers to have access to. Ensuring the experience provider can easily and simply deliver digital content in areas with adequate mobile phone reception requires customised responses that can provide the service at minimal setup costs and no recurrent expenses.

One thing both types of signs have in common is the need to connect with people on both a rational and an emotional level. This requires a considered focus not just on signage content and messaging, but also on the overall sign aesthetic including the landscape setting within which the sign is located.

interpretive signage located within the Mungo Meeting Place

Above: Interpretive signage located within the Mungo Meeting Place, Mungo National Park


Users for example need to encounter the signage in a setting that invites them to step aside from their journey in a safe and sheltered location to take a moment to appreciate their surroundings. The delivery of effective interpretive signs requires a varied and diverse skill sets to bring these diverse threads together in an integrated manner.

At Nature Tourism Services we undertake all of the non material fabrication components of the interpretive signage process inhouse. We subcontract out the manufacture and installation of any signage elements to a select supplier base with whom we have fully integrated Total Quality Management systems.

creative interpretive sign designs for the Chelsea Australian Garden at Olinda developed using Shapr 3D modelling program on iPad Pro

The signage we designed for the Chelsea Australian Garden at Olinda in the Dandenong Ranges east of Melbourne in 2022 demonstrates our signage design and production workflow. We craft up our design concepts in the Shapr3D drawing package on an iPad Pro. This allows us both to refine our ideas and also generate detailed concept sketches for client approval. From this point the program can export the dimensioned drawing our signage collaborators Screenmakers can use to produce the detailed design files needed to cut the materials and manufacture the signs.

footprint motif

Nuanced content development and graphic design solutions are central to the delivery of effective interpretive signs. Some examples of our approach in this regard are shown below.

footprint motif

consistency without cloning

While consistency to deliver a coherent brand presence across an interpretation signage ensemble is clearly essential, we always seek to achieve this without resorting to cloning a particular interpretive signage design template.

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.

One example 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.

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interpretive signs at the Walls of China in Mungo National Park integrate create design to reflect the beauty and cultural significance of this location Interpretation signs at Mungo National Park show how stylistic consistency acres a suite still allows for each sign to have its own uniqque design quality The interpretation signs at Mungo National Park invested significant effort in the deep etching of graphic elements to clearly present the subjects being described in the text Use of artwork created by Aboriginal artist Tommy McRae in the 1860s and 70s is a feature of the interpretation signs at Mungo National Park walls of china mungo national park interpretive signage interpretation sign at the Wallks of China in Mungo national Park walls of china mungo national park interpretive signage walls of china mungo national park interpretive signage walls of china mungo national park interpretive signage
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the role of research

The more supporting context that surrounds an interpretive narrative, the easier it is for us to connect with it and attach value to the interpretive sign.

The preparation of every interpretive sign is a journey of discovery into the hidden meanings and contexts surrounding some time, thing or place. Sharing the fruits of this research with the reader then underpins the design and production phase of the interpretive project.

A striking example of how this approach works in practice comes from our interpretive work for the redesign of the Stringybark Creek Historic Reserve visitor experience near Mansfield, Victoria in 2017/18.

Some details of this work at the site where three policemen were murdered on the evening of 26 October 1878 by a group of four men who thereafter became known as the Kelly Gang are outlined below.

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As one of Australia's best known cultural heritage sites, Stringybark Creek has never wanted for lack of interpretation.

The challenge for our project was to peel back the layers of meaning that have been draped over the locale to reveal how the events of 26 October 1878 were viewed by the communities who watched the aftermath of that day unfold around them in real time.

This questioning process revealed some exciting new insights.

One was the discovery in the archives of the charge sheet that led to Ned Kelly being hanged for the murder of Constable Lonigan. Another was our research that revealed the likely type of rifle Ned Kelly used in the attack on the police camp.

stringybark creek interpretive memorial plinths
stringybark creek interpretive sign project clipping


The value of letting the events of the day speak for themselves provided a very simple and strong base for the interpretive sign project.

These primary materials were such a powerful record of the events of the day that Ned Kelly's own barrister at his commital hearing in Beechworth in August 1880 requested an adjournment so that he could read through the Argus newspaper reports in order to get a thorough account of what happened and when.

By using these accounts as the bedrock of the sign designs a layering effect was achieved. People wanting a quick and clean account of events can read the signs' headline narrative. Those wanting more detail can delve into the newspaper sections that feature as "graphics" on the signage.

Stringybark creek interpretation sign The importance of custom landscape design solutions as an integral part of interpretive signage is evident at Stringybark Creek Historic maps play a vital role in delivering creative interpretive sign solutions at Stringybark Creek Including historic newspaper accounts as images helps deliver detailed narratives in interpretive signs Interpretive sign showing how message heirarchy delivers multiple levels of visitor engagement Including historic content on interpretive signs provides first hand accounts of how heritage events were viewed by contemporary society interpretation signs provided the backdrop to official proceedings at Stringybark Creek in 2018 Custom interpretive sign structural designs coupled with bespoke landscape installations were a feature of the redevelopment of the Stringybark Creek Historic Precinct in 2018. the commemoration of the 140th anniversary of the deaths of three policemen featured the Victorian Police honour guard stringybark creek interpretive memorial plinths

deep etched and custom designed

The power to take and shape historical resources by deep etching out the elements of interest in Photoshop is an approach we use in many of our interpretive signs

A feature of our interpretive design process is that we always shape the story through images composed in Photoshop backdrops in the first instance. The text is then customised to describe and effectively caption the visual narrative. Good design transcends language barriers. Interpretive signs are a form of public art. They should be aesthetically pleasing.

interpretive sign showing the use deep etched images footprint-motif interpretive sign showing deep etched birds footprint-motif interpretive sign Furneaux Geotral, Flinders Island