Putting collections at the heart of your Covid signage

A case study from the National Football Museum
Anthony Willder
A floor sticker reminding people to keep their distance at the National Football Museum
A floor sticker reminding people to keep their distance at the National Football Museum

The National Football Museum in Manchester reopened to the public in July. In June, we created a Covid visitor risk assessment and recognised that we needed to create and then communicate our new visiting rules in an effective way to minimise risk.

As well as introducing cashless transactions, new handwashing facilities, PPE and pre-booked tickets only, we now have a one-way system around the museum and 2m social distancing rules.

We have a great deal of signage in the museum in a variety of contrasting designs, much of which wasn’t particularly effective. So we took this as an opportunity to remove almost all this existing signage and refresh it rather than just adding Covid-specific information.

Initially we looked at Health & Safety Executive-style signage that you might see on a building site, but we decided it would be better to create simple designs that related to our collection – football.

Our digital marketing coordinator developed the idea of using a match tactics board design that football managers use to brief their team before a game.

In each player location, we placed a symbol for a visitor rule or tactic that had to be followed. Handily there were 11. We felt this nod to football would attract visitors’ attention and encourage them to follow the “tactics”.

We used a new, vibrant colourway for our signage, taken from our 2019 brand refresh, and created:

  • A tactics board
  • Social distancing using floor spots
  • Directional arrows
  • Football boot queuing spots
  • Driveway parabolic blind spot mirrors on our zig zag staircases so visitors can see if they are in use

It was tempting to put up lots of signage around the museum, but we are a football museum not a museum of signage – visitors need to be aware of what is required, but we also want them to enjoy their day out.

To achieve this, we used a lot of signage at the very start of the museum experience so everyone is clear on the rules, and then pared things back a little in galleries with reminders every now and again in riskier areas.

We have had quite a few unexpected positive outcomes from our approach:

  • Our average dwell time has increased as the new signage leads visitors through the museum and its story. Before Covid we operated a free-flow system and visitors tended to miss areas.
  • We have got to know the other operations teams in local museums and galleries, and visited each other to share best practice.
  • We have had lots of positive reviews online about how safe visitors have felt, which enhanced their visit.

We have almost completed the refresh of all our internal signage using the new designs and are now planning improvements to our external signage, budget allowing.

My advice for other museums looking to create Covid-safe signage includes:

  • Keep it simple and use the character and theme of your museum in your signage.
  • Don’t spend huge amounts of money on designers – the best ideas often come from your staff.
  • It is worth spending a little more budget on better quality, longer lasting items from professional printers. Our total budget was about £500.
  • Look at what everyone else is doing – good and bad. We looked at examples from a variety of customer-facing businesses, not just museums.

Anthony Willder is the chief operating officer at the National Football Museum


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