When you know a place well, you can forget how confusing it can be to others. That was the challenge facing the Sisters of St. Mary of Oregon (SSMO) and the SSMO Ministries Corporation in 2015.
“Since this campus became home to our Sisters in 1930, we have continually grown,” said SSMO Ministries Corporation President Sr. Adele Marie Altenhofen. “Today, we have more than 1,000 students on the campus at Valley Catholic every day and up to 181 residents at Maryville, plus the Sisters who live in our Motherhouse. We also welcome guests from across our region.”
Each visitor to the Sisters of St. Mary of Oregon (SSMO) campus enters with a different need — whether he or she is a resident at Maryville; an Associate, friend or guest visiting the Sisters; police, fire or emergency crews coming to the campus; an adult learner coming for English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) classes; a student or family member; or a guest at the speech tournament or an athletic competition coming to Valley Catholic.
“The signs on our campus were inconsistent and became hard to read as they got older,” said SSMO Superior General Sr. Charlene Herinckx.
The word “wayfinding” encompasses all of the ways in which people orient themselves in physical space and navigate from place to place. In today’s world, wayfinding can affect how an organization as a whole is perceived. That is vitally important for the Sisters, Maryville and Valley Catholic. Today, people expect better directions than “aim for the dome.”
So, in early 2016, the Sisters and the SSMO Ministries Corporation entered into an agreement with Anderson Krygier, Inc. to provide a wayfinding plan featuring new signage and maps to guide generations to come.
Based in Portland, Oregon, Anderson Krygier, Inc. has more than 25 years of experience in “experiential graphic design,” connecting people with place. Their clients and projects have included Mercy Corps World Headquarters, the Gerding Theater at the Armory (home to Portland Center Stage), the Portland Art Museum, the Oregon Vietnam Veterans Memorial, the Washington, D.C. Public Library System, the Multnomah County Library System, the Hillsboro Civic Center, the John Hemmingson Center at Gonzaga University, the Oregon Health and Science University (OHSU) Student Center and the Ford Alumni Center at the University of Oregon.
After a site visit to the SSMO campus to assess the existing signage and meetings with representatives of the Sisters and the SSMO Ministries Corporation, Anderson Krygier presented several design concepts for consideration.
After a design was selected, Ramsay Signs won the bid to create and install the new signage.
Most of the signage was installed during spring 2017. The final signs were installed in July 2017 – just in time for the Sisters’ Jubilee Mass and reception.
The project includes directional signs that are more easily visible, the identification of campus parking lots by number and a series of informational signs with “You are here” maps to guide guests to their destinations.
As representatives of Anderson Krygier noted, “Arriving at successful wayfinding is a process of joint discovery.”
“Every sign has the same design,” said Sr. Adele Marie. “So the people who come to our campus can find their way quickly because they’ll be looking for the same color pattern. There are parking signs. There are signs indicated the larger buildings on our campus. And, wherever you are on campus, there are arrows that tell you how to get to the place that you’re trying to visit.”
Sr. Charlene said, “The new signs are beautifully designed. The white letters on the black background make them so easy to read.”
She added, “We’re really hoping that having signs that say ‘you are here’ – and having all of the buildings labeled – will help people find where they need to be.”