Calgary Zoo

In 2018, the Calgary Zoo launched their Giant Panda exhibition; the result of six-years worth of planning and development that included a new $14-million habitat. In preparation for the pandas’ arrival, zoo officials approved $100-million in overall upgrades to account for a 25% increase in visits (1.5 million visitors in 2018 alone).

As part of the upgrades, Cygnus designed and managed the delivery for new wayfinding signage.

Calgary Zoo
Calgary, AB

Research showed that visitors seek a leisurely day at the park where getting lost is part of the fun. To this end, wayfinding signage is designed to help visitors wander; emphasizing the importance of the journey, not just the destination. Geographic zones are prominently communicated as points of reference. Linking all destinations, the newly named “Discovery Trail” provides a pathway to any zone from anywhere in the site. Important amenities such as washrooms, classrooms, and food services are clearly marked and timed walking information is available on all directional signs.

Prominent use of colour is part of a larger strategy to integrate geographic zones with placemaking efforts and future interpretive panels. Colour establishes a visual site line through the site that allows visitors to make intuitive decisions as they stroll the pathways. Recognizable colours reassure visitors, making them comfortable and open to discovery.

A custom icon set was designed to be accessible across multiple language groups. Beginning with life drawing studies, our internal team translated early sketches into stylized icons for every exhibit. Icons are discernible from a distance and useful as both wayfinding elements and background textures. Geometry was used to inform specific shapes and ensure the icons harmonize across the entire set. These standards also ensure a straightforward process when new icons are required.

To ensure the new wayfinding program was ready for the launch of the panda exhibit in the spring of 2018, major implementation took place during Calgary’s snowy winter. This presented numerous challenges that Cygnus addressed by working closely with production partners and facility staff.

Cygnus managed all procurement and installation of the wayfinding program, developing cost estimates to streamline budget approval from zoo executives. We recommended priorities and allocated the approved budget to areas that would provide the highest value.