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Signage Complements Plants

This article was first published on 22 Sep 2016.

The New Zealand native plant collection has a bold, modern design, reflecting native plants’ strong, dynamic features.

The New Zealand native plant collection has a bold, modern design, reflecting native plants’ strong, dynamic features.

Photo by the Otago Daily Times

Unlike home gardens, one of the significant roles of a botanic garden is education.  This ranges from plant study by scientists, through to telling visitors plant stories using signs.

There are 95 story-telling signs throughout Dunedin Botanic Garden but visitors are not a captive audience.  So, rather than a traditional style of education, we offer accessible, digestible, bite-sized chunks of content in a more appealing manner.  This doesn’t mean lessening factual information but it does mean including more thought-provoking concepts.

Information is offered in layers.  First is a bold, clear heading, summarising the core theme.  Most passers-by will absorb only this, so it’s really important it encapsulates the whole story.

For those enticed further, there’s a little more detail in a smaller font.  Finally, a third layer of information gets into the nitty gritty or tells a side story.

Visual design helps the visitor too.  Rather than making each sign look the same, which can result in a uniform but somewhat unenticing look, we prioritise the importance of attracting visitors to each sign.

Each plant collection’s special features are reflected in design, for example, rose garden signs have soft, graceful elements representing roses’ delicacy, but also incorporate sharp, clunky features, referring to rose thorns.

The New Zealand native plant collection has a bold, modern design, reflecting native plants’ strong, dynamic features.

The differing designs help visitors realise they’ve moved from one plant collection to another.

Signs act like a static human guide, helping visitors explore what might not be immediately obvious.

Clare Fraser is information services officer at Dunedin Botanic Garden