Pedestrians A Priority In University of Utah Wayfinding System

An easy to use orientation strategy, clear vehicular graphics and pedestrian-focused wayfinding and directories forms the foundation of the wayfinding and signage Master Plan for the sprawling University of Utah campus in Salt Lake City. Working in collaboration with University planners, Seattle WA-based design firm, Michael Courtney Design, developed a comprehensive master plan focused on user-friendly elements to replace the worn out signage program on the urban campus.

The new design establishes a consistent visual look and feel, material palette and layout to the sign family. The design firm created a simplified language for both Vehicular and Pedestrian signs fabricated of easy to maintain local materials. All signs need to withstand the challenging weather conditions of Salt Lake City, where a typical year includes snowy zero degree winters and dry, low moisture 100 degree summers.



Enhancing the Pedestrian Experience

The University has developed a pedestrian friendly campus and the priority of the wayfinding Master Plan was to further enhance the pedestrian experience. With that in mind, MCD developed a special program for the Pedestrian Directories that sets the signage apart from any similar project: relevant stories about the neighborhood and University history were embedded into the Pedestrian Directories with photos of nearby buildings. The photos were the result of a University team member’s suggestion. As many University of Utah campus buildings look similar, adding photos to the signs provides significant assistance to visitor recognition (“Oh, that’s the Student Union.”). These directories are important in both wayfinding as well as the overall user experience and also assist with user orientation.


Implementation: A Ten-Year Process

The Master Plan called for a phased implementation. After the University approved the Master Plan, they secured funds to install Phase One, Vehicular wayfinding. The cost of remaining phases was wrapped into ongoing campus improvements. In time, the sign family grew across campus, and the last set of Pedestrian signs were installed roughly ten years after the process began.

Project Credits 

Client: University of Utah
Location: Salt Lake City UT
Open Date: Spring 2006
Project Area: 1,534 acres
Experiential, Graphic and Environmental Design Teams:
Michael Courtney Design: Michael Courtney (Principal, Design Lead); Fran Terry (Senior Project Manager, Senior Designer); Landon Fisher (Designer); Debra Burgess (Designer). University of Utah Planning: John McNary (Director, Campus Planning); Christin Robbins (Project Manager). Fabrication: YESCO. Collaborators: Berkey Engineering
Photos: Michael Courtney Design