Tracey Thompson – Print | Branding | Design Research – San Francisco

Tracey Thompson – Print | Branding | Design Research – San Francisco

Children’s School Signage

Can a wayfinding system address both the developmental needs of children and the navigational needs of adults?


The Carnegie Mellon Department of Psychology Children’s School serves as both a school for children ages 2-6 ands as a research facility for university students studying child development. As a result, researchers and guest often interrupt classes and set off security alarms attempting to navigate the complicated space.

As part of an independent study, I worked with teachers and child psychologists to analyze the space, identify the needs of both children and adults, and develop an accessible navigation system.

Using simple shapes and colors correlated to stages in child development, I designed a wayfinding system to direct parents and guests to the student classrooms. The classroom for the youngest children was represented by a circle, next oldest a triangle, a square and so on, increasing in complexity up to a pentagon to represent the kindergarten class room.

I was presented with the additional challenge of conforming to existing university sign styles. I was able to mesh the very adult-centric university style with the more child appropriate color/shape style. I created prototypes for the school staff to test over the course of the school year.

Design Note: From a child development perspective, the “single-story” lowercase a is considered more appropriate for children than the “double-story” lowercase a the university sign style required.