On the 30th April 2015, Parkwood Hall School closed and on the 1st May Parkwood Hall Co-operative Academy opened. Technically, they are a new school, but in reality their history as a special school goes right back to 1970.
They are a warm, welcoming, inclusive day and residential school for students aged 7 to 19 with Significant Learning Difficulties and a variety of additional needs, including aspects of the Autistic Spectrum and Speech, Language and Communication Needs. They have a strong and growing reputation for a ‘can do’ attitude, which enables them to meet a wide range of complex needs, including some medical conditions.
They are a state-funded day and residential school, and aim to offer children and young adults an education that enables them to achieve their best and a key part of this is to prepare students for adult life. Their philosophy is to try to provide a complete and joined-up service. From a broad range of evidence-based therapies which are available to all on the basis of need, to innovative curriculum developments such as Forest School, they listen to what families tell them they need and they try to ensure that their children’s special, individual and complex needs are met.
Before the school took over the building, it was used as a hospital largely for men before being bought by the Fire Brigade and used as a training centre. Although a magnificent building with beautiful grounds, the interior decor has changed little and is still reminiscent of a hospital and consequently lacking a homely and creative environment that students can both feel part of and thrive upon. Having seen previous work by Pylon Design for a similar school, although architecturally more modern, Parkwood Hall contacted Pylon to discuss a similar approach for walls and door signs to help students navigate around the building. This vast and historical school, with it’s many corridors, needed a thoughtful and cohesive solution that was also friendly and informative.
The school’s class names are all identified by different leaves and this was to form the basis of Pylon’s approach. In keeping with this old building, Pylon chose to use a traditional style of illustration with a more modern execution. All the different leaves were produced as lino-cuts before being scanned and reproduced digitally with colours applied from the corporate colour palette as gradients rather than flat colour to add depth to the overall impact. The leaves were then placed on a solid blue background matching the predominant corporate colour which helped them to stand out strongly. A bold, rounded, friendly typeface used in white complimented and contrasted with the graphics to form a bold and clear signage program.
Pylon suggested which walls would benefit from having wall vinyls to help both navigation and a friendly environment, before progressing with the design and layout. By using the strong dark blue corporate colour as a consistent background, helped to create a sense of calm and unity, while the colour coding of the leaves helped the students to identify their year groups. Obviously the shape of the leaves, the strong, recognisable colours, the bold, friendly typography and the positioning of the graphics, helped the students to identify where they were and where they were heading. All these messages were clear and informative yet designed in a creative and fluid appearance that added a friendly aspect to the interior. Following a similar, familiar theme that strengthened the brand, these bold graphics were utilised within the main entrance hallway and in the school staffroom.
The full package of items has not only delivered a comprehensive signage program but it has also turned the building from a hospital into a school where the students can now feel at home and be proud to be part of.