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Northwood Headquarters

Northwood HQ is the operational headquarters for all the UK’s multi-service military operations, and the UK headquarters for all multi-national military operations.

Scott Brownrigg developed a masterplan for the site, designed new buildings and repurposed some existing buildings. Alongside this re-planning, I provided site-wide wayfinding strategy and signage design, I also developed a visual identity for the site.

As well as operational activities, Northwood HQ contains living quarters, community facilities, and services to keep the site running. The wayfinding uses colour coding and typography to differentiate these activities.

One of the staff said this about the new signage:

’The signing is stylish and considering the situation i.e. working around operating staff in functioning offices, it was carried out efficiently with clean signage fitted. The old tired entrance sign has been replaced with very modern polished boxed letters, this displaces the old cold war military image and replaces it with the new high tech military image of today. This gives ... a feeling of well being and pride in their work and work place.’

The visual identity and the colour coding are used throughout the Northwood HQ intranet, printed materials and uniforms.

The redevelopment of Northwood HQ even made BBC news.

Below is a tour of the main elements in this extensive signage kit.

Entrance sign, there is a pair of these signs, one each side of the main entrance. The three-dimensional letters have light grey faces and dark grey sides. These colours and the typography are all elements of the visual identity that are recur throughout the site:

Northwood entrance sign

Northwood entrance sign

Security signs around the entrance:

Northwood security sign outside entrance

Northwood security sign at entrance

Northwood security sign inside entrance

Principal operational buildings have their entrances shown by large landmark totem-style signs. External signage for operational buildings is in dark grey with lettering in capital letters:

Northwood external large sign

Northwood external large sign details

Entrances to community buildings and living quarters, and secondary signage for operational buildings all use medium-sized plank-style signs. Community buildings have orange signs with italic lettering, living quarters have green signs with lettering in capital letters, operational buildings continue to use dark grey with capital letters:

Northwood external medium sized sign

Northwood external medium sized signs

Northwood external medium sized sign details

Secondary entrances have small wall-mounted signs, they use the same colours and typography as the larger signs:

Northwood external small sign

Northwood external small sign

A summary of external wayfinding elements:

Northwood external signage 02

The church has a unique sign, using the community orange colour but in a different configuration. This sign is designed so that the information displayed can be easily changed:

Northwood external church sign

Northwood external church sign detail

Behind the reception desks in principal buildings, three-dimensional lettering echoes the main entrance signs:

Northwood internal reception sign

Inside the Joint Headquarters building, department entrances are identified by large graphics applied directly to the walls:

Northwood internal department sign

Northwood internal department sign

Northwood internal signage 01

Where necessary, buildings have directories. These vary greatly in complexity but all use the same template which is designed to work with and without room numbers:

Northwood internal directory

Where necessary, direction signs point to destinations that cannot be seen or inferred from where the sign is:

Northwood internal direction sign

Signs projecting from walls help to identify destinations along corridors:

Northwood internal direction signs

Northwood internal direction sign and room sign

And finally when one reaches one’s destination, rooms are identified by room number and name. The room numbering system is consistent throughout the site and can include building number, wing, and floor if necessary:

Northwood internal room sign

Even the plaque to mark the formal opening of the Joint Headquarters follows the style of graphics throughout the site:

Northwood opening plaque

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