St Patrick’s Cathedral Exhibition
St Patrick’s Cathedral, Dublin
A 2016 Interpretation Strategy Action Plan commissioned by the Cathedral captured the positives and negatives of the visitor experience. Bringing to light areas for improvement, the report’s objectives was to ensure that St Patrick’s Cathedral continues to compete with other attractions in the city; that ‘a visit to the Cathedral exceeds rather than merely meets expectations’. The importance of a warm Christian welcome for visitors was highlighted along with a need to improve interpretation throughout this magnificent working building in order to deliver a meaningful and memorable experience.
Our own review of existing interpretation material within the Cathedral identified opportunities to improve the visitor’s first impression; their engagement with the stories, history and people of the Cathedral; and their understanding of the role of St Patrick’s Cathedral within the wider Christian Church. For example, visitors from overseas are often surprised and sometimes shocked to discover that St Patrick’s Cathedral is not a Roman Catholic Church so this became an important issue to resolve sensitively through interpretation.
Improving initial visitor orientation was a clear challenge. Independent ‘walk-in’ visitors enter from one side of the building while coach tour visitors access the Cathedral through a group entrance on the opposite side. Each entrance leads the visitor to the same central point but as St Patrick’s Cathedral is a working place of worship, any interventions here would need to be easily moved for a variety of services, functions and events.
We designed a moveable, facetted welcome plinth that can be seen clearly from each of these opposing entry points, ensuring all visitors receive a warm welcome, are introduced to key sights and understand what tour options (audio, guided and self-guided) are available to help them explore the Cathedral.
Improving engagement with interpretation throughout the visit was essential. First we addressed content issues, working with the Cathedral’s team to edit and optimise it for broad visitor needs, languages and reasons for visiting – devising a clear hierarchy for different levels of engagement.
With ‘fit for the setting’ always in mind, we developed a respectful and layered typographic design scheme that complemented the Cathedral’s existing corporate identity and made good use of its graphic assets.
Through thoughtful typographic design we were able to improve readability, giving particular attention to the often low light conditions of the building. We optimised the available budget by repurposing existing hardware, furnishing it with new graphic panels which displayed notably clearer content and also made greater use of available imagery.