A regular example of how zoological and botanical gardens provide information to the public and create passive learning experiences is the installation of information panels and signs which can raise the interest of the visiting public of all ages. This type of education is often referred to as informal learning at the zoo. Compared with some formal learning techniques – especially with talks with keepers – it is not as efficient as those, but it is worth trying to improve them as well. Hereinafter I am going to provide a brief overview about the information system and unusual graphic design used at Děčín Zoo.
A Short Overview of the Information System at the Zoo
The Zoo (opened in 1949) developed a new graphic design and information system in 1993. The main goal was to create a logotype-based information system in order to transmit information in a simple and understandable way to a wide range of visitors on international level. I had read about that and it made me curious how it works, so I visited the institution last summer. In these days another type of information panel was added to complement the abovementioned one.
The Current Structure of the Information System
The external part of the information system comprises mainly the logo, the certificates for animal adoptions, the educational papers, the zoo publications and different kinds of advertisements, while the internal part involves the zoo admission tickets, the animal species signs, the information panels and the signposts.
Creating a logo is an important part of graphic design and it is not an easy task to make it perfect. The zoo has chosen the Grizzly bear (Ursus arctos horribilis) for its „icon species” and letter ’D’ was selected as the first letter of the name of the city; this resulted in a stylized bear appearing in the zoo logo (see photos 1 and 2). Furthermore, the letter ’D’ is not only the base of the logo but of the whole informational system as well.
Upon entering the zoo, visitors can have a look at the map showing where animals can be found, identifying them by their special stylization and using the direction signs around the whole zoo (see photos 3-5).
The species signage shows the stylization of the given species, its name in four languages, the types of food eaten by the animal, its predators and the biotope where it can be found, including a distribution map. Furthermore, special symbols display the biological characteristics of the animal (see photo 6). Everyone can pick up a fact sheet at the entrance which serves as an explanation of what the logotypes and graphics mean on a species signage (see photo 7).
All of this results in a very standardized and coherent information system which proved to be very effective and interesting for the visitors of all ages. It is also worth mentioning that relatively new elements of the information system have been created: big information panels were placed just next to the animal exhibits. Besides the written information, these provide interactive educational learning, so visitors can see, smell and touch something connected with the given species at each information board. Furthermore, the logotype-based smaller signs have been placed on these large information panels (see photos 8 and 9).
MOUDRỲ, L. 1994 (revised 1996). New graphic design and information system at Zoological Garden Decin. International Zoo Yearbook (1997) 35: 320-324.