Finding your way at school

A flexible signage system unites all of Stedelijk Onderwijs Antwerpen's schools

September 25, 2014

Following the City of Antwerp’s successful rebranding, Stedelijk Onderwijs Antwerpen wanted to raise its profile after its privatisation. KAN developed a modular signage system for it that supports its identity and raises the visibility of this multifaceted education service. 


Stedelijk Onderwijs Antwerpen is one of the largest education providers in Flanders, the largest of Belgium’s three regions. About 55,000 students are enrolled in education in its network of 116 schools, academies and centres, which are spread across Antwerp. In 2010, Stedelijk Onderwijs Antwerpen was privatised, which was an opportunity to bring a flexible and modern structure to the organisation.


After its privatisation, Stedelijk Onderwijs Antwerpen felt the need to step forward as a strong brand and a network with a multifaceted but complete offering. On top of nursery, primary and secondary education, Stedelijk Onderwijs Antwerpen also offers special needs, arts and adult education as well as a centre for student counselling. KAN’s assignment was to give more visibility to the different schools and divisions through a uniform signage system. Stedelijk Onderwijs Antwerpen first asked KAN to come up with a design proposition for five schools, as a pilot project. KAN offered to develop a fully modular signage system that would be applicable to all the schools, campuses and centres in the network. Once that idea was given the go-ahead, KAN got to work quickly.


The modular grid system formed the basis for the signage design in all the locations associated with Stedelijk Onderwijs Antwerpen. KAN visited and researched each school to ensure the technical design would take into account the unique features of each location. It was important the Stedelijk Onderwijs Antwerpen logo, characterised by the well-known “A” of Antwerp, should be visible and recognisable once in place. The flexibility of the grid system leant itself well to the visual identity of Stedelijk Onderwijs Antwerpen. Each branch of its education offering has its own colour. For example, purple represents adult education, while secondary education is identified through the predominance of blue. The signage supports the use of colour codes and highlights the significance of the colour in relation to the type of school.


Every aspect of the signage, from the technical aspects to the graphic design, was carefully thought through. Each type of school has a desired image and that defined the design of the signage. For nursery and primary education, vivid drawings might be used in the signage but that isn’t applicable to the remainder of the education offering. The core values of the special needs education were translated into playful icons. Photography was used as part of the signage for multiple types of education, and the photos were consistent with the schools’ atmosphere and location. For example, black and white photography was chosen for the academies, to reinforce the artistic feel.


KAN put together creative guidelines for the communication department of Stedelijk Onderwijs Antwerpen. These are still being used today as a basis for new designs and they allow Stedelijk Onderwijs Antwerpen to step forward as a unit while they highlight the individual identity of each type of education.