Making the Rounds

New signage in Boston helps identify the campus and guide visitors

New sign at One Kneeland Street in Boston

Some places have about them a strong sense of their identity and overall design. Think of a college quad ringed by trim brick buildings, or a snugly walled Italian hill town. In either case, you know where you are and where you stand in relation to the other parts of the locale.

The Tufts health sciences campus in Boston, housed in more than a dozen buildings of different sizes, styles and vintages sprawled across several city blocks, has lacked this feeling historically. It’s always been the sort of place that’s hiding in plain sight, and of course it doesn’t help that the borders of the campus—including the medical, dental and nutrition schools, plus giant Tufts Medical Center and the Jean Mayer USDA Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging (HNRCA)—are loosely defined.

Photo: Kelvin MaPhoto: Kelvin Ma
The vagueness is gone now. A smartly conceived and beautifully installed new system of signage has been put in place through a collaboration of Tufts’ University Relations Division, the Boston campus health sciences schools, the HNRCA, the medical center, Tufts Shared Services, the Boston Redevelopment Authority and members of the surrounding Chinatown community.

“We’ve been invisible for a long time in Boston,” Harris Berman, dean of the medical school, points out. “All of this new art is intended to help people find us and then to find their way around the place.”

Thirteen perforated blue-and-silver metal fins attached to the sides and corners of a number of the main buildings help delineate the campus with a collective “Health Sciences” branding. Five free-standing kiosks here and there along the street supply helpful map panels. On the sides of buildings and on interior walls, eight campus maps have been installed to help orient and guide passers-by and visitors to the schools and medical center.

All the new signage is in compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act, and in many aspects goes beyond what’s required by law into an area of common-sense and simple, effective design. For example, the height of the five kiosks and a high-contrast color palette were chosen to provide optimal visibility. The project reflects a focus on quick and easy user comprehension.

Bruce Morgan can be reached at

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