Franciscan University Wayfinding Plan

Case Study

Sign System, Wayfinding Analysis

Franciscan University of Steubenville is a private, Catholic university tucked away in a picturesque small town located along the Ohio River, 40 miles west of Pittsburgh. Since 2001, it has ranked in the elite “top tier” of America’s Top Colleges by U.S. News & World Report and has a national reputation as one of the most respected U.S. Catholic universities.


After completing a capital campaign and raising $31 million to expand its curriculum, housing and programming, Franciscan University has experienced significant growth, more than doubling in size since 2000. The university hosts prestigious Catholic leaders and conferences, drawing visitors from across the country, creating a need to better connect the campus to the surrounding environment, including shopping, dining and recreation.

“The campus was built in the 1960s and had a collection of signage that looked state-park vintage. It looked more like Camp Franciscan than Franciscan University. We knew we needed to address it in terms of image and wayfinding to help people find where they want to go.”

Joe McGurn,Director of Physical Plant, Franciscan University


  • A thorough analysis of existing signage uncovered discrepancies with nomenclature—naming inconsistencies with buildings and departments. After convening with university departments, a cohesive wayfinding strategy was developed including a new signage program.
  • Taking into account the university’s 10-year plan, Guide Studio introduced versatile, modular signage to give the university flexibility to change panels if necessary. A message schedule was developed to ensure consistency. A modern aesthetic based on the university architect’s vision was adopted to replace the former wood signage.
  • Once implemented, the new wayfinding and signage program will guide visitors through their journey to Franciscan University, from parking to finding buildings and exploring campus features.

“There’s a hunger to get this done and implement it. The first impression and curb appeal to our visitors is important, and if we can get them directed with fresh signage that will speak to them, that communication will work effectively with the brand.”

Joe McGurn,Director of Physical Plant, Franciscan University

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