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.
  • Since being implemented, the new wayfinding and signage program guides visitors through their journey to Franciscan University, from parking to finding buildings and exploring campus features.

“We attract students from all 50 states and 13 countries, plus host more than 2,000 high-schoolers for camps every summer. The signage supports our outreach and enrollment by making them feel safe and comfortable while they’re here. It makes a huge difference.”

Joe McGurn,Director of Physical Plant, Franciscan University

Franciscan University - Inset Results


Having implemented Phase 1 of the new strategy, including vehicular and building signs, Franciscan University’s wayfinding connects to the school’s brand and elevates the on-campus experience.

“Whether you’re driving or walking, signs are the first things people look for and see,” says McGurn. “There’s no longer a mismatch between the signs and everything we have to offer. We’re represented as the professional, forward-looking university that we really are.”

The university looks forward to installing Phase 2 of the strategy, including new pedestrian signage, to complete their new look and feel. In addition to the 100 percent positive feedback from employees, religious leadership, parents and the community, the signs are making young students feel right at home.

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Case Study

Franciscan University Wayfinding Plan

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.. Read More