The Wimbledon Way

Originally published in Football & Stadium Management in February 2023.

How Wimbledon’s wayfinding and signage has set a new standard for experience-led sporting events

Image Credit: AELTC / Joe Toth  
Steeped in history and with a global annual audience in excess of 600 million people, The Championships, Wimbledon is considered by many as the most prestigious and recognisable tennis tournament in the world.

From tucking into strawberries and cream on The Hill, to the time spent camping with fellow tennis ‘super fans’ in The Queue, the Wimbledon brand is synonymous with quintessential experiences that guests look forward to every year.

Held at the All England Club since 1877, the iconic Grand Slam event is renowned for its time-honoured traditions and its pursuit of perfection; competitors proudly don their crisp, pristine tennis whites, whilst every blade of ryegrass on each Championship court is meticulously trimmed to 8mm to provide the optimum playing conditions.

Whilst the Club is justifiably proud of Wimbledon’s 145-year history and exacting standards, it also continually strives to set new benchmarks within the industry, not only for its players but the 500,000+ guests who visit the tournament each year, travelling from all corners of the world, over an action-packed fortnight.

Image Credits: Left: AELTC / Jed Leicester. Top Right: AELTC / Ben Queenborough.Bottom Right: AELTC / Dillon Bryde

Signage – a first impression that lasts

In 2019 a survey of more than 2,000 guests discovered that 70% of visitors interacted personally with on-site signage during their visit to The Championships, from navigating to their seats, exploring new lunch options, to catching a glimpse of their favourite player on the practice courts. Signage itself was seen as one of the key touch points throughout their visit, not just for new and unfamiliar visitors, but also for regular tennis ‘super fans’ and staff who return year-on-year. For many people, signage was their first port of call, defining their first impression of The Championships and delivering a statement of what is to come.

With an eye on exceptional guest experience and brand enhancement, the Club was quick to see this as a unique opportunity; a chance to refresh their entire wayfinding and signage system across its vast 170,000m2 estate, and in turn deliver an even greater Championships experience for all.

Work began in late 2021 to develop a new system in time for Centre Court’s landmark centenary celebrations in 2022. Having previously carried out an independent audit of The Championships in 2019, a specialist wayfinding team at Maynard was commissioned by the Club to develop a new strategy and design over an intensive seven-month period.

Working collaboratively with the Club’s marketing, operations, guest experience, estate development and heritage teams, a guest-centred design approach was undertaken in parallel with the following strategic principles.

Image Credits: Top: AELTC / Ben SolomonBottom Left: AELTC / Jed Jacobsohn. Bottom Right: Amanda Morrison.

1. Informed guest choices

With 18 Championship courts and an extensive array of commercial offerings, all spread across a vast estate, guests needed to be informed of the different options and services available to them throughout their visit. Whether it be food and beverage outlets, shopping at The Wimbledon Shop or kiosks, the Wimbledon Museum, or the Tennis Fan Experience activity centre, the range of available options is considerable and can change year-on-year.

Information-rich illustrative maps formed the cornerstone of the new wayfinding system. A new set of visually engaging maps was developed to showcase Wimbledon's beautiful grounds and advertise the array of eateries and opportunities available. By giving guests access to the information that’s relevant to them, users can feel more confident to explore, plan and tailor their experiences at their own pace, encouraging intuitive and independent journeys. By prioritising inclusivity and diversity, users are more inclined to personalise their itineraries based on individual needs and preferences, such as the location of step-free routes, accessible viewing for matches, family-friendly spaces for children, or even quiet contemplation rooms.

2. Wayfinding starts at home

The wayfinding experience doesn’t start and end at Wimbledon’s iconic gates; it can exist many months earlier as guests first receive their tickets and excitedly plan their routes to SW19 far in advance.

In addition to physical signage and mapping throughout the site, coordinated information was developed in print, digital and online formats through the website and app, enabling guests to prepare and pre-plan their travel in the run up to The Championships. Information was prioritised towards active and public transport, with walking emphasised as the preferred travel mode for last-mile journeys, reducing congestion and pain points due to traffic, and ensuring the possibility for over-crowding was kept to an absolute minimum.

This end-to-end approach to wayfinding helped to deliver a seamless travel experience throughout the day, with all messaging delivered beneath one consistent voice.

Image Credit: Amanda Morrison

3. Celebrate the brand

By their very nature, wayfinding systems for major global sporting events tend to be large in scale to remain legible, functional, and visible amongst the crowds. Coupled with strongly branded graphics, this can often result in highly prominent and monumental sign products which can dominate the landscape.

With over 700 new signs being installed for the start of The Championships, Maynard’s approach was refined and rationalised. Understated products were designed to mirror the ground's architecture and landscape, enabling signage to sit harmoniously within the site.

The largest products, such as the ‘mega maps’ and totems, had integrated openings to break-up their structures, making them less intimidating and avoiding obstructions to sightlines. Their understated use of timber paid homage to the handcrafted wooden net posts unique to Wimbledon, embodying the look and feel of the site and the history of The Championships.

The physicality of the new signage was also seized upon as an opportunity to further enhance the site’s horticultural character and landscaping. Wimbledon’s ‘Tennis in an English Garden’ narrative was celebrated through lush new planting and flowers, all set within the sign products themselves and adding a splash of brand colour. Forming an integral part of the design language, over 1,000 individual pot plants were used to bring the signage to life. These were subsequently donated to local communities and charities post-Championships, following through on the Club’s commitment to sustainability.

Functional wayfinding information was also twinned with interpretive content at key sign locations, providing opportunistic storytelling moments to a wider audience. Together with the marketing team, a ‘trail’ of history, triumphs and uniquely Wimbledon facts was devised, adding an extra level of intrigue for guests to discover, whilst also encouraging wider exploration of the site.

4. Digitise the experience

Large format digital displays and mobile applications have played a key role in enhancing guest experience at The Championships over recent years. The Covid-affected Championships in 2021 accelerated the Club’s transition towards ‘paperless’ events in the future, and undoubtedly the expectation and reliance on digital technology for wayfinding and guest information is set to grow further every year.

With dynamic and hyper-personalised services in mind, the design and format of the new wayfinding information had to consider both immediate and future use cases. As an example, maps were designed to be displayed in a variety of scales and media, from small handheld mobile devices through to 25 ft diameter LED video walls. Stylised maps were also drawn geographically accurately, future proofing the design to enable their use in real-time, location and GPS-based services such as the official Wimbledon mobile app.

Image Credits: Top: AELTC / Ian Walton. Bottom left: AELTC / Andrew Baker. Bottom right: AELTC / Joe Toth.

5. Positive environmental impact

As a signatory to the UN Sport for Climate Action Framework, the All England Club is committed to the sustainable running of The Championships and their role to inspire wider action across the industry.

The implementation of new signage was no exception, with the manufacture, installation and maintenance of new hardware needing to reflect this commitment. All products were hand-crafted with sustainably sourced and highly durable iroko timber, and constructed with modular interchangeable components for ease of maintenance and future updates if required. As an event-based system, larger sign products were also designed to be easily constructed and deconstructed on site, making them simple to move and redeploy with minimal resources.

Sign products were also kept to a minimum, decluttering the site and keeping crowds moving. By implementing a simplified circulation network, coupled with multi-functional products and a targeted use of digital tools, fewer signs were required across site. Fewer products had to be manufactured, less materials were ultimately used, and future ongoing maintenance requirements was also reduced as a direct result.

Image Credit: AELTC / Ted Jacobsohn

Setting a new standard

The 700+ handcrafted signs, information kiosks and map-based products were successfully installed across The Championships grounds in time for the opening day. Their impact on guest experience was immediately obvious and quantified, with post-Championships questionnaires showing elevated guest satisfaction levels in wayfinding and signage at 92% - an almost 20 percentage point increase over previous years.

The Club was also quick to see the benefits of their new investment. Emily Kavanagh-Collins, Creative Operations Lead at The All England Lawn Tennis Club, noted:

“Exceptional guest experience is rooted in the ethos of our global brand - always in pursuit of greatness, and delivering an iconic Championships to all, whether for repeat visitors or people coming to SW19 for the first time.

“Working with Maynard has elevated our ability in tying all elements of our brand together, continually working to improve how we serve and interact with our customers, not just throughout The Championships but also year-round with our local communities.

“Wayfinding isn’t just about finding your way around, it’s an investment into growth, education, and improvement, and we’re excited to explore our partnership with Maynard for future Championships and longer-term initiatives to come.”

Bolstered by the success of the new wayfinding system, the lessons and findings are now being carried forward into wider programmes and initiatives across the Club. Ongoing upgrades to their Community Tennis Centre at Raynes Park and Community Sports Centre at Roehampton, for example, serve as permanent and affordable sporting facilities on a year-round basis, firmly cementing Wimbledon’s commitment and investment into local communities across Southwest London.

Originally published in Football & Stadium Management in February 2023.