Museum Signage: Norwegian-American Inspired Design for Donor and Building Signage at Vesterheim

Marcia McKelvey, Vesterheim Director of Administration

We hadn’t undertaken a project so complex before and working on the signage with Latitude Signage + Design was great...they made the process as smooth as possible.

Decorah, a charming town in northeast Iowa with strong Norwegian roots, says Velkommen (welcome) to a stunning new addition to the Vesterheim, The National Norwegian-American Museum and Folk Art School.

The new Vesterheim Commons building is a 7,600 sq. ft., three-story structure designed by Snøhetta, an international architecture firm with roots in Oslo, Norway. The new building better integrates existing museum spaces, provides more accessible spaces to better showcase the museum’s collection, enables seamless connectivity between buildings on campus, enhances the audience experience, and provides for more space for events and the growing folk art and education programs.

One-of-a-Kind Donor Wall Signage

To fund this project, Vesterheim launched a capital campaign in hopes of raising $12 million. Because of the enormous support the project received, it was important to have a donor wall that honored the many generous benefactors. Snøhetta designed a donor wall sign in the shape of the museum’s split V logo, it was up to us at Latitude Signage + Design to figure out how to produce the sign and determine the best material finishes.

“One challenge with this project was coming up with solutions that made it possible to install signage on several different surfaces, such as drywall, glass, wood, and brick,” says Bryce Carlson, Business Development for Latitude Signage + Design.

For the donor wall, our signage experts created a flat cut aluminum lattice to serve as the foundation for this distinctive donor wall sign. On the left side of the V, solid white oak donor panels list the names of high-level donors. These panels click onto the aluminum frame to create a dynamic interconnected pattern. The look is stunning and the design offers the practical flexibility of adding additional panels as new donors continue to make contributions.

On the right side of the V, acrylic panels painted Cosmic Gray have the names of every other donor printed in Eggshell White. This design also leaves space available to honor future contributors to the capital campaign.

Wayfinding, Donor Room Identifiers, and ADA Signage

A project of this magnitude also needs a host of practical signage, including wayfinding signage and ADA signs. Our signage experts serve as consultants on projects like this one, guiding the client through design choices, material options, and determining the best places to install signage near stairs, elevators, and throughout the campus.

“We hadn’t undertaken a project so complex before and working on the signage with Latitude was great,” says Marcia McKelvey, Vesterheim Director of Administration. “Bryce and Andrew have been very responsive and helpful when guiding us through pages of complex production notes. There was a lot of back and forth, and they made the process as smooth as possible.”

Collaboration is key to making complex projects like this run smoothly. “Despite working on many similar projects throughout my career, it was a new experience for me to work with international partners,” Carlson says. “Being more connected than ever allowed the entire team to collaborate, match materials and finishes, come up with the right mix of products to achieve the desired aesthetic, and meet the client's budget.”

With construction complete and all the signage in place, the Vesterheim held a public dedication in September 2023. Now community members and visitors to Decorah have a stunning new place to visit, attend events, and participate in folk-art education programs.

Partner with a Signage Expert

Many organizations only go through a major building project once in a generation, and managing the details of an enormous building project can be overwhelming. The Latitude team is adept at managing complex architectural signage projects and will guide you through every step of the process, making it as seamless as possible.

Have questions or want to learn more about what having a signage for your community project? Connect with us anytime.

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