Understanding the psychological, perceptual and emotional impact signage has on residents in a local community.

Dublin Core


Understanding the psychological, perceptual and emotional impact signage has on residents in a local community.


Alexander Wootton




The placement of signage, street furniture and advertisements can have a profound impact on the appearance of a built environment. They play a vital role in shaping the cultural, physical and social identities that impact the perceptions that residents and other stakeholders hold towards local communities, which in turn impacts on behaviours. Adopting a qualitative approach, this study will examine the impact of signage and other visual features that can contribute to the psychological, perceptual and emotional impact that these elements can have on residents in a local community. A number of semi-structured interviews were conducted amongst residents in One Manchester property areas, One Manchester place officers and residents near these areas. Participants were shown a variety of visual images of signage and were prompted to discuss their emotional response and thoughts, and propose suggestions to improve signage. A thematic analysis was conducted using the interview data and indicated the following four themes: signage design, reputation, community engagement and impact of signage. Reflecting upon these themes, the results suggested that existing signage was psychically ill-fitted and visually dull, lacking positive influential stimuli and evocative colours and that it lacked the authenticity and character needed to emotionally resonate with passers-by. This negatively impacted the reputation of the communities, leading them to be categorised as economically poor with high crime rates, resulting in stakeholders feeling alienated and some fearful. The results highlighted that the signage needs to be revitalised as a part of a wider placemaking strategy to rejuvenate local environments, perceived to be run down. This should support the ongoing evolution of these areas and engage community members to instal signage that is both influential and reflects an overall collective vision.


signage, placemaking, community engagement, qualitative research, community reputation


Due to the need to gain an in-depth understanding of the psychological, perceptual, and emotional impact signage has on residents in a community and factoring in the Covid-19 pandemic, a qualitative approach was adopted consisting of semi-structured interviews. This style of interviews was considered the most suitable method as they provide rich data on the participant’s thoughts which are not constrained by the bounds of tick box exercises or strict discussion guides. They enable researchers to “assess, confirm, validate, refute, or elaborate upon existing knowledge and the discovery of new knowledge” (Mcintosh & Morse, 2015, p. 1). This enables the discussion between the moderator and participant to flow more smoothly and naturally (Roulston et al., 2003) yet, a flexible guide at the moderators disposal keeps the conversation on topic. Interviews in the project were conducted using Microsoft Teams and telephone communication. The data was then assessed using Braun and Clarke’s (2006) six step thematic analysis.
Braun & Clarke’s (2006) six-steps thematic analysis:
Familiarisation: Getting to know the overall data collected through re-reads of transcripts.
Coding: Reducing sentences and phrases into small fragments of meaning or “codes”.
Generating themes: Identifying patterns among codes.
Review themes: Assuring that the meanings identified are relevant to the representation of data collected (research objectives).
Define themes: Refine themes developed by establishing their essence and significance.
Analysing themes: Highlight the frequency of themes and meanings derived from qualitative data analysis. Generate conclusions agreed-upon by all researchers.

A sample of 24 participants was originally agreed, however, only 14 participants were interviewed for the project. Participants were either recruited by One Manchester or the lead researcher from areas across south, east and central Manchester. Participants were made up of the following:

Eight One Manchester residents
Three One Manchester Place Coordinators who worked in specific patch areas
Three Local residents living in areas where One Manchester own property

The lead researcher conducted site visits around areas of Manchester, this was done so the lead researcher could physically inspect communities to identify signage which were used to aid the discussion guide. The sites visits were conducted in Rusholme, Openshawe and Clayton.

Visiting these locations first to view all the signage, symbols and other visual features was invaluable both to generating stimulus material for the interviews and the discussion guides. The aim of the sample was to gain a diverse range of viewpoints from a variety of demographics across Manchester to generate a rich data. Participants were recruited from: Clayton, Droysden, Fallowfield, Gorton, Hulme, Openshawe, Rusholme and Whalley range. A £20 shopping voucher was put forward to incentivise participation in the study.

Interview guide

To obtain the most effective feedback from participants, a discussion guide was created, which provided a structured framework to guide discussions (See Appendix A, see Appendix B for discussed images). When formatting the discussion guide, the lead researcher took into consideration current literature on signage and sought to examine resident’s attitudes, perceptions and behaviours in connection to signage in their local community.

The discussion guide was composed of four sections:
Section 1: Was a general introduction to the subject area and participants’ current awareness of signage and other visuals in their area.
Section 2: Heavily focussed on signage and other visuals gathered from site visits In all of the interviews, participants were shown the images in the order reflected in Appendix B, and they will be asked the same set of questions in relation to each image in order to generate an in-depth discussion on such images. One Manchester and the lead researcher agreed participants would not be informed figures 1-4 were the perceived negative images and figures 5-8 were the perceived positive images.
Section 3: Focused on the future trajectory for signage and symbols. Participants were asked how their perceptions would be impacted if any of the discussed signage was placed in their areas now and in the future. Following this, participants were invited to share any recommendations into the designs of signage.
Section 4: This was only for One Manchester residents. They were asked questions about One Manchester’s performance and potential future actions with their communities. The section was designed to give residents an active voice in how One Manchester can strengthen their relations with residents and enact positive change to protect the future of local communities.

Each question in the discussion guide was designed to be open-ended, to allow participants to have a wider scope and openly share their opinions. The guide was configured to offer flexibility to discuss topics, therefore when required the lead researcher altered the order and wording of questions to maintain the natural flow of discussion with participants.


Interviews were carried out between June and August 2021. Participants were requested to share their opinions around a variety of topics concerning how signage in local communities impact a resident psychological, perceptual and emotionally. Before embarking with interviews, participants were provided an information sheet outlining the study procedure, purpose, confidentiality and their right to withdraw at any time of the study’s duration. If participants accepted the conditions to being interviewed and part of the project, a time was then arranged to administer the interview at the convenience of the participant. Nine of the interviews were overseen through Microsoft Teams, the remaining five were facilitated by telephone at the request of the participants. Before proceeding with the interview, the lead researcher pointed out again the aims of the project and received verbal permission to go ahead with the discussion. Interviews were expedited using the discussion guide to ensure interviews remained structured whilst probing concepts tied to the research question. Attention was devoted to each interview to give participants adequate flexibility to discuss matters significant to them not included in the discussion guide. When required, to guarantee ample depth, follow-up questions and prompts were employed to stimulate participants to delve deeper on essential and intriguing answers (DeJonckheere & Vaughn, 2019). Field notes were developed during discussion, underlining both relevant and vital points, which enabled the researcher to refer to any major points and subsequently, assist them with data analysis (Rapley, 2004). As soon as all the questions had been completed, participants were promptly asked to share any other matters they deemed crucial. If participants were then satisfied with the feedback provided, the moderator would end the interview, and debrief participants about the study which was sent electronically. Discussions typically ranged between 30 minutes – 1 hour which were then all transcribed.


As previously mentioned, Braun and Clarke’s (2006) six step thematic analysis was used to detect themes and patterns underpinning residents’ psychological perceptions, attitudes and behaviours towards signage in local communities. To support Braun and Clarke’s (2006) thematic analysis, a bottom-up analysis was utilised due to the project’s exploratory nature and this facilitates identification of themes that arise from consistent patterns within the data set. Firstly, after each interview was completed, the researcher instantly made notes of the key concepts and beliefs and then transcribed the discussion. To guarantee preciseness of the transcript and the lead researchers’ familiarity with the data content, audio recordings and transcripts were reviewed several times. Subsequently, the process to create codes began, the lead researcher analysed the data set and identified key extracts from the data on the basis of their significance and relevance which led to the creation of the codes. Thereafter, provisional themes were produced through a thorough examination of the coded data set, when shared patterns were discovered and judged to be similar or unified under a core notion. All codes were integrated into a central theme. From this, the provisional themes then were revised and reviewed to ensure the themes had remained articulated and unique. During this period, the coded excerpts linked to a core theme was re-examined to verify it could reinforce the central theme and they featured no inconsistencies with that theme (Braun and Clarke, 2006). By which time, a number of themes were either excluded or merged due the lack of sufficient data to uphold the theme. The procedure was repeated several times to consolidate relevancy of the themes to the research question whilst rigorously ensuring they mirrored the patterns found in the data set (Braun and Clarke, 2006). Ultimately, the final themes had been selected and a meticulous account of each theme was supplied. Once the thematical analysis process had been completed, extracts from the content were chosen to illustrate and support the relevant themes in the report.


Lancaster University


Word doc.




Reva Maria George




Consultancy - Commercial report









Leslie Hallam

Project Level



Psychology of Advertising

Sample Size


Statistical Analysis Type

Qualitative (Thematic Analysis)




Alexander Wootton, “Understanding the psychological, perceptual and emotional impact signage has on residents in a local community. ,” LUSTRE, accessed April 19, 2024, https://www.johnntowse.com/LUSTRE/items/show/130.