St Columba’s Hospice

St Columba’s Hospice is located in the conservation area of Leith on the outskirts of Edinburgh. The hospice is housed across a combination of new buildings and the full refurbishment of two Grade II listed buildings, the oldest dating back to 1815. The £26 million renovation project was primarily funded by donors and is intended to meet the needs of the surrounding population, providing the very latest in palliative care facilities.

Working with:
Client: St Columba’s Hospice Architect: JDDK Contractor: Graham Construction


The project timeline:
Outline strategy and budget prepared 2011:
Phase 1 – Education Centre completed 2014:
Phase 2 and 3 –Main hospice

The entrance of St Columbas Hospice showing signage and etching on the glass walls to the outside
An internal glass partition with frosting and the St Columbas Hospice logo etched into it
A view of St Columba's Hospice at night, with visible window manifestations
An external view of St Columba's Hospice with the signage for the Fidra room visible inside

Wayfinding in any facility where palliative care is required should just ‘be there’ and guide users in finding their way around without too much thought or effort.

Wall mounted glass signage for bedrooms at St Columba's Hospice
Lift signage with pictograms
Glass mounted signage for the cafe with a pictogram of a coffee cup
Etched glass benefactors boards on the wall at St Columba's Hospice
Healthcare signage and wayfinding with colourful manifestations along a glass corridor
Wall mounted room signage and numbering
Pictogram toilet signs at St Columba's Hospice
Instructive hand washing signs as part of a healthcare signage and wayfinding scheme
Frosted squre window manifestations on full size window panels at St Columba's Hospice
Signwriting on glass at St Columba's Hospice

What our client said:

“St Columba’s Hospice is delighted with the service and signage provided by Picto. They were involved early on in our process and were able to guide us around the pitfalls of signage and gave us good advice… I really think the hands-on approach suited our project and gave us confidence. We would be happy to use Picto again and would recommend them if asked.”

Alison Allan | Project Lead

St Columba’s Hospice

Working with JDDK, Picto began looking at the five-year St Columba’s Hospice project when its redevelopment was at the planning stage. The brief was for ‘a clear, understated and non-institutional signage scheme’, which would sit sensitively within both listed and contemporary environments and with interior finishes including stone, glass and stainless steel.

An appropriate and integrated signage scheme

It’s important that wayfinding in any facility where palliative care is required should guide users in finding their way around without too much thought or effort. The aim at St Columba’s was to create a scheme ‘more akin to a boutique hotel’ than a medical facility, while ensuring that information was presented clearly and in a format that was easy to follow. The client wanted all the signage for the hospice to be integrated, from the appropriate recognition of the hospice’s benefactors, through to the smaller details like privacy manifestation, hygiene notices and door numbers.

Wayfinding in older, more complex buildings

One of the key challenges at St Columba’s was that, due to the age and complexity of parts of the buildings, some journeys between rooms and different locations across the extensive site weren’t straighforward. It was important to ensure all routes were clearly signed at critical points where decisions would be required, while keeping the correct balance between minimal content and physical scale. Picto worked closely with the Project Lead, checking the details for each sign and walking the site to make sure that information would be displayed in the places it was needed and the proportions would be correct. The sensitive use of terminology was especially important throughout the finished site and the client chose to describe many of the rooms and areas using names of the islands in the nearby Firth of Forth and after local flora.

Care and compassion at the heart of the hospice

To mark the opening of the redeveloped site, the hospice commissioned a reworking of their logo. We used elements of the new logo, which features a dove, as both graphic displays and privacy panels throughout the building.