Interpretation Plans

Identify your sites assets, stories and the most compelling way to deliver rich visitor experiences through an interpretation plan. Interpretation plans provide guidance in the development of interpretation, information, and delivery devices across all media.

Our approach to interpretation plans

We craft stories evoked by the relationships between people and place. Central to our understanding is the potential of interpretation to connect emotionally with the visitor and to facilitate introspection and understanding. A structured approach, using interpretation plans, allows all the stakeholders to contribute with a common understanding of ‘where you are’ and ‘where you want to go’. We can engage with stakeholders, develop mission statements, determine themes, research content, provide style guides and templates, determine the appropriate media, ensure your program is the best value for money and provide a coherent interpretation plan that guides your project to completion.

Interpretive planning is the initial step in the planning and design process to communicate messages, stories, information and experiences. It is a decision-making process that blends management needs and resource considerations with visitor needs and desires to determine the most effective way to communicate a message to a targeted audience. Wikipedia

Why do I need an interpretation plan?

Because your challenge is to engage, provoke and reveal and interpretation plans guide this process. Effective interpretation has the capacity to …

add to our understanding of the world…enrich our own culture…and change people… (Jay Miller 2017)

Who will it benefit?

If you get it right it’s a win–win situation that benefits the visitor, the organisation and the resource that is being interpreted. It’s all about the visitor experience and if it benefits the visitor, the flow-on effects benefit everything else.

What are you trying to achieve?

In communicating interpretive experiences to a diverse range of visitors, identifying and prioritising goals is an important starting point. What are you trying to achieve? How do you arrive at a concise set of goals that ticks all the boxes? Visitors have expectations, they want to enjoy themselves, be provoked, try to understand and ultimately feel connected. It is fostering this connection that is the most important and most difficult element of any interpretive program. How do you increase a visitor’s sense of affinity, that emotional connection to places and stories? You have to know who your visitors are and how to ‘talk’ to their life experiences.

Who is your visitor and how do they interact?

Interpretation plans identify who your visitor is and how to communicate interpretive experiences across a wide variety of communication strategies. These can include social media and technology platforms, print media, public art, audio installations and face to face interpretation.

What is your mission?

A mission statement sets out what you do or your purpose. It should not include your goals or your ambitions. It is the essential starting place for interpretive projects and helps maintain focus on the purpose of the project. Goals are often vague and long term and, in general terms, set out ways to work towards your mission. Objectives are very specific strategies and are measurable. The outcome of any interpretive project is a change of behaviour in the visitor and should be measurable. So:

  • identify your audience
  • decide on your messages
  • aim to bring about visitor behavioural change
  • decide on the delivery techniques
  • measure your outcomes – change of behaviour.

Different strokes for different folks

Remember your visitors could be:

  • experience seekers are curious and might only visit a site to tick it off their “bucket list”
  • explorers want to understand
  • facilitators may be friends, parents or tour leaders and are there to help another person have the experience
  • professionals or hobbyists often volunteer and can become a resource
  • spiritual re-chargers are there for the environment and don’t necessarily engage with any media
  • social groups are being led to the experience

A Thematic Approach

After all the bells and whistles what do you want your visitor to remember? It’s the point of the program or the moral of the story. Most visitors will forget most of the facts presented.

Remember your job is to engage, provoke and reveal. Engage the visitor in as many ways as possible and provoke interest in your stories. What you reveal is the take home message, the main theme. This landscape is under threat and needs protection. This is an important place for Aboriginal people. There is always one key theme, so prioritise.

Key messages support your theme and create more complex interpretive landscapes. Again list your messages and prioritise. Too many messages could be confusing.


  • heme the experience
  • armonise impressions with positive cues
  • liminate negative cues
  • ix in memorabilia
  • ngage all five senses

(from ‘The Experience Economy by Joseph Pine and James Gilmore)

Interpretive or interpretation?

Is it an interpretation plan or an interpretive plan? These words are frequently used but it is often difficult to accurately describe what they mean. To some it is putting a whole lot of information and images on a sign. From Interpretation Canada:

Interpretation is a communication process, designed to reveal meanings and relationships of our natural and cultural heritage, to the public, through first hand experiences with objects, artifacts, landscapes, or sites.

Interpretive is an adjective meaning explanatory, enlightening or illuminative. Interpretation is a noun meaning understanding, translation or perception. Of course there are other synonyms for either word but this conveys the subtle difference. As John Veverka puts it…

interpretation is translation from the language of the expert into the conceptual language of everyday people (non experts).

So you could ask the question…are you being interpretive with your interpretation?

Wayfinding plans & maps