ZSL Penguin Beach

Throwing A Wild Card

Throwing A Wild Card

The world’s oldest scientific animal sanctuary, London Zoo, opened in 1828, and is now managed under the Zoological Society of London (ZSL). Based in Regents Park, it hosts 698 species of animals, with 20,166 individuals, making it one of the largest collections in the United Kingdom.

One of their very special residents is nature’s very own tuxedoed trotter – housed at ‘Penguin Beach’, complete with a £2m pool holding 100,000 gallons of water and built especially for the aquatic birds to splash about in.

This was 13,000 sq ft in serious need of some signposting, so ZSL’s Interpretation designer, Phil Holmes, asked us to create a bespoke archway outdoor signage for the enclosure’s point of entry and bring his ideas for a welcome sign to life. The challenge was a limited budget and no power supply, so we’d have to get creative.

Picture of the top of the wooden archery with black and natural plywood lettering
Black and brown wood 3D letters are placed alongside blue and white giant sequins that look like the shimmering sea. Outdoor signs like this one can use the wind to bring them to life

gallons of water in pool


A close up on the outdoor signage: metal black and white penguins dancing on top of the archway and above the row of giant white and blue sequins simulating the shimmering of the sea at ZSL London Zoo
Weather beaten outdoor signage made of plywood 3D letters fixed on a rustic wooden post at ZSL London Zoo, another example of Glyphics unique outdoor signs
Reclaimed wood archway outdoor sign
Preparing for an outdoor sign in London Zoo

Embracing ZSL’s practice of using natural materials where possible, the rectangular arch was made from three reclaimed oak beams, with the largest some 250mm thick and 4000mm long. It would be crowned with the words ‘Penguin Beach’ and a visual of the playful penguins to attract the attention of a young zoo-going audience.

First off, we CNC-cut the letters out of 20mm plywood, then we varnished in Sadolin exterior wood stain and arranged them over the wooden archway. Inspired by the mischievous antics of the inhabitants, the design then saw us translate dancing and diving penguin illustrations into metalwork – laser cut from 4mm aluminium, powder coated for longevity, and finished off with black and white vinyl details.

Though usually seen on hair dresser fascias, we then decided to add shimmer discs to the sign and harness the power of the wind. Fading from dazzling silver to sparkling aqua to a brilliant, deep blue in a mass of iridescent metal – this finishing touch effectively, and affordably, captured the essence of water to entice the eye, and allude to what lay within.


One of a number of projects that ZSL has commissioned us for, we have since gone on to install some of our favourite signs for the Land of the Lions, Animal Adventure, In with the Spiders,  Night Life, Rainforest Life, Butterfly Paradise, Pygmy Hippos, Whipsnade Café and Sir David Attenborough and the Queen’s 90th birthday installation.