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Lost in Wayfinding

Gedunker

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I will soon be meeting with the design committee for our local Main Street program to form consensus on a uniform wayfinding system for our downtown and inner-city neighborhoods. I googled "signage" and "wayfinding" and arrived at the predictable sign company websites. That is all fine and good, but we are not yet at that point.

I am beseeching The Throbing Brian(TM) for municipal policies or programs for unified wayfinding. I want to:
1) reduce visual clutter but remain in conformance with state DOT as far as traffic control signage is concerned;
2) reinforce community identity through the municipal signage;
3) hear your "do's" and "don'ts" about what works and what does not; and
4) get some ideas about costs so we can begin to establish a budget.

As always, I am grateful for your assistance.
Gedunker
 

Cardinal

Cyburbian
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10,080
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I don't have any links for you, but here are a few thoughts from somebody who deals with wayfinding in relation to downtowns on a frequent basis.

1) Consider your purpose. Are you trying to direct people to and around the downtown? Then don't clutter things up. I have seen some programs decide that they want to point the way to everything, everywhere in the community. The original goal of pointing to downtown gets lost amid a sea of arrows.

2) Think beyond signs.Landscaping, lighting, and a variety of other attributes can be used to create a distinct corridor to the destination. One of the communities I worked for had a downtown on a road intersecting the highway. I suggested a combination of signage, a traffic signal to signify the importance of the intersecting road, landscaping for a gateway feature and along the three blocks to downtown, and even reconstructing the road with a pigmented surface to distinguish it from other streets.

3) Decorative streetname signs are becoming more popular. Do you want them everywhere in the community or just in certain places. Use them (or a different design) to signify important routes or districts.

4) Banners are good. Put them on light poles. Add a banner suspended over the street on the routes to downtown, then use it to advertise upcoming events.

5) Begin the wayfinding program beyond the city limits. Get the DOT to put up signs along the highway. SOme states already do this; others will need to be forced. Buy a billboard in the town next door.
 

biscuit

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I had nothing to do with it's design or implementation - A little before my time - but here's a quick primer to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania's Wayfinder System. This may not fit your needs but I think it's a good example of an effective and easy to use system for a city that is notoriously dificult to get around in (Grid streets? What is this "grid street" you speak of?).

Here's an example of some of the signage
 

Gedunker

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Cardinal:

Thank you for your ideas. Our downtown district is well-defined, but tourists do have difficulty finding some of the cultural areas, and it is with an eye toward them that we are moving on the wayfinding system. I agree that the entire streetscape is important and here we have been fortunate to have some good streetscape design / construction completed in the heart of the historic district. Where we have been unfortunate is the propensity of the Street Department to place various parking signs / traffic signs in inordinate numbers along the curb so that it looks like a slalom course. (Much of this could be reduced and handled by painted curbs, IMO). We have too many banners right now -- they are seemingly everywhere thanks to the previous administration's uber-patriotism post Sept. 11. Finally, our state DOT has done a fair job of identifying us to motorists, although we would prefer something distinctive rather than the stock signs. Thanks also to Donk although I'm looking for something a little different.

biscuit that's a start of what I'm looking for, but I want to use multiple signs smaller and below the principal design element to eliminate the numerous signs that litter the urban landscape. And, yeah, I have found Pittsburgh to be very difficult to navigate if you don't know where you are going. Just a few low bridges, too.
 

donk

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Maybe this is more what you are looking for.

It is an example of one from a small town by Fredericton. It is supplemented by small arrows with distances to businesses on street corners.
 

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JNL

Cyburbian
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Cardinal's point about thinking beyond signs is a good one.

Have you thought about the use of colour - maybe a different colour for cultural features. Here we have distinctive brown signs for tourist/cultural attractions. Also the use of pictures/symbols can be more effective than words.

Obviously the location of your signs is very important.

If you use maps, it is very helpful to match the orientation of the map to the position of the person viewing it. So, if you had the same map on two sides of a sign, one would be rotated 180o from the position of the other one (I need special sign terminology to help me explain myself!). This is a simple idea but you'd be surprised how often it's forgotten. It's not enough just to mark north.
 

Cardinal

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Your idea on maps is an interesting one. People who do a lot of orienteering by map are used to laying it out so that it lines up with features on the ground. This may be even more comfortable for people who are already used to looking at maps upside down. ;) The only reason I would not do it is because I am lazy - there is too much work involved in relabeling all of the streets and features.
 

mendelman

Unfrozen Caveman Planner
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And always make sure the North-arrow is pointing down on the map! :p
 

Gedunker

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mendelman said:
And always make sure the North-arrow is pointing down on the map! :p

Drives me asbolutely batty to receive plans from a professional with the north orientation anywhere but to the top of the sheet. "Well the client wants the street on the bottom". No, excuse me, but it is your job to educate your client. It is a rule for a reason. Give the client whatever in private, but give me what I need for the record.

I don't know that we'll be using maps in any significant manner, although we might. It is certainly a point to ponder.
 

Wannaplan?

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We hired a new planner last summer and I had the joy of being one of the first to work with him on a site selection project for our housing commission client. We had about 25 vacant urban sites to visit and my task was to make a driving map that had each site marked. You know, our little in-house way-finding map! When the driving day came, we hopped into his car and took-off on our little driving tour. He was the pilot, the driver, and I was his navigator, the one with the map telling him where to turn and stuff. Well, as we drove from the first to second site, he instructed me to orient the map with the north arrow pointing up. Never mind the fact that we were driving east. I insisted I like to rotate the map in the direction in which we are heading. Even though I had the map so the north arrow was pointing to the left - driving east - he wanted me to re-orient the map with the north arrow pointing up! Ugh! What a pain!! I eventually relented. In the end, almost 8 months later, this guy is still an anal-retentive jackass and no one likes to work with him.

With that said, and assuming my co-worker wasn't purposely being a jerk-off, is it possible that wayfinding tactics vary considerablly among individuals? You know, a right-brain versus a left-brain kind of thing.
 

donk

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I'm with wanigas, I orient maps the in the direction I am travelling so I know where to make left vs right turns without haveing to think very much.

This is from a person that frequently passes skiiers and cyclists by saying "On the right, no your other right". Scary the number of people who forget left from right.
 

biscuit

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Rumpy Tunanator said:
Here you go Biscuit, directions to the fun zone;)
LOL :-D

Thanks Rumpy! I have a meeting first thing tomorrow morning with a community group up there. Thanks to your new wayfinder sign I won't have to ask for directions. Now the only proble I have with going there is that I haven't been able to find a Kevlar vest that matches any of my suits.
 

Gedunker

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Thanks Aubie Turtle the Atlanta signage is pretty nice. As we are an old river city -- basically very conservative -- the Pittsburgh graphics were a tad too much for the committee.

I met with the committee Thursday and they are having trouble undertanding "wayfinding" and "gateway". I think several of them would prefer we build our own little Arc de Triomphe on the Ohio. :-\
 
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