What’s Your Sign?



If placemaking is the current theme for tourism, talent, and economic development, then wayfinding – or even wayshowing – is the language of expression for visitors and residents alike. From its roots in ‘Welcome to Pleasantville’  monument signage at the town limits , wayfinding has blossomed to an important tool for creating impressions and expressing a civic brand.

Wayfinding is usually understood to be the physical attributes that guide citizens through the built environment and includes not only signage, but transportation assets such as sidewalks, bike lanes, and crosswalks, themed assets such as lighting, benches, planters and even maps, kiosks and hitching posts!  These hardscapes communicate character and connection and are hoped to influence people to spend more time and feel welcomed.

While wayfinding is often concentrated in downtowns, it can also be used to connect assets throughout the city.  Elements can be echoed in municipal locations such as parks, satellite offices and other facilities. The design can reference historical features, or bend toward the minimalist with clean lines.

It goes without saying that the priority for wayfinding design should be utility – some fanciful fonts and complex color schemes do not create readability. There has been a good deal of writing on the best fonts for signage.

Remember, a wayfinding program is not just signage, but the sidewalks, bike lanes, crosswalks, traffic signs and lights. As we traverse this digital age, wayfinding includes the mobile web, interactive kiosks and increasingly ‘apps’. On the drawing board are augmented and virtual reality experiences to show off civic assets and connect visitors to your town.

We have shared some examples of wayfinding that we admire – please respond in the comments or tweet to us examples in your town that transcend navigation and express your civic brand!

See what others are saying about Wayfinding –

American Planning Association Beyond the Sign

City Lab – The Surprisingly Complex Art of Urban Wayfinding 

The Verge – Google Maps is getting augmented reality directions and recommendation features