St. Louis Civic Wayfinding Project and the “Pay to Play” model

Posted in Government, Wayfinding Concept on February 8th, 2011 by Mark VanderKlipp – 1 Comment

An article posted Jan. 4, 2011 in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch discusses the wayfinding system and the challenges that St. Louis has faced in funding this initiative:

New Signs for Tourists Ignore Location Attractions that Couldn’t Pay

Given the spirit of the article and the public comments associated with it, we feel it’s important to add our point of view. It is instructive for any urban wayfinding program that seeks funding sources for wayfinding signage. The article showcases the difficulty inherent in a “pay to play” system: while we helped our clients design an equitable formula for inclusion, still most non-profits are simply unable to participate given the steep cost of entry relative to their budgets. From the standpoint of an STL taxpayer, the author’s point of view and many of the comments may seem justified – but need to be qualified.

First, the article focuses solely on vehicular wayfinding signage, and the primary destinations included on those signs. Given the constraints placed on signage in a public right of way (where the majority of these signs appear), it is physically impossible and technically not permissable to include many of the smaller destinations that the article mentions. Any sign that contains more than the federally-mandated 3-4 destinations will be visually overwhelming to a driver moving through space, focused both on the tasks of driving and navigating. Thus, we direct to the primary generators of visits within the St. Louis region: stadiums, The Arch, casinos and the like, of which 95% are represented in this system.

The abundance of natural, cultural, historic and entertainment options in the St. Louis Region require some physical tools to provide the “connective tissue” within and between destinations in the region.

But the program is designed for the first time visitor. So we’ve identified primary “Attraction Corridors” along which the majority of destinations reside. Any smaller destination need only communicate their location relative to one of these corridors, or one of the primary destinations noted on the signage. The ability to piggyback on the system is part of the design, but as always the need to communicate correctly falls on the destination. So, for instance, the article mentions the Campbell House Museum. Using the new wayfinding logic, one could direct visitors in this way:

“Exit I-70 or 40/64 on the Broadway Attraction Corridor. Turn west on Locust to 1508 Locust Street.”

There are many other sign types included in this system, designed to support wayfinding. Trailblazer signs to outlying destinations (e.g. Grant’s Farm), secondary vehicular guide signs, and a host of pedestrian-oriented signs to give both cyclists and walkers a sense for where they are, and what they might see and do in the area.

Commentary from the public mentions the Internet and GPS-based wayfinding devices. We wholeheartedly agree that visitors to St. Louis and surrounds will be using these tools as well, so one of our recommendations to the CVC is to create a single Web-based resource for wayfinding to which a destination of any size can link from their own Web site. This will be a low-cost way for those within STL to consistently direct to their location; any information related to single-vehicle, transit, cycle or pedestrian wayfinding would be disseminated through this site. It would also show parking opportunities in the vicinity of a given destination.

The abundance of natural, cultural, historic and entertainment options in the St. Louis Region require some physical tools to provide the “connective tissue” within and between destinations in the region. But the wayfinding signage is only one part of the visitor’s experience; by providing a physical and virtual infrastructure to communicate to visitors, the plan proposed to the CVC will allow destinations regardless of size to take advantage of the system with appropriate tools in the array, meeting their visitor when and where they most need the information. The task is one of building awareness among these destinations.

With this new wayfinding infrastructure in place, each venue regardless of size can locate themselves relative to the foundational elements: primary highways, attraction corridors and primary destinations. Drawing on these relatively permanent referents, the wayfinding system is at once comprehensible, infinitely expandable and simpler to maintain. In the long run, the goal is to give St. Louis residents, regional visitors and a host of other audiences simple tools to help them navigate this complex environment.

While wayfinding information directs an experience, it does not define it. The latter part is up to each destination; and this is where the true “Spirit of St. Louis” can shine through.

And now, the rest of the story:

An editorial posted in the January 6, 2011 Post-Dispatch clarifies and adds information to the article referenced above:

Pointing the Way: Help Visitors Find Everything St. Louis Has to Offer

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Corbin Design, a national leader in wayfinding planning and signage design, announced Shelley Steele has been named President. Steele formerly served as vice president of marketing.

As president, Steele is primarily responsible for the vision and direction of Corbin Design as well as the internal leadership and management of the staff. In her new role, she will continue to oversee business development and marketing.

“With her knowledge of the… More...

As we develop wayfinding systems for a variety of clients, we appreciate how public engagement is critical to the design process. Here, we share two examples from recent client groups and the outcomes of those sessions:

Ochsner Medical Center, New Orleans LA

We led a prototype process on the interior of this complex medical campus to test proposed logic changes and as a “proof of concept” for wayfinding tools. The exercise was designed to… More...

The FHWA has issued a clarification on the ruling it issued on January 25, 2016 terminating the Interim Approval of Clearview as an alternate font to the MUTCD. With regard to community wayfinding signage systems, the use of alternate fonts is still possible.

To summarize:

  • Projects currently in fabrication do not need to comply.
  • To the extent possible, projects currently in design should switch to the
  1. Kina Maymi says:

    Love the post, don’t you think business signs are still one of the best way to promote and grow your company.
    Would love to know what you think.

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