Calgarians Speak Out About Wayfinding

Posted in Civic, Government, Wayfinding Concept, Wayfinding Return on Investment on June 21st, 2012 by Mark VanderKlipp – 1 Comment
Peace Bridge connecting pedestrians across the Bow River

Peace Bridge connecting pedestrians across the Bow River

Calgary’s Centre City is a vibrant hub for business, tourism, arts and entertainment along the front range of the Canadian Rockies. In 2012, the city will celebrate the 100th anniversary of the world-famous Calgary Stampede, and has been named Canada’s Cultural Capital for the year. Calgarians pride themselves on their hospitality, and the diverse attractions that are located in their Centre City: acording to Tourism Calgary, tourism alone generates 1.1 billion in annual revenue, equating to $50 million dollars in tax revenue. Within the Centre City, tourism employs 60-70K workers (1 in 10).

In recent years, multiple reports had suggested that a wayfinding system be implemented to increase awareness of, and enable connections to, destinations and attractions in Centre City:

  • 2007 Centre City Plan
  • Beltline area redevelopment plan
  • Calgary Transportation Plan
  • 2010 Public Safety & Communications report

Since 2009, Corbin Design has partnered with Centre City Implementation on a comprehensive wayfinding plan. We have engaged over 50 stakeholder groups representing Centre City communities, visitor attractions, Business Revitalization Zones (BRZs), parking operators, city business units and organizations advocating for the disabled. Over the course of these years, we’ve spread the word about the benefits of wayfinding, and heard from Calgarians how this system could be a genuine reflection of their welcoming culture, as well as a utility for residents and visitors. Their insights have been a critical part of the analysis and design process.

In January 2012, the Corbin team was in Calgary to take part in a request to the City Council to support funding for Phase 1, pedestrian and transit wayfinding. Mark VanderKlipp, Corbin Design’s president, was present for the meeting, but soon learned that the city’s Stakeholders were equally qualified to emphasize the benefits of a comprehensive wayfinding system. It was gratifying and inspiring to hear them using the language we’d developed throughout the course of this project. Some excerpts from a transcript of the meeting:

Wayfinding Theory

  • “Wayfinding is direction for people in motion.”
  • “A well-designed wayfinding system will help build the comfort and confidence of our visitors to explore Centre City.”
  • “Visitors contribute to vibrancy on the street, support tourism and economic development.”
  • “While this program is targeted primarily at visitors, it also aims to support Calgarians in finding their way.”
  • “Wayfinding will increase awareness of attractions, promote City Centre and connect people to districts and destinations.”



Numerous outdoor festivals take place year-round

Numerous outdoor festivals take place year-round

Sharing Wayfinding Beyond Signage

“The City Centre is the storefront to our city, where peoples’ opinions of our community are set. Wayfinding makes guests to our home feel welcome by:

  • Assisting them in finding directions
  • Maximizing their experience and awareness
  • Supporting other investments in our tourism economy
  • Providing a ‘fresh paint job’ on the way our downtown looks”

“Over the course of this project, we’ve solicited many community partners to support and implement the program, by clarifying terminology and collaborating with external partners to support the program with the language, logic and look of wayfinding in their own communications. For instance, Tourism Calgary is using the base map artwork in their 2012 Visitor Guide.”

“We want to assure that we’re all speaking the same language of wayfinding to constituents.”

“We have been given a great deal of information in a digital format so others can use it (such as Centre City retailers) and be involved in the wayfinding program overall. It is also being distributed to building and hotel concierges.”

“We have been intimately involved in discussions for two years regarding fonts, language and other signage details; primarily because we’re also in the business of wayfinding with our maps, mobile applications, etc.”


Wayfinding connects people to a variety of experiences in Centre City

Wayfinding connects people to a variety of experiences in Centre City

Benefits of Wayfinding

“A strong wayfinding system makes the city more friendly, reducing barriers that keep people from accessing the downtown core. It underpins safety initiatives already put in place, and will be a critical success factor for attracting people to the area; and once they’re here, moving them in a succinct, safe and interesting way.”

“Throughout the world, great cities assure that visitors are able to locate services, attractions and transportation in a consistent wayfinding system. Here in Calgary we pride ourselves in creating a vibrant, safe and interesting downtown for citizens, business travelers and tourists. Improved navigation will make for not only a great visitor experience, but successful Centre City businesses as well.”

“Even though it’s on the periphery of Centre City, his system will be a boon for a small shopping district such as ours. The transit stop map that directs to shops, restaurants and entertainment will bring immeasurable value to Kensington BRZ.”

“The benefits realized for a coherent, integrated means to comfortably explore the Centre City will be numerous and far-reaching. In my experience with visitors, the most common comment I hear is ‘we didn’t know all this was here’.”

“For our member properties (Hotel Association), our #1 priority is visitor experience. This new program will allow guests to explore new areas and visit the world class attractions located in City Centre. Our concierge teams are excited, because this will enable them to do their jobs more easily and effectively. This is the right next step for the City Centre.”

(Frankly, we couldn’t have said it better ourselves!)

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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. Jeff Black says:

    I like the idea that wayfinding signage creates “comfort and confidence” for visitors to go out and explore the city. I have been to very few cities that do that for me. Mostly, I feel doubt and confusion. I like “comfort and confidence” being the goal.

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