Elements of a comprehensive wayfinding signage system in Monroe, WI (by Arnett Muldrow)

Wayfinding 2020: Community signage for today’s Main Street


It seems there are few areas of life that aren’t being revolutionized by technology, and travel is no different. People rarely read maps anymore, relying instead on GPS to tell them where to go, when to turn and how far to their destination. By and large, communities have developed their wayfinding signage for the traditional arrival method of driving to, and parking near, their final destination—yet now, we have changed the way we get to places, with bike paths and bike lanes throughout many communities, car share programs expanding, and more people living downtown and therefore arriving at nearby destinations on foot. In general, multiple transportation options are available beyond personal cars, and the rise of utilities such as Google Maps, Yelp and GPS leaves us asking: what role is there in today’s historic downtowns for communities’ wayfinding signage systems?

Even with advances in technology and the rise of home offices or coworking spaces that aren’t location-dependent, people still want to live in, work in and visit neighborhoods with character that have a unique sense of place. Hence, these districts still need to be distinguished, not only with historic buildings and exciting businesses but with wayfinding signage to help people find these landmarks. Signs are tools that help define a downtown district and let people know they’ve arrived at, or are heading for, someplace special. They can also inform people, especially visitors, that there is more to an area than the single destination they may have come for.

Components of typical wayfinding systems include entrance signs, gateway features, directional signs, trailblazer signs, parking signs, informational kiosks, business directories, interpretive signage, banners, trail signs, park signs and more. These signs often incorporate logos and images from the brand of the district, helping to create uniformity and define the area.




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