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  • Article
    Learn the importance of having a wayfinding system in your community. see more

    In this video blog, Roger presents the importance of having a wayfinding system in your community. Frustrated visitors spend less time and less money and they seldom come back for repeat visits. You can spend millions of dollars marketing your destination, but if we can’t find what you’re selling, we say one word – “Next.” And we’re gone. Find your way by watching this video!

    Ready to start wayfinding in your community? Check out this article about issuing a Wayfinding RFQ

  • Article
    We don’t have a comprehensive list of reputable wayfinding companies, but here are a few. see more

    When you look for a company to design your wayfinding/wayfaring system, make sure you issue a Request for Qualifications, not a Request for Proposal (See more about Wayfinding RFQs here). You can issue an RFQ in just a page or two, then select the best of the best and then negotiate with them. Ask what their methodology is, have provide you a sample scope of work, project examples, and references. Let them know what you want included in your wayfinding system. Elements often include:

    – Vehicular wayfinding

    – Pedestrian wayfinding in downtown core areas

    – Trail system wayfinding

    – Pole banners (sometimes seasonal)

    – Visitor information kiosks

    – Community and downtown gateways

    – Place signage (marquee signage at parks, attractions and public facilities like parking, public restrooms, city hall, etc.)

    – Working with state/provincial transportation agencies for freeway and highway signage changes and/or additions.

    Once you get their qualifications, pick the top three and interview them. If you don’t like their work, their methodology, or price, then go to number two on the list.

    You are looking for a company that specializes in exterior wayfinding, which is an entirely different discipline than “institutional wayfinding” – directional signage in a hospital, mall, college campus or other large buildings or campuses.

    Once you select the best company for your particular project, make sure they design the system to a pre-determined budget, which may include some phasing. You can spend a million dollars on a gateway or $20,000. Always start with a budget. That will also determine how much the company will charge you. The more creative or custom the system is, the higher the price for both design and fabrication.

    We don’t have a comprehensive list of reputable wayfinding companies, but here are a few (our list of favorites) to get you started:


    Axia Creative

    Based out of Wellington, FL

    Cloud Gehshan Associations

    Based out of Philadelphia, PA

    Corbin Design

    Based out of Traverse City, MI

    Merje Design

    Based out of West Chester, PA

    Hunt Design

    Based out of Pasadena, CA

    Ambrosini Design

    Based out of Portland, OR

    Two Twelve

    Based out of New York City

  • Article
    Get started on designing a powerful wayfinding system for your community see more

    Here is criteria to consider when issuing a Wayfinding RFQ:

    – The more experience a firm has in designing wayfinding programs for cities (specifically) the better. If they provide city branding services, that’s even better because they will understand the link between wayfinding devices and supporting a brand. More importantly, if a wayfinding designer understands how to support a brand within the signage this will help create a sense of place for the visitor.

    – Avoid advertising agencies. They will claim to know how to do city branding and/or wayfinding and can be very convincing. Print designers are accustomed to working in 2 dimensional formats. It is rare they understand how to apply graphics to a 3D element that appropriately conveys the right message to the right audience. For this reason, it is best to avoid designers who only specialize in print and web-based design.

    – Avoid architects for this same reason. Some have inhouse wayfinding departments, but your best bet is working with a design firm that offers branded wayfinding as their specialty.

    – Avoid fabricators who offer design build services. Fabricators will design a system that is within their ability to fabricate and not to best represent the needs of the city and their brand.

    – A wayfinding designer should be fully versed with the MUTCD guide book used by the DOT.

    – They must be collaborative and be willing to bring the client into the design process.

    – The more a designer is familiar with fabrication techniques, the better.

    – A competent designer will be able to provided several preliminary concepts for consideration.

    – The designer should be bonded.

    – If possible, make sure that a senior designer with 10+ years is on the project and driving design. Wayfinding is not learned in college, nor is it learned in just a few years on the job.

    – Look at the designer’s portfolio of work. See if the samples clearly convey a brand. The more diverse their portfolio, the better they will work to find a solution that is specific to your needs.

    – A wayfinding designer should have experience in dealing with the public. Sometimes the public has to be won over or consensus has to be achieved.

    – The designer must be accessible, not necessarily geographically, but within a quick email, phone call or video conference.

    – Ask a prospective designer about their wayfinding process. They should practice the basic 5-step approach:

    1. Research/Planning/Programming
    2. Concept Generation
    3. Design Development
    4. Documentation
    5. Production Management

    Within this process, they should recommend the creation of one or more full size mockups prior to documentation.

    They should also include an Estimate of Probable Cost in their process.

    View a sample of Holland, Michigan’s RFQ

    View a sample of Glen Ellyn, Illinois’ RFQ

    This should help you get started with designing a powerful wayfinding system for your community. If you have any other examples, thoughts or questions, let us know!

  • What is the first impression you give to visitors when they come into town? see more

    Gateway Signs are road signs that border your community or downtown district and introduce and welcome visitors. They are typically placed at the city or county limits and, more often than not, are in locations that offer a less-than desirable first impression of the community. When we see that sign, we’re going to judge you by what we see around it, and just after it. What does that “first impression” say about you?


    Rule: Put your gateway signs where you will make the best first impression. Rarely is that at your city limits.

    Have you ever wondered why residential sub-division developers spend so much money on their entrances? Look at the photo below. Are you thinking “Oh, another mobile home park”?




    Probably not. But let’s address WHY they would spend this kind of money on an elaborate gateway when they are in the business of selling lots or homes. Signs like this:

    • Create a sense of place and quality—you obviously didn’t think was a mobile home park.

    • Creates pride of ownership. When you come home, you’re proud to live here.

    • Gets your attention as you drive by—and that sells real estate faster.

    • Conveys the community’s image—a high-quality place to live.

    • Increases property value—it elevates your “perceived value” of the lots and homes here.

    • It helps the community stand out from others.

    Every single one of these reasons applies to your community gateways signs. They don’t have to be expensive, as in this example, but they do need to be attractive, well maintained, large enough to make a statement about you, and introduce the community as a great location where the response is automatic: “Wow. This is a nice place!”

    And, by the way, these rules also apply to all of you in business. Your business sign is your best introduction to potential customers. Make it count!

  • How to get the best use out of your billboards. see more

    Nothing creates more impressions, locally, than billboards—if they’re done right. When travelers, even commuters, see a message seven times, they remember it, whether it’s on television, radio, in magazines, online, or on billboards.

    While we're not big fans of billboards, particularly in scenic areas, if you’ve got them, and they’re in great locations, then take advantage of them.

    They are a great way to either catch the attention of drivers passing through your area, or they can provide ideas to visitors looking for a reason to stop. Either way, to create big visibility along the freeway, you need to use a BIG sign.

    The most important message to convey with a billboard is a Call to Action! Tell drivers why they should take the next exit. Give a specific reason for people to stop (not an event or a ‘welcome’ or ‘friendly’ service promise). It can be as simple as what Little America does along Interstate 80 in Western Wyoming with multiple billboards, each with a single teaser: “50¢ ice cream cones—Little America” and the next one: “Spotless restrooms—Little America.”

    Here are rules to use when designing your billboard campaign:

    • Use no more than 12 words on a billboard—people have only four seconds to read a sign while they are driving at highway speed. Make it simple with a single message (including the name of the business or attraction).
    • Choose locations for your billboards that are attractive, free of litter, and not close to rundown buildings. If you put your billboard in an area full of trash, it will automatically detract from the appeal of your message.
    • Use contrasting colors and only one simple (one color) graphic so that your billboard is easy to read from a distance.
    • The best color combo is yellow text on a dark background. Yellow pulls the eye. Don’t include a phone number, address, or website URL that people will not have time to write down. All information on a billboard needs to be simple.
    • Including ‘Next Exit’ or ‘Exit #’ to help direct drivers is perfectly fine—but no specific information they can’t absorb in a few seconds.

    The examples shown here are terrific samples of how to design and use billboards. They should NEVER look like print ads! Simple, short, to the point, with the reason WHY we should stop (or stay).































    If you’ve got billboards, use them effectively!


  • Article
    A well-designed system lets your guests know what you have to offer and how to find it, day or night see more

    “Christopher Columbus did not stop at convenience stores for directions, and neither will we.” Everyone knows real men don’t ask for directions! These days we use GPS. Technology is cool. Having to actually ask someone for help is embarrassing, and at times even finding someone around to ask is difficult.

    Having worked in nearly 1,000 communities, we can tell you that finding places is by far our biggest frustration. What should be a pleasant experience becomes an exasperating exercise as we drive around, map in hand, wondering why so many communities treat their top amenities as “hidden treasures.”

    Frustrated visitors spend less time and less money than those that find the places they are looking for, and they seldom come back for repeat visits. You can spend millions of dollars marketing your destination, but if we can’t find what you’re selling, we decide to move on to the next thing. And, we’re gone.

    We don’t have much patience in this world of immediate gratification, and why should we waste our vacation or business trip time wandering around in uncharted territory, desperately trying to find our destination?

    Visitor centers are one answer. But national statistics show only five percent of visitors ever stop at an information center. That is, IF they can find it and IF it happens to be open.

    Enter the age of 24/7 “Wayfinding”—a system of signs, gateways, banners and kiosks that helps visitors connect the dots and find their way around, making for a pleasant experience, extended stays in your community and additional spending.

    A well-designed system lets your guests know what you have to offer and how to find it—day or night. Your front-line employees will also benefit from your visitors being able to find directions with ease. Their interactions will be with visitors who are not frustrated and angry from arriving too late for the last tour.

    A comprehensive wayfinding system includes the following:

    • Pedestrian wayfinding signage at key locations—downtown districts, attractions,etc.
    • Vehicular or roadway directional signage
    • Decorative pole banners
    • Decorative crosswalks
    • Visitor information kiosks and displays
    • Community and downtown gateways
    • Amenities signage—restrooms, parking, information
    • Services signage—police, fire, hospital, municipal offices
    • Marquee signage at specific locations—attractions, parks, museums, cultural arts facilities, government offices,etc.

    The best wayfinding systems do much more than simply guide people to their destinations. They make locals and visitors feel at home and welcome. Great wayfinding enhances the ambiance and attractiveness of your community, and it builds and promotes your community’s brand or theme.

  • How much business are you missing out on because of your signage? see more

    In this video blog, Roger Brooks teaches the rule of perpendicular signs. Many shops in a downtown district simply place their signs above the door or have them painted on windows. More often than not, these signs are missed by potential customers totally unaware of what they have to offer or that they even exist.

    How much business are you missing out on because of your signage?

    Video length – 3:08