Street Vitality 3: Signage


Oahu airportSigns are everywhere.  From small shop signs to large billboards, they provide a necessary aid to help us get where we are going, or further, to entice us to discover a new shop, restaurant, or other place of business.  But besides this functional use, if designed properly, they can complement the Architecture and Landscape Architecture of which they are a part, adding life, interest, and sparkle to our streets, plazas and civic squares.

From the huge, wonderful, “wall to wall” signage applications in Times Square in New York City or in Shibuya Crossing in Tokyo Japan, to the ornate hand made metal guild signs of Salzburg Austria, to the understated, low-keyed professional signs found in many places, signs come in all sizes, shapes, materials and colors.  What makes them successful is a combination of many things starting with the size of the buildings they are mounted on and the scale of the public space from which they are designed to be read.  What may be appropriate and exciting in one place however, may be very distracting or inappropriate in another.  I have also found that signs are most attractive in a specific area if they are of the same general type, or of the same “family” of signs.

The photo on the preceding page is a street sign in San Rafael California. Is it well organized?  Does it give vital information clearly? What are the alternatives?  The yellow signs in the adjoining photo are at the international airport in Oahu Hawaii. They certainly make a bold statement! Are the signs appropriate for the use?  Do they “fit” into the landscape of Hawaii?  Is the information clear? Is the color appropriate?  And very importantly, ultimately… you like this signage?