February 17, 2020

Bridgwater Home Show: A mini case study on the art of way-finding

Resilient Communities

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Background:

I designed way-finding signage for the Autumn Parade of Homes that occurs annually in Winnipeg. The Parade of Homes showcases new homes from developments across the city. The client and builders wanted directional signage to guide people through Bridgwater, which is one of three new massive residential developments located within Waverley West in South West Winnipeg.

Team:

 

  • Nadi


Consultants and contractors:

 

  • Contempra Signs


Project Budget:

 

Approx. $90,000 to $100,000

Introduction

The Bridgwater development is comprised of four residential neighbourhoods: Bridgwater Forest, Bridgwater Lakes, Bridgwater Town Centre and Bridgwater Trails. The goal of this project was to help guide people to show homes, which were located along various streets in the Bridgwater neighbourhood. I designed directional signage and also individual builder signage that was then installed on the front lawn of each show home to advertise the names of the home builders with their logos.

My design challenge was, how do you get people who are driving through Bridgwater to visit show homes, located in various locations in the neighbourhoods, via the most direct routes, while avoiding smaller residential streets? Moreover, how can I make the signs legible to people inside moving vehicles or who are viewing the signage from a distance?

Now it may sound straight forward to design signs, draw up a plan showing the locations of the show homes, and create a route for the public such as entry points and exits. However, as I quickly realized, it would be far more involved than that, as it required a strategic approach to analysis, creativity and problem-solving.

Project Conceptualization

I began the project by researching precedents of what other directional signage looked like and then I drove to some newer developments in the city to take a look at different signage firsthand. I took notes of how they were constructed and estimated their sizes, which for the larger signs were well over 20 feet in height, down to the smaller signs that were between eight and 10 feet tall.

I appreciated the design and placement of the signs, and I intended to make sure the signs that I designed were attractive and placed strategically so that the routes to the show homes functioned as a guide for people to their intended locations. The most crucial consideration was to ensure that people were directed efficiently through the different routes to the show homes while avoiding smaller side streets.

Next, when the design phase of this project started, I began to conceptualize the design of the signage graphics by sketching several different designs that included various styles of lettering and directional symbols and arrows. Some of the considerations included were:

  • Legibility of Lettering and the Design and Shape of the Directional Arrows (Symbols)
  • Colour of Signage Boards and of the Lettering
  • Style and Construction of signage (type 1 and type 2 and their construction)

The legibility of the lettering and directional symbols on the signage board graphics were a crucial element in this project. As people driving in vehicles would need to be able to read the signs at different distances.

So, I researched online for information and looked into the standards for the size of lettering for legibility at different distances. I also looked for information about the signage heights for visibility and readability.

I based the design of the signage graphics on the information that I found and the revised concept until the colour and the directional symbols and arrows were aesthetically pleasing and easy to read at a distance. I ended up creating two sizes of directional signs, a larger one that stood about 4.5 metres (15 feet) from the ground and a smaller one that was 2.5 metres (8.5 feet) from the ground.

Bridgwater, while not a gated community, was designed with strict architectural controls, beautiful parks, water fountains and playgrounds. We chose the colour dark navy blue to convey the richness and specialness of the community and strengthen the brand of the neighbourhood.

We chose the colour white for the lettering and directional symbols for legibility. I chose Helvetica because it's the most commonly used font for transportation signage. For example, New York City's Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) has adopted the font because the properties make it easy to read and quick to understand.

Concurrently, I worked in CAD to design the routes within the neighbourhood, directing people into the development and guiding them to all of the show homes' locations.

Project Realization

After interval reviews and discussions with the client, I finalized the most efficient routes for people to travel to the various locations of the show homes in CAD.

Some of the considerations that I thought about while working on the plan for the signage project included:

  • Location on the Signs on Site
  • The Type of Sign (large and small) to be installed


After the project was awarded to the winning contractor, we met on-site and drove through the development with the plans in hand to confirm that the directional arrows and sign placement worked in reality.

Together with the contractor, we made sure that the locations did not obscure views between vehicles and people on the sidewalks. In some places, I even specified double-sided signs to avoid any duplications.

The larger signs were installed at major intersections and roundabouts to direct traffic at greater distances, and the smaller signs were installed in boulevards closer to the show homes, and individual show home signage, which were installed on the lawn of the show homes with the builder's logo on them.

Conclusion

Bridgwater is filled with beautiful trees in established forests, and there are a lot of native grasses and plants that were planted throughout the development. All of this attractes wildlife, including beautiful species of birds and foxes and winter hares. I would have liked to convey this by having the silhouette of the images on the back of the sign boards to convey the richness of the natural landscape and beauty of this wonderful neighbourhood.

I believe it’s an important lesson to approach way-finding in an innovative and creative way that enhances the environment while providing the necessary information to guide people around. When I look back at this project, I think about how I could have added subtle elements to the design of the signage boards to convey more of the branding of the neighbourhood. It would have been interesting  to make the signs more of a public art piece or interactive signage that used smart technology to sync with your phone. Alas, these are questions for next time.