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Posts Tagged ‘Park signage’

I have become quietly obsessed with park signage and historical markers. Already I’ve posted a couple of times on particular examples in Paris and Philadelphia, and now people are starting to feed my addiction by sending me images of other interesting specimens. It’s perhaps a bit of a specialist topic for the general visitor to this blog, so I’ve set up a gallery of signs, and invite those with a similar interest in markers and signage to peruse the page. More examples for the display are welcome!

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A recent post looked at the vagaries of park signage in Paris. Since then, I have been keeping an eye out for good examples. And last week, on a trip to the US, I found some. The City of Philadelphia has, in my opinion, got it right.

So, what makes these signs work? It is nothing extraordinary or magical. They are simply located in places where people congregate. There is an appealing balance of colourful images and scant text. With eye-catching titles, they tell the reader one or two digestible pieces of information, and they relate clearly and explicitly to their location. That’s it.

And what’s the evidence that they work well? Simply that I have never seen signs so frequently consulted and discussed.

Post script: If you’re interested in signage, you might like to visit my gallery of other wonderful and woeful examples.

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Signage. It sounds the most boring of topics. But in public parks and gardens, signs can make such a difference. Good ones make us feel welcome, confident, wanted. Bad ones leave us confused and irritated, sensing that our presence is merely tolerated.

I’ve been noticing some examples in Parisian landscapes.

Tuileries TuileriesFirst, some new signs in the jardin des Tuileries. Located in sensible places and frequently consulted, they are sleek and modern, with a map of the whole garden, and some arrows showing you the direction of the main features. To me they say: We don’t want you to see this as a fusty historic park: it’s a contemporary place. And we want you to stroll around and enjoy it all.

My only complaint about the Tuileries signs would be about this one at an entrance on the rue de Rivoli. Same simple design, but way too much information on some pretty complex opening times. It’s telling me: We don’t care if you feel welcome. We have our own elaborate systems and you just need to fit in with them. That panel along the bottom is also slightly discomfiting: We have already thought of two things you can’t do here, but we have left lots of room to list other forbidden activities when we think of them.

Tuileries

Here’s a terrible example. It’s the entrance to the historic cemetery at Montparnasse in the 14th arrondissement. Those forbidding stone walls have a tiny brass plaque with opening times, and then some random interdictions: no dogs; no parking because the firefighters need access; oh, and no parking anyway. With that forlorn rubbish bin and the glimpse of a barrier beyond the walls, it must be one of the most unwelcoming entrances in Paris. It says: We never give a moment’s thought to our visitors. Except when they do something annoying, and then we tell them to stop.

MontparnasseHere’s another poor one, this time in the newly restored glasshouses at the jardin des Plantes in the 5th. Each glasshouse has lots of these obtrusive, multi-coloured information signs, set on twiddly metal frames. To me they mutter: We don’t really think our plants are interesting enough. We don’t trust them to hold your attention. We hope to distract you with these signs.

Jardin des Plantes

Disneyland ParisOne final example for now, at Disneyland Paris.

Generally the signage there is woeful, but here’s a good one, from the Alice in Wonderful labyrinth. It’s fun, appropriate, and shows you the way to something you may otherwise have missed. It says: We think a lot about your enjoyment. Have some more fun over here!

The next time you see a sign in a public park, think what it tells you – not about opening times or toilet locations – but about the attitude to visitors of that place.

I am going to look out for more examples too.

Post script: If you’re interested in signage, you might like to visit my gallery of other wonderful and woeful examples.

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