Poor parking regulation signage causes two problems. Drivers may park illegally, creating traffic jams or unsafe conditions or, not confident that they understand the regulations, drivers may pass up legal parking spaces and may even avoid visiting the area.
The in-house design team at the 34th Street Partnership in New York was charged with creating parking regulation signs for the streets of a busy New York City retail district. The client, a 31-block Business Improvement District in midtown Manhattan, was dissatisfied with the parking signs placed by the NYC Department of Transportation, believing they were difficult to read and intimidating to drivers. The client asked the design team to create signs that would address these issues, be attractive, and complement the district’s other street elements.
Typography on the existing signs featured an unfriendly font, all-caps lettering, and ambiguous abbreviations. Duplication of arrows was unnecessary and confusing. The DOT had no system for creating the correct combination of regulation signs for each location, so messages were stacked haphazardly and often duplicated, and white borders designed to separate sign messages were also confusing in many cases.
The team’s goals were to create signs that were easier to read and less intimidating while conveying the same information, obtaining DOT approval, and meeting the client’s high aesthetic standards for the district. The system they developed combines messages into seemingly unitary signs capable of conveying a large variation of message combinations. With a friendlier font, mixed-case lettering, and no abbreviations, the signs are very readable. With no white borders and no superfluous arrows, drivers are confident that the signs were made specifically for each location.
The NYC DOT was initially very reluctant to accept a system that produced signs differing from its own. Once DOT approved the preliminary design, the designers met with a team representing DOT numerous times during the project. The design team created 23 Illustrator templates that would accommodate more than 300 sign variations, most of which were installed in Spring 2007. The client maintains a database that simplifies the process of creating sign combinations. The sign system is easily transferable to other agencies and DOT has expressed approval if other Business Improvement Districts choose to employ it.
“Urban regulatory signage, especially parking signage, for the most part, is the bane of the streetscape—abandoned, ignored, and disdained. Anything that attempts to improve on the visual ooze that is the standard typography of official DOT signage is a welcome breath of fresh air. I tip my hat to the designers who kept the faith while dealing with the likes of city agencies and their bureaucratic minions. Baring the scars of my own battles with DOTs, I hope this small step can be the start of something akin to Don Meeker’s impact on highway signage.”
Ignacio Ciocchini (principal in charge/project manager), Dan Biederman, Herb Kozlow, Don Bussolini, Ed Janoff, George Townley, Jamie Song, Janette Sadik-Khan (commissioner, NYCDOT), Michael Primeggia (deputy commissioner, traffic operations, NYCDOT)