Originally built for freight trains in the 1930s, the High Line is an elevated rail structure on Manhattan’s West Side that has been turned into the city’s most popular new park. The structure was saved from demolition by Friends of the High Line, a community-based non-profit organization that advocated for the preservation and reuse of the structure as a pedestrian promenade. In 2011, Phase 2, from West 20th Street to West 30th Street, was opened to the public. The first section, from Gansevoort Street to West 20th Street, was opened in 2009.
In 2000, Pentagram Partner Paula Scher was asked to create the identity for Friends of the High Line. The logo eventually became a symbol of the park itself. As graphic consultants to the group over the past decade, Scher and her team at Pentagram created various fundraising and promotional pieces to help gain support for the initiative. Once the city approved the plan to revitalize and reuse the High Line as a pedestrian park and promenade, Scher’s team was invited to work with the selected architects, Diller Scofidio + Renfro and James Corner Field Operations, to develop the signage and environmental graphics for the park.
The program includes identification signage, maps, and wayfinding, which can be found at the entranceways to the elevated park and in the railings of the park. The team also completed donor recognition.
The signage has been sensitively integrated into the High Line using materials that complement the industrial structure and the park environment. The street-level signs at the park’s access points are installed on the supports of the structure itself. In the elevated park, the signage and wayfinding have been engraved into the railings of the structure. At night the railing signage glows with a photo-luminescent infill applied to letters. The team also completed donor signage and a special Founders Wall that was unveiled for the opening of the park’s Section 2 in 2011.
The streel-level park identification, map, and rules signs are matte porcelain enamel on brakeformed and fabricated steel plates. The High Line-level wayfinding is routered and color-filled photo luminescent and matte black into existing extruded and mill-finish aluminum handrails. The ADA signs are reverse-etch painted zinc plaques. The site-specific donor signs are custom cast and colored resin. The Founders Wall is blackened steel with routered and color-filled silver lettering.
“From the location of each piece of interpretation, to the considered terminology, use of materials, simple clean typography, and perfectly integrated design—this solution is really outstanding. A huge success.”
“The integration is so seamless, there if you need it without interrupting the environment it's contained within. I love the use of the electroluminescent paint!”
“We were particularly taken with the superb design craft required to integrate the signage into the industrial structure of the High Line itself. Whether the directional signage at the base of the structure itself or the brilliant photo-luminescent infill applied to the letters on the handrail, it was all beautifully conceived and executed. The fact that this was a continuation of the initial logo branding effort in 2000, now seamlessly and completed integrated into the broader wayfinding, represents the timeless quality of that design 11 years later.”
Paula Scher (art director/ designer), Andrew Freeman (senior designer), Rion Byrd Gumus (designer)
James Corner Field Operations (landscape architecture), Diller Scofidio + Renfro (architecture), L’Observatoire International (lighting), Buro Happold (structural/MEP engineering)
Denise J. Mayer Architectural Graphics (resin installations), Design Communications Ltd. (primary fabricator), Winsor Fireform (porcelain enamel)