Governors Island Signage

Finalist 2017

Governors Island is home to 172 acres of lush landscapes and picturesque paths where visitors can bike, picnic, lounge on hammocks, play sports, view art exhibitions, attend concerts and dance performances and explore historic buildings, all in view of the Manhattan skyline. Reachable only by ferry, the Island is a serene escape from the bustle of the city. A new set of signage and environmental graphics has been designed by Pentagram for the Island that guide visitors and enhance its unique sense of place. Inspired by the Island’s two gantries—the giant skeletal superstructures that mark the docks and frame the views to and from the site—the Pentagram designers created a system of transparent signage, including a system of welcome walls and district markers, that preserves these views, even as it helps guide visitors around the Island. The see-through signs look robust but playful, big enough to stand out but capable of fading into the background. Built from modular elements, the signs can easily be modified by switching out names of locations and adding updated maps and announcements. A custom typeface was created for the graphics called Guppy Sans, a cross between a rugged sans serif (to reflect the Island’s utilitarian past) and an ornamental display font (to suggest the lush parkland to come). The typeface is a redrawn version of Agency that makes the hard-angled font softer and more friendly. Using the same custom typeface on every sign, including street signs, informational signs, and interpretive signs, the Pentagram designers hoped to create a distinct sense of place that would set the Island apart from other New York destinations. A custom set of icons was also developed.

Design Firms: 



Governors Island

Project Area: 

7,492,320 sq ft

Open Date: 

May 2014

Photo Credits: 


Design Team: 

Michael Bierut, Tracey Cameron, Britt Cobb, Hamish Smyth (Environmental Graphic Designers); Adriaan Gueze, Jamie Maslyn Larson, David Zelnicki, Blair Guppy (Landscape Architects)


Design Communications Ltd.

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