“Navigating Cowtown” Historic Fort Worth Stockyards Wayfinding

Built in 1912 and a Texas historic landmark, the Stockyards include an outstanding collection of museums, concerts, restaurants, hotels, shops, and a working cattle auction…along with the world’s only twice-daily cattle drive! It is the place to take friends and relatives visiting “Cowtown”, but it’s much more than that. It represents the heart of Fort Worth. The value of the place is emotional. It’s a symbol of cowboy identity in a very personal way. The sights, sounds and smells of the Stockyards create a rich network of memories. These experiences are the real “brand.”


RSM Design

Practice Area


Majestic Realty Co.

Crafting a strategy of functional vehicular and pedestrian wayfinding…overlapping with educational trails…overlapping with cattle drives…overlapping with history and emotion.

Christy Montgomery

Informational signage placed along the cattle drive, encouraging close, but safe, interaction. Craftednfrom reclaimed materials found on site, the signage walked a fine line of blending and standing out.

Zach Burson

Project Overview

New enhancements (both signage and architecture) to the Stockyards was to be done with thought and sensitivity to the existing and historic character of the site. A holistic approach to the planning principles and strategies of navigation through the district to allow for growth and engagement was critical. The planning principles included:

  • Design to prioritize history
  • Allow paths of people and animals to intersect
  • Provide clarity and organization
  • Design for flexibility of use
  • Expose the story

Connections to the Community and Beyond
Improving connections not only within the Stockyards but to the city of Fort Worth as a whole will strengthen the Stockyards, as both a destination and a home base, for visitors and locals. As envisioned for this wayfinding project, the connections to Fort Worth are many: physical streets and paths, urban planning moves, cultural ties, historic context, visual sightlines to iconic buildings, and economic forces related to the supply and demand of the marketplace.

The Stockyards is the #1 destination for cowboy culture, anchoring Fort Worth’s
brand to a broader national and international audience. In some way, these connections are more emotional and intellectual. Yet, through clear experiential connections that preserve and grow relevant content and programming, the connections have real impact on the ground. Preserving the soul of the Stockyards is fundamental. The authenticity of those experiences is essential to the evolution of the project and its brand.

Create new Memories
The boundaries, pathways, and landmarks are the tangible elements to assist in building memories. They are one of the fundamental building blocks of the sense of place. By understanding these fundamentals, we can understand and evaluate the site in more meaningful ways. Crafting a strategy for navigation through the Stockyards needed to be both functional and educational….share the story through signage and visitor touch points.

Watch Out for the Longhorns!
Refining the navigation and crafting a new strategy through the Stockyards for the various layers of movement was taken into account while defining the “Heritage Trail” and its signage.

The path of the twice-daily cattle drive intersected with the vehicles…which intersected with the pedestrian pathways…which intersected with the rodeo…which intersected with the hotel guests….which intersected with the train…which intersected with the retail stores….and it goes on.

These connections were intended to all overlap to ensure the authenticity and engagement of what makes the Stockyards so enthralling.

Is That New?
The signage aiding the navigation of these overlapping paths of travel wanted to feel as if it too grew organically with the area’s evolution. Directional signs, informational signs, identity signs, and educational signs all overlapped organically, but with some “breadcrumbs” of commonality….through the materials.

Signage materials were derived from the character of the historic context, but felt modern at the same time. The intent was not to recreate history, but to complement it with a warmth of character that blended comfortably into the richness of the context.

Amenity and cultural identities throughout the Stockyards blended the daytime impact and authentic materiality with a transformation by neon artists into an evening entertainment destination.

Zach Burson

Carrying the same level of detail and character of the rich historic context into new commercial
venues to blur the lines of new and old.

Zach Burson

Functional wayfinding hand-crafted from a richness of materials that respected the palette and patina of the Historic Stockyards, and emotionally resonating with the honesty of the context.

Zach Burson

Project Details
Design Team

RSM Design; Design Team: Harry Mark, FAIA; KK Closuit, Eddie Sayer

Photo Credits

Zach Burson, Christy Montgomery (photography)

Open Date

November 2022