How Do We Find Our Way in this World? Signage, of course!

“Making your way in the world today takes everything you got.” – Cheers Theme Song


Cities and towns aren’t the easiest places to navigate. Some are better than others to decipher, while others are completely maddening! Making these places and environments easier to understand and navigate increases residents’ and visitors’ enjoyment, encourages people to use the infrastructure and enhances civil life.

Enter another branch of the landscape architecture tree – environmental graphic design (EGD). This is a discipline that lies somewhere between the two- and three-dimensional realm, building architecture and landscape architecture, and street and regulatory signs. It’s not about designing a beautifully designed sign. We save those for interpretive, educational signage. Landscape architects use their EDG skills to condense information into a manner that help users make sense of the places they are in. How do you clarify to people what a community is about, how should one move through it and where is the important stuff?

I have the pleasure of working on an ongoing project in a rural community that has very few sidewalks. Due to pedestrian-vehicular conflicts, this community voted to tax themselves and create a pedestrian safety district. One of the district’s many goals is to provide pedestrian safety by means of building sidewalk infrastructure. The community’s sidewalk network is growing and becoming increasingly connected. We also know that people are using the sidewalks, based on counter data collected. So, the next logical step is to assist with navigation through signage.

The messages that we wanted to convey were clear: Where are you currently? Which direction is the place that I want to go? How long will it take to get there? I find that an effective way finding system is based on clear, consistent and concise messaging. Only showing the information that is relevant and keeping the message simple.

I am proud to have develop the first of five – hopefully much more – way finding signage for this community. Look and see how I incorporated way finding principles.

How do you use and/or design wayfinding signage? Does it add to you experience in your city or a city you’re visiting?





About the Author

Gordon Lemmel is a Landscape Architect for Peaks to Plains Design. Gordon serves as the Idaho-Montana ASLA Executive Board’s Secretary and the Billings Heights Kiwanis Vice President. With over five years experience, he has been a crucial component in Peaks to Plains Design’s award winning projects. Gordon surpasses clients’ expectations on every project he undertakes.