Signage Research

In this post, I’m going to introduce some good and bad examples of signage that I’ve found in New York.

I first went to the High Line, under which I had passed several times before. Arrived near the flyover and looking for the entrance, I came across the signs below.

The upper sign means the High Line itself and the lower one indicates the location of its entrance. Although two signs are parted from each other, it isn’t difficult to recognize that lower sign is also related to the High Line due to the same typeface and the color. However, I had to look around to see what street I was as the sign was only saying that the entrance was on 16th street. If I hadn’t been aware of the New York’s street system, I would’ve had to either check on Google map or ask people to find the way to 16th street. An arrow pointing the direction along with the text would be more helpful especially for the people who are not familiar with the address of New York.

The same problem was also observed on the 16th street as the entrance was several meters away from the sign, and a rubbish bin was even hiding it!

In the park though, I could discover nicely designed signs. The picture below is a standing signboard that shows the visitors where they are now, and other facilities are.

With the green colored route and a big arrow drawn on a map, it is easy to figure out how far I’ve walked through and what street I am currently above. The clear pictograms help me to find the things like restrooms, exits and so on.

Another good signage example was able to be found on the litter bins.

Not only the simple images on the labels but also the blue, green and gray colors make people easily distinguish what type of rubbish each of them is for. I often see people are confused by ambiguous signs on bins and threw their litter in a random one, but here, I saw visitors threw their rubbish into a right bin with no struggle.


Next, I headed to Chelsea market where numerous restaurants and shops are.

In one of the restaurants here, I found an interesting menu board.

 It describes the sizes and tastes of oysters in a graph. What a brilliant idea! Although the names of the oysters are completely new to me, there would be no difficulties to choose an oyster that best suits my taste with this board.

I’m not sure whether I can call it signage, but according to the definition of signage in a dictionary, it means “signs that tell people what something is or where to go”. In this point of view, the board which tells customers what their oysters are like could be regarded as signage.

As it is a quite big mall with a variety of individual shops, restaurants, and cafes, there were, of course, signs for them and Chelsea market is using wooden signposts for it.

Decoration-wise, it goes well with the entire market’s local-farm-like interior design. However, it seems inappropriate in terms of information delivery. If it is marketing intended to make people lose their way and explore every nook and cranny, then it is a successful design, but if not, this signpost is way too complicated to find the one that I’m looking for in a short time and hard to know how far I need to go to get there.

So I redesigned the sign and here is the journey.

I first tried to keep the signpost form. I wrote the distance to each shop and described their categories such as restaurants and bars using icons or colors.

But after some research for the signpost, I realized that they are usually for a few number of destinations in the four directions, yet dozens of shops are in the same direction in the Chelsea market. For this reason, I judged that this form is not suitable.

An example of signposts;

I also researched into other shopping malls to find out how they offer their shop guides. In most cases, they are describing it on a map or a floor plan. It’s much easier to understand how far the desired store is and on which side it is located.


On this basis, I sketched several map-type guideboards. I considered representing each store’s category by icons or colors. I also came up with the idea to put each brand’s logo image instead of text because images are usually more quickly read than text.

I first tried the logo idea. To give the feeling of the Chelsea market, I referred its signboard design and decided to apply a blackboard-like design. I thought it would also match the market’s vintage interior design.

The Chelsea Market’s logo;

And I found the floor map and the logos of the shops there in the Chelsea market’s official site.

Below is the first draft. Referring the floor map in the website, I draw a new one, but I changed it a bit to make more space for the logos. Also, I wrote the street names next to those two entrances so that people can notice where they will be going out at the end of the hallway.

It is better to estimate the distance to the destination but still difficult to figure out what kinds of stores they are, especially in the case that a visitor isn’t familiar with those brands.

Therefore, I combined the idea of color-sorting with this draft.

Now, the shop logos are in different colors according to their categories. People are able to know which group is in which color by seeing the top right side of the board. I chose pastel colors to keep the concept of the chalkboard.

Other symbols standing for a lift or toilets also could be added on this map like one of the signage examples in the High Line park. Moreover, this board also can be drawn vertically if there isn’t enough space widthwise.




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