Signage and Information Systems

This week's topic is signage and information systems. Our assignment was to find examples of well designed signage and analyze what it is that makes it effective, and to find examples of poorly designed signage.

My first thought of poor signage is in Brooklyn Bridge Park. I live in the area and do volunteering there on a regular basis. In the park there is a path running through the entire area that is open to bicycles and pedestrians. Here is an example:

bike and pedestrian path in park with trees to the right and left and a metal fence going down the center. A small blue post delineates which side of the path is for bikes and which side is for people.

There is a mixture of people and bicycles everywhere. It's hard to notice the tiny blue sign in the middle that instructs bicyclists to stay on one side of the path and pedestrians on the other side. There are only a couple of signs like this anywhere along this mile-long path. This is an accident waiting to happen.

Bike and pedestrian path in park. Bikes and people who are where they are supposed to be have a green box around them. Those that do not have a red box. The text "Bikes on Left, People on Right" is added to the center of the image.

To fix this I would suggest painting instructions on the ground near the park entrances and at regular intervals along this path. It would be an unobtrusive way to communicate a safer way for bicyclists and pedestrians to share the same space.

Bike and pedestrian path in park. A painted silhouette of a bike and a person are digitally added to the ground to the left and right sides of the path.

My next example was this advertisement for the educational facility Apex.

Subway advertisement for APEX Technical School, advertising their education services.

Although it might not be the best example of what would be categorized as "signage," it is an example of poor design. It employs a kaleidoscope of fonts:

Subway advertisement for APEX Technical School with a box around each unique font.

To redesign this, I kept the company logo and industry illustrations while simplifying the message on the right side and reducing the font choices.

Subway advertisement for APEX Technical School, with relevant information in 1 font.

For examples of good design, the first thing that caught my eye was this advertisement for the ride-sharing service Lyft:

Lyft advertisement, announcing we can "Ride anytime, anywhere in the NYC area" with a $25 off discount code.

There is a simple grid system lining up the text horizontally and vertically with the illustration. There are only a few colors and two different fonts.

Three subimages. Left one shows the grid underlying the text and image arrangement, the second identifies the four colors used, and the last highlights the two fonts used.

I particularly like the illustration. The designer was able to combine a hand, a car, a phone, and the driver's face into one illustration. It is a visual metaphor for the relationship between these things.

Hand holding phone, with car on phone screen. The car is lined up with the hand so that the car looks like fingers.

My next example of good design was this advertisement for the musical Cats.

Cats musical, final summer on broadway. Two yellow cat eyes are in the center.

The grid system on this diagram lines up the text with the inside and outside of the cat's eyes. There are only three colors and two fonts.

Three subimages. Left one shows how the cat eyes line up vertically with text, the center shows the three colors used, and the last identifies the three fonts used.

I grew up in the NYC area and I've seen advertisements for Cats over a million times. One detail I never noticed before is the cat's eyes. They contain the silhouette of dancers:

Close up of cat's eyes, with a silhouette of a dancer in the center of each.

It's a subtle detail waiting for a careful observer to notice.