Your downtown cannot speak. It does not have an actual voice to welcome visitors, tell them where to turn or travel, or indicate the location of all the great things to do in your community. So unless you provide a personal guide for each person who visits your community, your signs are doing your talking for you.
Have you read them / looked at them / noticed them lately? Are they doing the job you want them to do? Are they the voice of your community that you want to hear?
And from a more technical engineering and landscape architectural viewpoint, what do you need to know to make your signs stand up to that challenge?
Are you familiar with the Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices from the US Department of Transportation’s Federal Highway Administration? This publication is the all-encompassing guidebook when it comes to traffic control devices, or what we commonly refer to as signs.
The manual states:
Traffic control devices shall be defined as all signs, signals, markings, and other devices used to regulate, warn, or guide traffic, placed on, over, or adjacent to a street, highway, pedestrian facility, bikeway, or private road open to public travel by authority of a public agency or official having jurisdiction, or, in the case of a private road, by authority of the private owner or private official having jurisdiction.
The 862 page manual lays out, in detail, pretty much everything you need to know if you are going to put a sign in your downtown (and beyond).
So that’s the technical resource you need. And trust me, our engineers are quite familiar with this document and all it contains.
But what else is there to consider when it comes to signs?
A Leg to Stand On
A lot of attention is given to the sign itself ”“ the shape, the color, the words/message. And surely, that is necessary. But you really shouldn’t stop there.
Have you considered what the sign is mounted on? Per standard, many signs must be posted on U-channel posts or square or round, tubular posts. Other larger signs, on wooden break-away posts.
However, if you have control of the post material ”“ what it is made of, its color, its height, and size ”“ you should also consider and plan for the aesthetics of this prominent and plenteous element.
The Flip Side
And what about the back of the sign? You may not have thought about it but rest-assured, people are seeing the backs of your signs as well as the fronts.
For the Lititz Wall of Remembrance, the front of the sign is a place where people pause and pour over the names off all the honorees. However, the back, which could have easily been left a canvas of stone, functions as a welcome sign at that park access point. You can see this in the second project image shared here: https://www.derckandedson.com/portfolio-item/lititz-wall-remembrance/
In West Chester, the backs of the signs and the posts are simply painted to compliment the visual vibe of the front of the signs.
Signs as Art
In some communities, the prominence of signs takes on a whole new meaning like in Grove City. Visit this past blog post to be truly inspired by what a sign can be: https://www.derckandedson.com/expressive/
Signs, signs, everywhere a sign”¦
Ideally, every sign in your community ”“ whether they are informational or directional, vehicular or pedestrian, for traffic control or for aesthetic enhancement ”“ should be coordinated. A downtown wayfinding plan can help bring all these elements together. Check out some examples here:
Downtown Lititz: https://www.derckandedson.com/portfolio-item/lititz-wayfinding/