Let Them Know Where To Go

For many business parks and campus-like areas, signage is an after-thought. But for parks and recreational areas that can cover from one to thousands of acres, signage becomes the key element that ties together the various facilities within the complex, sets the boundaries, helps visitors navigate a large geographic area, and creates an experience that teaches, captures the imagination, and (hopefully) inspires return visits.

Given this wide array of needs, there are specific best practices that can and should be addressed in any strategic signage program for parks and recreational facilities.

The “Signage Super 10”

1. Create a clear, cohesive identity for the entire park system. Basically, cohesive signage is the “glue” that ties the system of parks together, and creates a sense of unity. In fact, when park administrators do a good job of identifying the entire system and the scope of its boundaries, it usually startles people, who often say things like: “I had no idea the park system was this big.” A cohesive signage program can visually convey the true size and scope of the offerings of the system (which can come in handy when seeking additional funding from the city or millage through a levy).

2. Create a cohesive signage program for each park. One of the biggest mistakes made in parks and rec signage systems is that no one sets (and sticks to) an overall set of graphic standards; within each park, there’s often a mish-mash of different signs from different eras, and none of them tie together. By sticking to a pre-determined set of graphic standards, and then applying those individually to each park, you create the sense of a large system with much to offer–and you get a sense of unity with each park individually as well.

3. Set a hierarchy for the specific information to be conveyed. Every park needs to provide navigation information, identify specific buildings and parking, direct traffic, and inform visitors of rules and regulations. An effective signage system should set priorities for the most important information, and the actual signage should reflect that. For example, a 1,000-acre park would need a lot of navigation information for visitors to find their way around. So navigation signs would be “highest on the totem pole,” and would therefore have the largest signs with the largest type. The next most important information would be on signs that are slightly smaller, and so forth down the “signage food chain.”

4. Set a hierarchy for navigation signs. Within the system, navigation signs should have their own hierarchy, with a variety of different types of signs. The main entrance sign is the “grand dame,” or the largest, most important sign. Secondary signs include those for specific facilities or areas within the park. Trail signage should be smaller and, because there will be so many of them, boundary signs that define the geographic borders of a park can be even more modestly sized.

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