The Future of History – Signage

posted in: Visual Language Class | 0

Today’s world is really different than yesterday’s world. Recent years deepened both our abilities and our dependance in our technologies. Mobile internet made an impact in many aspects as navigation, information about businesses around us and our documentation abilities. Still, about 10 years after the introduction of the first smartphones, the signs around us seem to stay one step behind. In 2010 Julia Turner posted a blog about the impact that technologies can make on signage, today we can already see some examples that raise interesting questions.

Transportation – Smartphone Apps

New York city has one of the most complex and sophisticated transportation systems in the world. Yet, when it comes to digital information it is very basic and confusing. The best examples are the bus stops around the city, they present information about the route and the time schedule but the information is not up to date and I already found myself waiting in an inactive station more than once. the MTA actually published an app for smartphones, but not only that the app is not updated, there is not even a slight clue in any of their stations that this app exist.

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Bus station on Allen st. NYC.

Traffic Lights – Digital lightning

although it already seems trivial, I find the traffic lights in New York very interesting. The fact that they countdown the seconds goes hand by hand with the city paste and the general stress one can feel when walking the streets of New York. They are also functional, helping pedestrians and vehicles to calculate if they should cross the junction or stop. We can debate, of course, if it actually works but I am not sure that is a bigger question about the New York in general.

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StreetEasy – 21st Century Ads

although they are basically ads, I find the marketing concept of SteetEasy very interesting. Throughout last summer, StreetEasy started filling the city with ads that were presented in certain neighbourhoods and provided visual representation of the neighbourhood. Even though they were not official signs they helped me identify neighbourhoods several times. This example also shows the evolution of ads who shifted in the last decade from presenting a physical address or telephone number to a name of a company. The marketers expect us to find more details over the internet.

Lower east side, Manhattan.
Lower east side, Manhattan.

Historic Streets

a lot of people do not know that some of the street signs in New York city have brown background instead of the known green. The brown signs point on a certain street as an historic site. Unlike other cities around the world, the historic signs in New York do not provide additional information regarding the history of the street and its given name. Moreover, the font is so small that most of the people do not even know their meaning. I tried to think of ways to improve the signs without changing the brown color that relates to historical sites in other parts of the world. I also did not want to change the main font that is in use in other street signs across the city.

Street sign in Tel Aviv.
Street sign in Tel Aviv.

I started by thinking about the information this kind of signs should provide the pedestrians and came up with 3 important elements:

  1. Clear distinction of the historic streets from the other streets.
  2. Clear understating of what the sign signifies.
  3. Additional information about the history of the street.

while the first one is already represented by the brown color, I concentrated on the other two and came up with this simple design that basically adds an icon that functions both for identifying the street as an historic site and as a unique barcode one can scan with a smartphone and get more information about the history of the street. If the signs will be able to provide more information they will function not only as an identifier but can form historic tours in the city that will help connecting people to the city’s history.

My suggestion for the historic streets signs.
My suggestion for the historic streets signs.

When I started looking for an icon I tried to figure out what icons are in use in different cultures to represent history or a journey back in time. The most known icon is really distinctive but is not so relevant to the spirit and the image of New York city.

Classic history icon.
The most known icon.

The chosen icon is taken originally from computers and is suppose to remind the pedestrian to use the smartphone to retrieve more information.

 

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