A recent article spurred me to reconsider signage deficiency. A NYC group is attempting to post signage to help subway passengers chose the best boarding locations to make transfers. What better description of wayfinding is there? The Subway Authority is stating they will remove the signage over concerns of overcrowding.
Sign-toting rebels look to share the secrets of the NYC subways
A group called the Efficient Passenger Project has begun posting signs at New York City subway stops to help people who need to transfer trains find the most efficient places to board. The group isn’t affiliated with the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, which says it will remove the signs because of concerns they could result in overcrowding of certain areas. The New York Observer (2/11)
Based on flow analysis, it is more logical that if we move people more efficiently through the system that would tend to create LESS overcrowding. We see the problems of flow with signage deficiency in many contexts. Roadways and airports often create clear problems, but New York Subway is a great example.
It is great to see a grass roots effort to provide better signage and information. People appreciate helpful and good looking signs. This group is being proactive and is meeting resistance. The struggle with providing proper information through signage is a common theme for us. Business owners find they must navigate local municipal zoning restrictions and yet seek to successfully promote their businesses. Often the restrictions limit the potential of their business.
We commonly see similar responses from municipalities when businesses become creative and take initiative. Their need to overcome natural and unnatural limitations to their communication with potential customers leads to conflict with local regulators. The renewed interest in “human signs,” temporary signs, and window signs are meant to improve the business and find creative ways to work around restrictions on speech. The efforts to ban or limit such signage, especially where signage deficiency is endemic, restrict the commercial potential of an establishment and the success of the municipality.
A better response than simply “fighting the battle” is to work with the entities to discover and understand the benefits of the additional communication. Officials need to encourage an atmosphere where groups and businesses can have a positive impact on aesthetics and business simultaneously. Generally the public supports proper signage and understands commercial zoning exists to be, well, commercial. Similar to the idea that wayfinding should truly helps you reach your destination easily.