The Politics of Victoria's New Wayfinding Signs
I can remember being in Amsterdam in the 1990's when backpacking across Europe. They had these amazing maps of the city everywhere with a big star marking where you were. I wandered all over Amsterdam with a feeling of confidence because of those signs. I always knew that I would be able to find my my way back to the hostel.
Over the last couple of years the City of Victoria has embarked on a comprehensive Downtown Public Realm Plan. The site for that plan can be found here. One of the key pieces of that plan is the Wayfinding Strategy which you can read here. The plan overall is actually quite amazing, I would encourage you to have a look. From a design perspective so much thought has gone into how this will roll out. One of the key pieces of this strategy is the wayfinding signs like the one pictured at the top. As you will see in the plan, every element of the sign has been thought about: where the signs should be; what colours are best; what information should go at the top versus the bottom, it really is quite amazing.
There is a significant problem with the signs though and it really has little to do with all the work that is discussed in the strategy but goes back to something I have written on many times, Victoria's crazy neighbourhood borders. (Thanks to Vibrant Victoria and this thread in particular for pointing these issues out!)
As you can see on the sign in the picture, it gives directions to North Park. Now most of you will know I am a pretty big fan of North Park, but if I am wanting to tell someone to go to North Park I would want them to visit something fairly important. A quick look on google maps shows that 380m from this sign is the intersection of Blanshard and Fisgard, there is no sign saying North Park when you get there and really that intersection is not indicative of the neighbourhood, so why tell people to go there? If someone had been directed to North Park Village or perhaps the Police Station (with a hyphen and North Park behind to indicate which neighbourhood it was) might have been more useful. As a visitor, getting to an intersection and seeing a parking lot and a chain restaurant, I am not likely going to be drawn to explore deeper.
The other side of this sign is even worse though with the exact same cause. It lists that straight ahead in 240m is both Rock Bay and Burnside. Apart from the silliness of being able to arrive at two places at the same time, once again where has the person been brought to? In this case it is the intersection of Discovery and Government Streets. Unless you are looking to top up your Phillips Growler, this is an unlikely destination for anyone to want to walk to. Certainly Selkirk could have been a destination on the sign instead and people would have known when they got there.
But the real issue is just like the speed sign on Cormorant Street that I wrote about here, we are putting in place infrastructure because of neighbourhood borders that are often quite ridiculous. It is really time for the City of Victoria to redraw the neighbourhood borders to align with the form of the neighbourhood. Once again I will post my map of what I think would make the most sense. Until we do that though we are going to continue to put signs up with imaginary lines on them and in this case in particular make visitors experience our inane civic politics.
Let me know what you think of the new signs and the wayfinding strategy!