Sign Design Important to Cities, Says Designer

by ekramer on February 25, 2009

More cities are investing in directional signage and some companies are refining how they label products. An expert on the subject speaks Thursday in Louisville. WFPL’s Elizabeth Kramer has more.

Joel Katz is a designer speaking at U of L’s Cressman Center for Visual Art, and consults cities and companies on information design and direction or way-finding systems.

Since 1999, Louisville’s Downtown Development Corporation and the city have spent tens of thousands of dollars on signage aimed at helping people navigate downtown by vehicle and on foot.

Katz says while it’s an important investment, signage in many cities is of poor quality and ineffective.

“People think that they’re clarifying themselves and developing a program and a brand that will help people find their way around, when, in fact, a lot of it is just very, very superficial,” he says.

Katz says sign and way-finding systems can affect people’s attitudes about a city or even a building.

“It’s a relatively new phenomenon,” he says. “And the good way-finding design projects can have a significant impact in reducing frustration and saving people’s time and reducing anxiety.”

He says bold and understandable signs and directions along roadways and on products are increasingly important in an ever more complicated and diverse world.

“Cities are getting bigger and more complex,” he says. “Travel is accessible to more and more people. But language barriers put a limit and a cap on it.”

Katz has worked on projects for Center City Philadelphia; Central City Portland, Oregon; Downtown Omaha, Nebraska; and  for the MIT Master Plan, which won an Honor Award from the Society for Environmental Graphic Design.

Katz has taught at Yale University, Rhode Island School of Design, University of the Arts, Philadelphia University, and the Moore College of Art & Design.

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