New York City Moves Ahead with New Graphic Pedestrian Wayfinding Program

A new system of wayfinding signs helps pedestrians navigate New York City streets. Pentagram, NYC Wayfinding

Pedestrians in New York City will now find it much easier to navigate their way around the city’s streets and neighborhoods with the help of a new program called WalkNYC. Recently introduced by the New York City Department of Transportation (DOT), WalkNYC is an innovative wayfinding system comprised of signs that display user-friendly pedestrian maps with estimates of walking times to various points in the neighborhood. The first maps were unveiled in Chinatown this week and additional maps will debut this summer in Midtown Manhattan, along with Long Island City in Queens and Prospect Heights in Brooklyn. More maps will be installed throughout the city next year. Pentagram was one of the design firms involved in the development of the wayfinding system and the following details of the program were recently posted on the company’s website.

NYC’s wayfinding system is designed to promote walking, biking, and using public transit to get around the city. It employs eight-and-a-half-foot tall kiosks that display two different large maps on each side of the kiosk. One map shows the local streets within a 5-minute walking distance, while the other map offers an overview of the area’s location in relation to entire city. The maps use a “heads up” orientation to denote the direction the user is facing.

The maps use graphic illustrations to highlight the city’s popular tourist destinations and landmarks. They also feature tabs resembling subway station signs to indicate subway locations. These symbols are strategically layered over other elements on the maps.

Pentagram helped design the icons used on the maps as part of PentaCityGroup, which is a special alliance of designers. The group is comprised of wayfinding specialists at CityID, industrial designers from Billings Jackson Design, engineers and urban planners at RBA Group, and cartographers and geographic information specialists with T-Kartor. They developed the program by working closely with DOT, along with the local Business Improvement Districts (BID), and other New York City agencies and institutions.

To give the program a distinctive look and maximize readability, Pentagram created a customized form of the Helvetica font that replaces the font’s typical square dots with round ones. The company had previously partnered with the DOT on the redesign of the city’s parking signs and on the LOOK! traffic safety campaign.

The maps are printed on a clear vinyl background that can be easily removed to allow for updates to the maps. The color palette of gray, green and blue shades was inspired by hues prevalent in the city’s landscape.

The DOT is partnering with the Metropolitan Transit Authority to install the kiosks near high-traffic pedestrian areas like subway stations and business districts, as well as at busy bus stops.

PentaCityGroup is continuing to collaborate with the DOT on the upcoming phases of the program. They plan to expand the wayfinding system to additional neighborhoods and city districts. There are also plans for new print advertising, digital marketing, and mobile applications. WalkNYC demonstrates the power of outdoor signage and shows how it can be innovatively used to help organizations make great strides.

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