Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Editorial Exchange: Design Not the Signs

Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Editorial Exchange: Design Not the Signs

Article excerpt

Editorial Exchange: Design not the signs


An editorial from the Prince George Citizen, published July 20:

There is a residential neighbourhood in Spokane where there are no signs, other than street names at each corner.

There are no speed limit signs, no yield signs and no stop signs.

Drivers proceed carefully down the roads, watching for children and pedestrians. When they reach intersections, they creep through, scanning for other vehicles on their left and right.

It's counterintuitive but there is a growing trend among traffic engineers and signage experts to eliminate all but the most essential signs, not just on city streets but in retail environments as well.

Studies have shown that drivers pay more attention when there are no signs or working traffic lights at intersections.

Local drivers proceeding through the roundabout on the north end of the Cameron Street bridge move quickly when there are no other vehicles around but proceed more cautiously when there are other vehicles present, particularly when they see drivers entering the roundabout from other directions.

That's a situation where design, not signs, encourages safer driving behaviour.

The same thing happens at an intersection with traffic lights blinking yellow or red. Drivers slow down, look carefully to their left and right, check for pedestrians and look ahead to see if anyone from the opposite direction might be turning left into their path, before proceeding.

In other words, without clear direction, drivers are more attentive and move through danger areas like intersections more cautiously.

Smart retailers understand better than anyone that less is more when it comes to signs. Without directional signs, shoppers will move through a store slowly, looking carefully for items they want. During that search, they might find something else they want to buy. The shopper might also stop to talk to a store employee and ask for directions, allowing the store to provide extra service. Both outcomes are desirable from a retail standpoint.

Signs threatening customers with criminal prosecution if they're caught shoplifting is hardly an inviting tone so most stores have put away those signs because they don't work anyway. …

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