April 01 2013

Wayfinding in Buena Vista, Colorado: The Struggles of a Small Community to Stand Out

Wayfinding, or environmental graphic design, is on the rise throughout the United States; Corbin Design and National Sign Plazas are just two firms to specialize in wayfinding systems. However, “way finding” is a term not often recognized in dictionaries, and a large amount of educated people still struggle with its definition. Wayfinding is more than signage; it is how one cognitively gets from Point A to Point B. It includes signage, maps, information kiosks, but also anything from landmarks to nodes that guide a person to a destination. This is not to say groups and individuals have not been using wayfinding as a process, but more specifically, people have lacked using wayfinding systems, encompassing all aspects of moving from one destination to another.

Buena Vista, Colorado wayfinding

The start of what could be a great wayfinding system in Buena Vista.

The most important aspect of using a wayfinding system is to increase and shorten trips with the given space. The best way to understand the benefits of wayfinding is exemplified in this quote from a recent wayfinding webinar I attended:

“Getting the right message to the audience will bring lots of visitors to your area, but once they are there, or on their way, if they can’t find you or your destinations, attractions, or more importantly, parking, you risk losing them as customers.”
- Signs of the Times: Making the Most of Wayfinding Systems in Your Municipality (Sustainable Cities Collective)

Note: It is hard to prove with quantitative figures this benefit, as economic development can be attributed to multiple aspects at once.

Buena Vista, Colorado stands out as a great small town, once which could benefit from revamping its wayfinding system. Currently, while driving down US Hwy 24, a large sign points west for “more shops,” while the downtown core, East Main Street, is east. Residents and tourists have all experienced the questionable signage and lack of wayfinding system; for residents, they have grown to disregard it, but tourists will continue to struggle until an organized, comprehensive system is established.

Buena Vista, Colorado wayfinding

Few, scattered signs make up the incomplete wayfinding system in Buena Vista.

Does wayfinding rank high on your city’s needs? Try comparing your wayfinding system to that of Dubuque, Philadelphia, or Austin.

Credits: Photographs by Katie Poppel. Data Linked to sources.

Katie Poppel

Katie Poppel comes to The Grid as a student constantly on the go. Set to graduate from the University of Cincinnati in 2014, she is studying for a bachelor of urban planning with focuses in urban design and sustainability. Her program has allowed her to work for the City of Chicago and the Congress for New Urbanism this past year, as well as study abroad at the University of Amsterdam, College of Social Sciences. In her free time, you can find her exploring cities, playing soccer, or skiing. She has a serious case of wanderlust and enjoys the rush of cities over the countryside. Katie writes from Colorado, as she interns for the small town of Buena Vista south of Denver.

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This entry was posted on Monday, April 1st, 2013 at 9:33 am and is filed under Community/Economic Development, Environmental Design, Urban Planning and Design. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

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