When it comes to transportation planning, signage is both vital to the way we get around and often simply taken for granted. We are willing to accept sub-par signage, but we’re also willing to argue over what information should be presented on signs and how. While the Vignelli-designed underground signs do a reasonably good enough job informing straphangers of their directions, New York’s parking signs have often led to questions of interpretation that stump even the most veteran of the city’s drivers.
Yesterday, though, New York City officials unveiled a new sign that has been designed to solve that problem. Created by Pentagram Design, the new signs feature a font change and streamlined information. “You shouldn’t need a Ph.D in parking signage to understand where you are allowed to leave your car in New York,” City Council Member Dan Garodnick, a self-professed supporter of syntactic clarity, said. “The days of puzzled parkers trying to make sense of our midtown signs are over. I was pleased to work directly with DOT, removing unnecessary words in these signs, cleaning up their appearance, and the result is a simple, clear product that people will understand.”
According to DOT, Garodnick has been pushing the agency to simplify parking regulation signs for nearly two years, and the new effort features standardized colors, typefaces and font sizes. For the typographically inclined among us, the font Interface takes center stage here. As far as spacing goes, the new signs seem ideal for the Twitter era as DOT has reduced the number of characters used to explain parking regs from 250 to around 140. The signs are also a foot shorter with the day of the regulation preceding the hours. There are no more abbreviations either.
The new signs are going up throughout Manhattan’s paid parking areas in Midtown, and the initial build-out includes 3300 commercial parking signs and 3000 other signs for nighttime and weekend parking, hotel and taxi stands, street cleaning and the always-confusing “no standing” areas. “New York City’s parking signs can sometimes be a five-foot-high totem pole of confusing information,” DOT Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan. “Parking signs play an important role in setting the rules at the curbside and these changes will make regulations easier to read and take the stress out of figuring out where and when you can legally park.”