Monday, June 25, 2012

Wayfinding in Suisun City and Ukiah

While engaging in some early summer wanderlust, I came across wayfinding signs in Suisun City and Ukiah.  Between the two, Suisun City was the clear winner.  And neither had the multiple and inconsistent wayfinding systems that detracted from the wayfinding system in Napa. 

Suisun City started with a great background color.  Blue is typically used for informational signs, such as the signs about services available at upcoming freeway exits, so the color immediately evokes a subconscious sense of helpfulness.  Blue also reflects the connection to the bay which is critical to Suisun City’s image.  The graphic further complements the blue, promising the experiences that the town intends to provide while also representing the most iconic architecture of Suisun City.

The directions provided aren’t elaborate, but to the point.  And they work for drivers, bicyclists, and pedestrians.

As in Napa, there are no directions to the nearby residential neighborhoods, but unlike Napa, Suisun City really doesn’t have neighborhoods about which to brag.  As an urbanist, I love the walkable urban neighborhoods of Suisun City and am thrilled by the architecture and how the newer homes blend well with the older homes.  But Suisun City lacks the historical architectural richness of Napa, so directing visitors to the neighborhoods wouldn’t be reasonable.  (That I must point out the difference between the two cities is a triumph for Suisun City when one considers its situation just a few years ago.)

I like the inclusion of the municipal incorporation date because it gives a sense of history.  But I also agree with putting the information in a small font because the current attractions of Suisun City have little to do with its history.

I didn’t try to determine the frequency of the Suisun City signs, but noted several during my amble and used them effectively.  The sign density and placement seemed fine.

Compared to Suisun City, the wayfinding in Ukiah is competent, but less effective.   I’m unsure how much less effective because I could only find this one sign.  I circled a couple of other blocks looking for a second one, but was unsuccessful.  Perhaps I was unlucky, but it’s more likely that Ukiah needs more signs.

The graphic is fine, but the white background doesn’t work as well as the blue in Suisun City.  And there is the question of the information that is included.  I don’t know the Ukiah golf course, but question why it would be the top entry on the list.  The sign was located on a side street next to the courthouse, a location in which it seemed unlikely that a golfer in need of directions would find it.

And then there is the obvious oddity on the sign, the listing of “Downtown” without a direction arrow.   My guess is that the sign originally had an arrow, but merchants who considered themselves to be downtown but were located in the opposite direction from the arrow complained and the arrow was removed.  However, the absence of an arrow risks sending another message.  “Yes, perhaps it doesn’t look like much, but this truly is downtown Ukiah.”

If your town is considering a new wayfinding system, I encourage you to look at Suisun City over Ukiah.

As always, your questions or comments will be appreciated.  Please comment below or email me.  And thanks for reading. - Dave Alden (

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