You’ve probably seen them around the county – or maybe you haven’t – those teal and magenta directional signs installed when teal things were all the rage. The signs, which call out county landmarks like Longwood Gardens and French Creek State Park, are finally, after nearly four decades, getting a second look.
“Installing wayfinding signage was an innovative move at the time,” Chester County Tourism Executive Director Susan Hamley told me of the 1980s decision. Since then, however, the signs have been deteriorating and no longer reflect the character of Chester County. “We call them Miami Vice signs,” said Susan. “Plus they are now 100 percent out of compliance with PennDOT regulations.”
To fix this, Susan and her team have been pitching a plan to local governments to update the signs’ colors (this time an indigo blue is proposed), design, and placement thus creating uniform (and compliant) signage throughout the county. In West Chester, two signs will be included in the program – one on 52 near Price Street and the other at the intersection of Pottstown Pike and Rte. 322. West Chester destinations include Downtown, the Chester County History Center, and West Chester University. Not all directional signs are included in the program. The newly installed sign directing to Uptown Theater will not be. Neither will the signs in West Goshen pointing out QVC or the Brandywine Airport.
According to Susan, the team went back to the program’s original criteria to determine which signs to include. They took into consideration the number of visitors an attraction received, seasonality, and whether the sign was originally in the program. As a replacement program, new signage was automatically exempt. The goal, said Susan, was to provide a welcoming visitor experience.
“We are aiming to reduce repetitive clutter while still achieving the goal of a good wayfinding system,” she said. “The last thing we want is to create visual pollution.”
It does raise the question, in a day of cellphones and ubiquitous GPS, is any of this really necessary? Susan believes that it is.
“Wayfinding signs are meant to create awareness,” she said. She believes they are marketing tools that have the power to influence longer and repeat visits to an area – and longer stays mean more money spent in a community.
The project is being broken into two phases. The first phase involves signs in West Chester, West Goshen, Kennett Square, and Chadds Ford. With the help of a PennDOT grant, Chester County Tourism Bureau will cover the costs and installation of the new signs. However, before they can proceed they need the approval of all the involved townships. Kennett Square, West Goshen, and Chadds Ford have agreed. West Chester Borough Council gave their unanimous approval last month.
With approvals in place, the goal is to have phase one completed by March and then on to phase two.
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