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Environmental Graphics

Environmental graphics and wayfinding are an important part of the identity and use of the LA River. They guide people towards the LA River and help identify locations along the river trails.

The Environmental Graphics Guidelines for the LA River are outlined in detail in Appendix Volume I: Design Guidelines, Chapter 4. These guidelines are an update to the 2003 LA River Signage Guidelines, and were developed through extensive outreach and input from LA Metro, the City of LA, the LA River Master Plan Steering Committee, and the Native American community.

There are eight categories of environmental graphics: Informational, Regulatory, Confirmation, Interpretive signs and displays, Directional, River Mile Markers, River Mile Pavement Markings, and Large Scale Icon Graphics. All categories of environmental graphics share common design elements and standards. They aim to be accessible to all and include bilingual signs that would reflect the languages spoken by the diverse communities along the LA River. Legibility and clarity are also important, and, in most cases, environmental graphics should follow ADA requirements for type size and sign height as a best practice.

Environmental Graphics Example Templates
A suite of eight different LA River Environmental Graphics lead people to the river and provide important information at access points and along trails. See Chapter 4 in Appendix Volume I: Design Guidelines for more information.
OLIN, 2019.

All environmental graphics should use the term “LA River”, not “Los Angeles River” or “L.A. River.” Other standards include using the heron both as a logo for signs or as an icon for large scale graphics. Environmental graphics and wayfinding signage should be constructed of materials that are durable and vandal-resistant. All River Mile Marker signs will use the 51-mile river numbering system with river mile 0 at the mouth of the river in Long Beach and river mile 51 at the headwaters in Canoga Park. Opportunities should be identified for walls, fences, and underpasses to become art, and community expression related to the LA River. The placement and sequence of environmental graphics should strive to avoid sign clutter at access points.

Signage Elevation Examples
The suite of LA River environmental graphics includes signs leading to the LA River and within projects. These are examples of four out of the eight environmental graphics categories.
OLIN, 2019

Sequence and Placement of Environmental Graphics

Lateral wayfinding is crucial in showing users how to navigate to the LA River, and clear placement of signs at gateways and along the trail notify users without being overwhelming. The vignettes on the following pages show examples of environmental graphics sequence and placement in typical contexts leading to and along the river. Directional environmental graphics should be placed so they are visible to pedestrians, bicyclists, those in vehicles, and equestrians where appropriate. These environmental graphics should be placed along a safe route that directs pedestrians and cyclists to the nearest access point. Informational, Regulatory, and other categories of signage should be placed in a clear manner at access points and along trails to avoid sign clutter.

lateral wayfinding diagram
The approach to the placement and sequence of environmental graphics depends on the context and expected volume and speed of users passing by. The diagram above shows an abstraction of different contexts for environmental graphics leading to and along the LA River.
OLIN, 2019
Arterial Road
Environmental graphics along arterial roads should guide users across busy intersections.
OLIN, 2019
Environmental graphics along vehicular bridges alert drivers to the presence of the LA River.
OLIN, 2019
Collector Road
Environmental graphics along collector roads guide users towards the river and also allow for community expression.
OLIN, 2019
Local Road
Environmental graphics along local roads guide users through residential areas.
OLIN, 2019
Access Point
Environmental graphics at gateways should avoid sign clutter.
OLIN, 2019
Environmental graphics along the LA River help locate and inform trail users.
OLIN, 2019

Wayfinding Precedents

Metro wayfinding and environmental graphics in Wilowbrook (left) and Irwindale (right).
LA Metro, 2021

LA Metro Wayfinding, Los Angeles, California

The Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s (Metro’s) First Last Mile Strategic Plan1Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority and Alta Planning Design. First and Last Mile Strategic Plan, March 2014. developed in 2014 outlines useful strategies for lateral wayfinding. The First Last Mile Strategic Plan outlines a toolbox for creating a county-wide transit access network, consisting of: crossing enhancements and connections, signage and wayfinding (Metro signage and maps, medallion signage, time to station signage, real-time signage adjacent to station), smart technologies, safety and comfort, allocation of street space, and plug-in components. Metro’s approach to environmental graphics also utilizes a strong visual identity with expressions beyond signs themselves, including murals and shade structures.

Photo of signage in London as a part of case study project
Legible London totem signage provides clear maps and direction for pedestrians.
Tom Page, 2014. Source License: CC BY-SA 2.0.

Legible London, London, UK

Legible London was developed in 2006 through research commissioned by the Mayor of London to make the city more navigable on foot.2Applied Information Group. Legible London – A prototype wayfinding system for London. Transport for London, 2007. This included the installation of very clear maps, icons, and street names to guide pedestrians along city streets. The signs and totems had a recognizable branding, and used clear, sans serif font to increase legibility.

The NYC Beaches environmental graphics suite includes regulatory signage that is legible and aims to reduce sign clutter.
Shinya Suzuki, Rockaway Beach, 2015. Source License: CC BY-ND 2.0.

NYC Beaches, New York, New York

A new suite of environmental graphics was developed for NYC Parks and Recreation after Hurricane Sandy in 2013 for use on NYC beaches and boardwalks at entrance points.3Pentagram, NYC Beaches, 2013; Accessed 07/31/19. A unique graphic identity established a sense of place for each block with beach access. In addition to appearing on signs, the graphics also appeared on beach pavilions and restroom facilities. Regulatory signs were also rebranding to fit into the suite and were consolidated into one long panel, reducing sign clutter.

Signage along fence in Syracuse
The Syracuse Connective Corridor uses creative and inexpensive ways to incorporate a strong visual identity.
OLIN / Sahar Coston-Hardy, 2013.

Syracuse Connective Corridor, Syracuse, New York

The Syracuse Connective Corridor was developed in 2010 to engage institutions and businesses with the pedestrian realm.4OLIN and Pentagram. USE Syracuse Branding Package Guidelines. Syracuse University, 2010. This approach used a strong visual identity and allowed for versatile expression, meaning that the environmental graphics were integrated into everything from the facades of surrounding buildings to site furnishings. Designers also were able to employ many low-cost options into the environmental graphics suite.

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