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Creating the framework for a multimodal wayfinding system for Toronto

City of Toronto

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Many cities, such as London, New York and Vancouver, have recently developed wayfinding strategies with positive results. The successful implementation of a unified wayfinding system in Toronto will similarly deliver significant, proven benefits to residents, businesses, and tourists.

Our role

The need for a wayfinding system for the city has been highlighted in previous studies and policies, in particular in Toronto’s Walking Strategy. Converting this long term aspiration into actions with a clear strategy vision and delivery path was the main challenge of the project.

Steer Davies Gleave worked together with local sub consultants DIALOG to deliver a Wayfinding System Strategy for the City of Toronto.

How we did it

Wayfinding encompasses all of the factors that enable people to orient themselves in physical space and to navigate from place to place. In an urban context it relates to both the built and the natural environment and contributes to making a city more “legible”. Wayfinding is more than signs; it comprises names, conventions, maps and new media, and elements of the public realm.

Our methodology combined observation, consultation and research activities, including visual audits and detail review of existing wayfinding and streetscape in five case study areas. The process took account of various internal and external stakeholder through a combination of consultation activities including interviews, meetings, workshops and an Open House exhibition.

The core output of the project is the Wayfinding System Design Framework organized around five themes: Consistency, Inclusivity, Sustainability, Transition and Local Identity. The framework themes were directly informed by stakeholder outreach and international best practices tailored to Toronto’s current conditions and policies. Each theme is broken into design principles, comprising wideranging guidance —from specific standards to project aspirations and user needs.

The wayfinding strategy is built around a core family of on-street signage. Our team developed an illustrative suit of products to test the system and establish a ballpark estimate for implementation. But there is more to wayfinding than signs - a truly coordinated strategy will permeate across different media and touch points. Digital and printed information such as mobile apps, local area and pocket maps provide the basis for the system’s expansion beyond physical signage.

A recommendation to proceed with Phase Two was approved by the City Council. Phase Two will include detailed graphic and product design, sign prototyping and implementation of pilot schemes in two areas of the city. A comprehensive, pre- and post-implementation evaluation of the pilots, will further inform the Business Case and the City’s decision on a city-wide roll out.

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