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American News Service

September 30, 1999

City's Wayfinding Signs Rescue Lost Tourists

INDIANAPOLIS (ANS) -- While city officials are delighted at the increase in visitors to revitalized downtown Indianapolis, they've also hit a snag. More tourists are getting lost.

In the past five years, visitors to Indiana's state capital of 1.25 million residents has increased 350 percent to about 20 million, according to city revitalization group Indianapolis Downtown, Inc.

With a street pattern of quadrants and diagonal streets similar to that of Washington, D.C., visitors to Indianapolis are often confused about where to park and where to find the attractions.

The solution has been to install a simple signage system called "wayfinding" that gets people from the periphery of the city to the center and from there directs them to other points in the city.

Indianapolis' wayfinding program, which will be completed at the end of October, provides directional assistance for 42 downtown attractions, with five interstate signs, 10 welcome signs, 25 vehicular signs, 100 pedestrian signs and eight illuminated kiosks with maps.

"Wayfinding is quickly becoming an important part of every successful city's contemporary urban landscape," said Jeff Corbin, principal of Corbin Design, based in Traverse City, Mich., which created Indianapolis' wayfinding program, "The city is an excellent example of many diverse civic groups coming together to overcome the potential downside of increased traffic and tourism."

To create the wayfinding system for Indianapolis, civic groups had to agree on how and where to divide the city into quadrants, name them and reach accord on matters like graphics and colors. "The beauty of having a system like this is that the skateboard park is treated equally as the NBA arena. In the end, every venue is given equal billing," Corbin said.

Madison, Wis., has had wayfinding signs up for almost three years. Like Indianapolis, Madison is laid out on the lines of Washington, D.C., often confusing visitors.

"The capitol building looks the same from every angle," said Madison city planner Archie Nicolette. "A lot of people would come here and always get lost." While Nicolette said he has yet to conduct a formal survey, he hears from visitors that it is easier to park and get around.

Residents, who don't need the signage, also benefit since they now have a common nomenclature and can refer to various parts of the city, like the various parking ramps, by the same name.

"If things flow in a way that don't disrupt your attention, then that's good," Nicolette said. "If it works so well that you don't even know it's there, then that all adds to the quality of downtown."

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Jeff Corbin, principal, Corbin Design, Traverse City, Mich., 800-968-1236, <>.

Julia Watson, marketing and communications director, Indianapolis Downtown, Inc., Indianapolis, Ind., 317-237-2212.

Archie Nicolette, city planner, City of Madison, Madison, Wisc., 608-267-8741.