Straw poll: Preliminary designs for a downtown wayfinding sign program

IMG_6232.JPGAt today’s downtown forum on downtown retail strategies, Randy Jennings and Elin Odegaard from Neuger Communications Group took the crowd through this Powerpoint presentation on the preliminary designs for a wayfinding sign program for the downtown historic district. (Click photo to enlarge.)

Click forward and backward through the 21 slides.

Click play to listen to this 11 minute audio of the presentation while you flip through the Powerpoint slides. You can also download/view the PDF of the presentation.

It’s not going to be a democratic process for deciding on the theme but I’m interested in people’s reaction to the three proposed on Slide #20.


Randy emailed me additional details:

At the joint NDDC/Chamber of Commerce forum this morning (February 6), Neuger Communications Group presented the preliminary designs for a wayfinding sign program for the downtown historic district. This design project was commissioned by city staff as part of the larger streetscape planning initiative.

From October through early December we conducted an informal series of meetings and conversations with a variety of constituent groups interested in the vitality and identity of downtown. Informed by these conversations, we have prepared a set of designs that capture three distinct community identities: historic Northfield, classic Northfield, and contemporary Northfield.

To view a pdf of the PowerPoint presentation that provides a very brief summary of the project, background materials on several aspects of community identity, and the three preliminary designs, click here.

Over the next several weeks we will be meeting with a variety of groups (the Mayor’s Streetscape Task Force, the Heritage Preservation Commission, and others) to gather responses to the designs. There will be at least one, and probably two open public forums to solicit community responses. The dates and locations of the public forums have not yet been determined.

Toward the middle to the end of March, we will consult with city staff and will select one design treatment to present to the city council for action.


  1. Griff Wigley said:

    I voted for the Western style. Fits with DJJD.

    February 6, 2007
  2. Holly Cairns said:

    I like old west too 🙂

    February 6, 2007
  3. Ross said:

    That was Victor Summa’s verbal vote yesterday too, although he revealed to me that he’d vote for any of the three if it meant that the signs would be installed this summer.

    I’m with Vic on this one. All of the designs are appealing but they’ll be even more impressive when installed.

    February 7, 2007
  4. kiffi summa said:

    I vote for the traditional one (first design) but with either the green or blue background. I”m afraid the “brick red” background will disappear when its in front of a red brick building.
    The second one is “pretty” but has a very southern , French feel to it……..

    February 7, 2007
  5. Randy Jennings said:

    When you stand on the banks of the Cannon River at Bridge Square, close your eyes, feel the mist in the air as water spills over the dam, can’t you just imagine Dan Freeman’s voice wafting through the air, saying, “Obtenez vos pistolets, garçons. Ils volent la banque.”

    (Thanks to Babelfish and apologies to speakers of French for any mis-translation.)

    February 7, 2007
  6. Jerry Bilek said:

    All are nice, but I think the historic sign has too much earth tone. It would be a great color scheme for an historic house, but as wayfinding signage goes it could blend in too much. The contemporary could be dated too quickly. The classic has POP. It catches your eye. It’s classic. A few samples in place might be a good idea.

    February 7, 2007
  7. Dan Bergeson said:

    I totally agree with Jerry; if we could get a sample (s) of each installed in real locations, we could get a much better feel for the “right” choice. I think the ultimate goal should be not only which style/color scheme looks best, but which one works best. If the colors don’t stand out from the background enough regardless of the type style, we won’t achieve the most effective use.

    I voted for the classic also, but lose the embellishments, please. I could go for the historic, but the colors need to be strengthened.

    February 7, 2007
  8. Griff Wigley said:

    Hey, why not take a tip from Clear Channel and install electronic wayfinding signs? Then we could change the design every week, depending on our moods. 😉

    February 7, 2007
  9. kiffi summa said:

    Randy: Nice try! in fact , VERY nice try ……..but no, I can’t imagine that famous cry of alarm in French. But my two years of high school French held up; that was nice to know.
    I still vote for historic with one of your other lovely color backgrounds.
    Nothing harder than this kind of wayfinding signage;its always subject to each evaluators personal frame of reference.
    Thanks for alll the work, and the promised public input. I hope the “cat-herding” goes well.

    February 7, 2007
  10. Nick Benson said:

    The first option is too geezerish, and the third is too much like a national park. Therefore, option 2 wins.

    “Historic” doesn’t seem to be the best way to describe downtown. When was the last time you thought to yourself, “Man, I could go for a historic sub sandwich right now.” I gave tours of the bank/museum, and appreciate the history, but surely there’s some charm that isn’t associated with shooting at prolific gangsters 130 years ago.

    February 7, 2007
  11. Holly Cairns said:

    Oh, and I was wondering what it meant by “historic”. I think there should be a map taht identifies all of downtown, and I think the map should be placed near a logical entry into town.

    Near a parking area. Who read the proposal deep enough to understand the basic concepts behind this map idea… anyone?

    February 7, 2007
  12. I think option 1 is the best choice. I think it is the best looking of all of the signs and it is similar looking to the sign on I-35. There should be some continuity in they way we present our town.

    Finally, having a “historic” downtown is more about the look and the feel of the town. It does not mean you are going to go to Ye old sub shop to get a sandwich. It is more the appearance of the buildings. You look at the majority of the building in downtown and almost all of them look like they did when they were first constructed. Building owners in downtown have done a great job restoring their building. And there is plenty more to downtown than what happened 131 years ago. However, the majority of people that visit the town come to see that story.

    February 7, 2007
  13. Holly Cairns said:

    Right, the look and feel of the town. So, what are these signs, again? Are they replacing the signs above the stores, or are they going to be on a map someplace, or what are the logistics of this whole thing?

    If they are going to be on the buildings, they are redundant unless we are trying for uniformity/one selling point? But, even with that I don’t really think new store signs are necessary… IMHO

    But, if this proposal is to creatively lead people through the town before they even get to the town– I am all for it.

    I think we should do a little experiment. On a plain white piece of paper, draw squares which represent downtown buildings as they are arranged downtown. Separate them into different blocks of downtown so it won’t take long to answer. Don’t include a word bank– and ask people who are around here (Econofoods, Cub Foods, etc.) to correctly label the store and correctly label what it sells.

    —Looking for at least 80% correct answers and the objective is to identify a need for an overall downtown map (need for a map perceived from the failure to meet an 80% correct answer rate). Population is random, but should include townies and outsiders… Assumption is that people will shop in a place they know exists and can meet a certain need.

    If an overall map is needed, I really like Margit doing the map (match post office mural style)… but it looks like this proposal has been in works for a long time– but what IS this proposal?

    February 7, 2007
  14. Jerry Bilek said:


    These are way finding signs, strategically placed around downtown. Visitors will use them to find their way. if you read the full report and look at the full package it helps. Clarity is the most important issue in my opinion. way finding signs that lack clarity are worthless. look at buntrock commons. beautiful building, absolutely beautiful with almost no signage. I spent 7 years giving directions to visitors in that building. wasted their time, because they only ask after they wander.

    I love the sign on I35. I would love it more if I could read it. every time I pass it I think, I know that sign says something about Northfield.

    think about the visitor wandering downtown in car or on foot. they need to be able to easily find the sign and read the sign.

    samples. and I tip my hat to the Neuger group because these signs are quite nice. (little smiley guy here if I knew how).

    February 7, 2007
  15. I think the Old West signs will be very visible. But it would be nice to see a prototype of each.

    I totally agree with the I-35 sign. It is too small and too far away.

    February 7, 2007
  16. Holly Cairns said:

    So, let me get this right. The proposal is to have a few signs all over the place instead of a few comprehensive maps? Is that what it means to have wayfinding signs? Sign sign, everywhere a sign…

    February 7, 2007
  17. Jerry Bilek said:

    Holly, read the proposal, way finding, directional, yes signs. the kiosks may have maps and information, but the signs are directional, parking, public restrooms, library businesses, museum etc.

    February 7, 2007
  18. Holly Cairns said:

    Yes, I’ll have to get a written copy somehow since I seem to care so much about this.
    Slideshow: There’s red on black text and I can’t read it and have no patience for that today…

    Jerry, thanks for your clarification. Good thing you have experience directing people and can have a logical say.

    February 7, 2007

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