Design critic and accessibility advocate Joe Clark brings to our attention pressing issues regarding signage on the Toronto Transit Commission. Plans are currently underway to clean up and update a number of the stations on Toronto’s subway network, including St. George and Pape. These stations and others have been identified as requiring upgrades, to clean up their appearance and improve passenger experience.
Clark doesn’t oppose these changes, but is concerned about two issues: preservation and good wayfinding design. In particular, the cleanup of St. George station advocates the removal of a wayfinding experiment made in 1994 when noted graphic designer Paul Arthur was brought in to brainstorm a new signage system for the TTC. Despite spending over $400,000 on this test, the TTC could not commit the $8 million required to retrofit the system, and St. George’s signs were left to decay.
Clark seeks to preserve this aspect of Arthur’s legacy by ensuring that, if Arthur’s signs are to be removed, they not be removed and destroyed. Likewise, as renovations to Pape station and Eglinton station threaten to remove distinctive signs and tiles that are over forty years old, Clark wishes to see these distinctive features of these subway stations preserved. Already, he argues, too much of Toronto’s original subway design has been forgotten and covered over in the name of progress.
In addition to calling for the preservation of original station material, Clark sees the upcoming renovations to Pape station as an opportunity to design a proper wayfinding system for the TTC. What exists now is a hodgepodge of material, including original station signs (showing their effectiveness by sticking around for over fifty years) to corruptions of Paul Arthur’s designs, to ugly and badly designed temporary signs, and even handwritten signs. Clark doesn’t advocate any particular solution; even returning to Paul Arthur’s design. He simply believes that the look, feel and accessibility of the system can be improved if the TTC took some time designing a proper signage system, testing it, and implementing it.
He has created a website to this effect and hopes to spark discussion. If you feel that the TTC needs to preserve more of its subway heritage, or that needs to improve the way it communicates to its passengers through its signs, Clark asks that you [write to the TTC[(http://joeclark.org/design/signage/TTC/activism). Clark hopes that the issue can be put on the agenda at the July meeting of the commission, but that can only happen if the TTC’s passengers take an interest. So, if you feel strongly about this issue, write a polite note to the TTC and ask them to give this issue the attention it deserves.