5 March 2006

Guerilla Wayfinding

Last night, a friend from out of town commented on his disorientation when exiting subway stations in New York City. Which way is North? It always takes a minute or two (or more) to find a street sign, landmark, or other orienting information. In some cases it means walking a whole city block to find out you’re heading in the wrong direction. I’ve lived here for 15 years and I’m still disoriented at far-flung exits where the streets all have names and no numbers.

In midtown they have do little kiosks at street level with maps to nearby landmarks. But this seems like overkill for mostly mixed and residential neighborhoods. So how hard would it be for the MTA to paint a little direction indicator on the pavement near each subway exit?

Hell, how hard would it be to take matters into our own hands? To start a guerilla wayfinding campaign?

To that end, I’ve posted a few free stencils here. I’ve tried to keep it in the MTA style — with the exception of the compass rose. (But then who doesn’t love a compass rose?)

Click the thumbnails below to download a 20KB PDF.

north compass_rose

Update 3/7/06: I’ve deprecated the uptown and downtown stencils, since it occurs to me that this could cause some confusion with the subway lines themselves often referred to uptown or downtown lines.

Update 3/28/06: Using their own fancy, two-color stencil, someone’s taken it on!.