Committee Seeks Input On New Downtown Wayfinding Designs | WGLT

Committee Seeks Input On New Downtown Wayfinding Designs

Oct 16, 2017

The committee tasked with coming up with designs, sizes, and attractions to be featured on wayfinding signs in downtown Bloomington seems to have found its way with a new approach that'll seek more public input.

The Bloomington City Council last month tabled a vote on a recommended design that featured vibrant red, white, and blue colors anchored by the tagline "Dream Big." The Downtown Signage Committee's new chair, Beth Whisman, admits the group should have given the public a chance to weigh in before sending a final design to the city council. This time, the options will focus on results from an open forum and a survey of residents.

"Sixty-five percent of the people who responded to the survey said that they would identify the history and architecture of downtown Bloomington as its number one asset and that they would identify that with downtown specifically, so the new concepts they (Pittsburg-based design company KMA) came up with have more of that look—so Victorian wrought iron, a color palette that makes more sense in an historic setting rather than the red, white, and blue," Whisman said.

But don't expect to see the old courthouse dome on the signs.

"They didn't use the dome or courthouse for any direct reference or image but you can definitely feel that era of early turn-of-the-century architecture," said Whisman, who is also executive director of the McLean County Museum of History housed at the old courthouse.

"So you're going to see black iron work, you're going to see stone, you're going to see a color palette that will be very complementary to the outside of that building and to the buildings around the downtown historic square," said Whisman, who is excited to get public response because she thinks KMA delivered on what the public wanted.

Option 3 is the same design as Option 2 but uses a deep red color.
Credit Photo courtesy of KMA Design

"Visitors will experience a sense of arrival as they see gateway and directional signage that reinforces the downtown's beauty and helps them find key attractions, parking and resources," said KMA's Barbara Martin.

KMA opted to do the new designs for free so the $10,000 the city set aside for additional design work will be spent on fabrication or installation, according to Assistant City Manager Steve Rasmussen. 

No Tagline

Whisman says a re-vamped version of the original design sent to the city council keeps the art deco feel seen in some downtown buildings. However, it won't include the "Dream Big" tagline. Committee members got excited by the idea of a tagline, but Whisman said adding the branding phrase was probably beyond the scope of the committee's task.

And she said not many people liked it.

"Based on public input, it seemed like the 'Dream Big' concept was just not connecting. They didn't feel like it was specific enough and it didn't really reflect what people felt when they were downtown," she said.

Whisman said specifically people didn't like the red, white, and blue color, with some critics saying it reminded them of a theme park and the look was too modern for the downtown.

The new twist on the former design not only dumps the tagline, but it has other significant changes.

"The circle has been changed into a square so there's a circle Uptown (Normal) and a square Downtown." The bright red is gone and the remaining colors are muted.

Whisman isn't sure which one will ultimately get the majority vote.

"You will definitely see that that design (new twist on the original) looks good standing alone and people might like it better than the other two. These three designs are definitely looking better than the last one that was presented, in particular, because that 'Dream Big' piece is gone and it will not coming back!"

Large boards showing all three looks will be presented during a public open house 5-7 p.m. Nov. 1 at the McLean County Museum of History. Citizens will be invited to share feedback and vote on the design they like the most.

The boards will also be on display in the lobby of the Monroe Center/Fox and Hounds building located at 200 W. Monroe Street 8 a.m.- 8 p.m. Nov. 2. The public is encouraged to participate in the selection process before findings are presented to the Bloomington City Council later this year.

WGLT depends on financial support from users to bring you stories and interviews like this one. As someone who values experienced, knowledgeable, and award-winning journalists covering meaningful stories in central Illinois, please consider making a contribution.