Thursday, June 27, 2013

Looking for a Sign

Have you seen this video?

If you haven't, take a moment now. It isn't all that long.


It seems to me that this video is another step in the Columbia Association's quest to get residents to ask themselves, "Are we using the Tot Lots?" It certainly is a different approach than the one several years ago, where Village Boards were asked to evaluate their Tot Lots with an eye to closing a certain percentage of them. Period.

That came across like an edict from on high. This feels more like an invitation to engage in a "what if?" process. It's more creative, more open-ended, and has more finesse.

But neither address an issue that is central to me: if you are concerned about Tot Lot usage, why do you hide the darn things?

If your house does not back up to a pathway or open space area, you have absolutely no idea they are there. How is this at all reasonable? The entrance to the pathway which leads to the Tot Lots nearest to where I live is across the road, down the street, and completely unmarked. I lived here for years before I discovered it--by accident.

As pleasant as the video is, it still perpetuates the fairytale notion that everyone knows where the Tot Lots are. They don't. So, if CA re-purposes an area for a bocce court, or an outdoor painting space, it is still only for those who already know it is there. And so we perpetuate limited use of these gathering places.

I am happy for CA to consider a variety of uses that residents might want.  But the process absolutely must begin with appealing, inviting signage for the pathways, tot lots, and open space. It isn't so much that tot lots need to be replaced. They need the benefit of a re-branding effort, if you will.

The sign I show above is from the Singapore Zoo. I chose zoo signage because it is generally appealing and easy to read. I am frustrated by the underlying feeling that it is somehow okay to say, "Columbia:  leave it alone." Or "Columbia: out-of-towners just don't get it." Zoos imagine they are welcoming out-of-town guests, and so should we. Our goal should be to invite and engage.

Invite and engage. Imagine how much we could do with these spaces if signage looked like this?

More on that tomorrow...


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