Better directional signs at highway rest areas
As I drive across country (or just on the local turnpike), I sometimes stop at a rest area. As the exit ramp approaches the rest area, there is a split - trucks one way, - for longer parking slots - and cars another way. At this Y split, there is a sign guiding the driver who must make a decision in a second or two. There are several factors influencing the driver's attention: he/she is navigating the exit ramp, wondering which way to go, there is often music playing, and there are sometimes anxious passengers in the mix. The sign must be so clear that a driver can comprehend it and make a decision almost immediately. Most of the existing signs are poorly designed.

Target markets/users
1. Car drivers unfamiliar with rest area.
2. Car drivers familiar with rest area.
3. Truck drivers unfamiliar with area.
4. Truck drivers familiar with rest area.

Examples of existing signs




Problems/weaknesses
• Proximity of the arrows to their accompanying icons. In the sign above on the right, the truck icon is closer to the left arrow than to the right arrow (and the truck is even facing left)
• Horizontal layouts that provide little visual clue on which side of the sign to drive. The driver wants to know left or right and the sign is divided top and bottom or above and below.
• Arrows that convey turn left or turn right rather than just angle to one side of the sign or the other.

Objectives rest area signs should meet
• Quick to understand - minimum time required to decipher.
• Easily understood - visual cues, text and icons, to convey message.
• Familiar - use existing highway sign icons, text, and colors.
• Universal - icons that overcome language barriers.
• Consistent - increase recognition through national use.
• Adaptable to a variety of locations.

Improved sign

Improvements
• Image icons, arrows, and text are aligned in proximity to reinforce the message.
• Layout places the info side by side - left/right - to suggest going left or right.
• Different size backgrounds provide a visual clue, larger vehicles (trucks) get larger background.
• Arrows point in a truer direction, rather than turn left or right, softer turn to parking area.
• Icons, arrows, and text are set flush to the directional margin, the left sign info is set flush left.
• The background color is the standard highway information color.

Comparisons of existing and improved




A rest area in Missouri that got close



Dates
Observations: years ago
Road trip photos: June 17 2007
Sketches: July 1 2007

More great ideas for better sign design

www.jamesrobertwatson.com/restareasigns.html