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Seattle looks to become America’s most walkable city with a new citywide wayfinding system

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Seattle looks to become America’s most walkable city with a new citywide wayfinding system

Seamless Seattle will support the Seattle Department of Transportation’s commitment to increase the percentage of trips made by walking to 35% by 2035.

By David Malone, Managing Editor | September 23, 2021
Seamless Seattle signage
Photos: David Ryder

The Seattle Department of Transportation (SDOT), in its attempt to make Seattle the most walkable and accessible city in America, has recently appointed Applied Information Group to create a citywide wayfinding system to encourage and enable more walking and rolling.

The system, dubbed Seamless Seattle, is based on the successful Legible London model, which is now lauded as the benchmark for complex city wayfinding. It will make America’s second-fastest growing city more legible and accessible for local residents, commuters, and the more than 40 million visitors that travel to Seattle each year.


Seamless Seattle wayfinding system


Seamless Seattle will feature heads up mapping on street signs to help the user quickly orient themselves in reference to their immediate surroundings. Illustrations, slope information, accessible entrances to transit, and publicly accessible through building Hillclimb assists will all be integrated to meet the needs of the widest range of users. Braille and tactile panels provide orientation information on all signs and non-English languages in specific areas will be integrated as well.

In order to make the system as accessible as possible it will use proper contrast for legibility, optimization for color blindness, large type sizes, a careful balance of content, and simplification of complex topography.


Seamless Seattle signs


Additionally, Seamless Seattle will adapt its design to respond to historic landmarked areas without reducing the overall legibility. Applied partnered with local businesses Alta Planning + Design and 3 Square Blocks to involve community and business leaders in the planning and design of the information system. Applied also worked closely with the major transit agencies Sound Transit and King County Metro to make sure a system of information for city streets is linked seamlessly to transit services.


Seamless Seattle close up of The Spheres sign


“Our way finding project became much more than designing signs and directions,” said Adrian Bell, Applied’s Project Director for Seattle, in a release. “ The input of community leaders, stakeholders, and ambitious city staff encouraged us to create a project that is inclusive and demonstrates that walking, in particular, is the glue that holds the city together.”

Applied’s work with SDOT has so far produced an initial scoping study, a detailed planning strategy and guidelines, full design standards, and plans for two large pilot projects that will be implemented throughout the remainder of 2021.

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