Design and Visual Communications
Experiential Graphic Design, Sign Design & Wayfinding

Just Follow The Signs May Be The Solution

Eden Prairie weighing an extensive sign system to detangle that navigational mess around its business district.

Star Tribune Last update: September 05, 2006 – 12:40 PM

Richard Lang looks at the mess of circling streets and unmarked freeway entrances that make up Eden Prairie’s central business district and sees a simple solution: signs. Of course, no one knows better than Lang just how complicated it can be to create simple signs.

Lang is a consultant with Visual Communications, the firm Eden Prairie hired to help design a sign system for the area surrounding Eden Prairie Center and where Hwy. 212 and Interstate Hwy. 494 meet.

This summer, Lang and a committee of residents and business owners mulled over how signs might better guide drivers and pedestrians into and through the area. The committee concluded its work with a list of proposed street name changes and sign proposals. A variety of city commissions must weigh in on the proposals before any changes are made. But Lang explained how the proposals might work. He walked us through a hypothetical drive to Redstone American Grill, what he calls a “popular can’t-find-it spot” in the business district, to illustrate where and how the proposed signs could make a difficult area easier: From 494, the first sign you might see shows where to exit to enter the Eden Prairie central business district, which would have a grand name like “Prairie Center” or “Eden Prairie Business Center.” You take the sign’s advice and exit. At the top of the exit ramp there would be a large, 16 – to 18 – foot tall kasota stone sign marking the area and a directional sign pointing toward the area. It might seem repetitive, but it should. At each point, you get a little more information, Lang said.

This sign is the first to introduce you to the subdistricts around Eden Prairie Center. Lang has proposed, and the committee has agreed, that the overall area be broken into three or four subdistricts that on signs would have distinct names, color-coded and with identifying icons. These smaller areas would break the puzzling maze of streets down a bit and help visitors focus on a smaller area.

The Redstone Grill is in a sub-area tentatively called “Town Center,” which in some proposed options would include the area to the west of the mall area and south of Hwy. 5. You would know the subdistrict because the restaurant’s advertising told you that was where to find it. Lang expects businesses to make their subdistricts part of their identities. “First they’d give the address, then they’d give the subdistrict, then they’d give Eden Prairie,” he said.

So at the end of the 494 exit ramp you take a left onto Prairie Center Drive and head south, following signs directing you to “Town Center.” Along the road, you notice street-side banners that let you know you’re in the Mall area. “We’re creating a sense of place,” Lang said. You continue following Prairie Center Drive, being careful not to turn too early. You know from signs along the way that Prairie Center Drive circles the Eden Prairie Center mall and will eventually bring you to the Town Center sub-area. You cross Flying Cloud Drive (also known as Hwy. 212), but aren’t confused by whether it’s Flying Cloud or Hwy. 212: Both names are labeled on all signs.

Now you are in the Town Center sub-area.

There are only a few more streets to negotiate. You make a right on Singletree. When you approach Eden Drive, deciding which way to turn is easy. You know the address, and the “Eden Drive” street sign tells you which addresses are to the right and which are to the left. You take a left. You enjoy a meal.

It’s not the fastest way to get to the restaurant, Lang acknowledges. But it’s built on an understanding of how areas and streets work together. Layers of different signs can make it clearer. City officials said the proposed signs, which likely will be considered by commissions and the City Council this fall, could be in place in a year. Jenna Ross • 612-673-7168 • jross@startribune.com


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