What started as an unsanctioned urban intervention is getting increased official support for bringing grassroots wayfinding to the streets. Walk [Your City], launched in 2012 by designer Matt Tomasulo, is a platform for locals to create directional signs to walkable or bikeable destinations.
Reporting for CityLab, Sarah Goodyear writes that since the project’s “inception two years ago, more than 100 communities have ordered signs through the site — places like Mount Hope, West Virginia, a town of 1,500 that created 70 guideposts for tourists who would be coming to town for a big summer event.” Walk [Your City] also recently received a $182,000 grant from the Knight Foundation for its online walkability toolkit, and in less monetary but equally buzzy success, CNN included it on a list of “5 startups that are reimagining the world.” Raleigh, North Carolina — the city where Tomasulo first installed his signs, without permission — officially authorized the initiative last fall.
Walk [Your City] is far from the only player in the guerrilla wayfinding field, although the accessibility of the online platform certainly has the potential to make it popular on a large scale. An ongoing New York City project by artist Bundith Phunsombatlert, in collaboration with the Department of Transportation, creates signs for public art in the city, noting the walking distance from where you stand. On the more illicit side of things, it was recently revealed that artist Richard Ankrom had installed a helpful interstate symbol on a Los Angeles freeway in 2001 that remained for almost a decade, only coming down with maintenance. As 99% Invisible pointed out in a report on that subterfuge, there’s also the anonymous Efficient Passenger Project in New York, which covertly installs signs to help MTA passengers board subways at the best spots for transfers. Now, with the increased attention and official support, Walk [Your City] could help make a grassroots movement flourish. It’s a simple idea: make a sign for the distance to a public park or coffee shop or whatever you want to highlight; through good design and an accessible online platform, you might just inspire more foot traffic.
Design a wayfinding sign online at Walk [Your City].