Piping Plover Sign Redesign

The Challenge

I was commissioned by the Canadian Wildlife Service to help redesign a pair of behavioural signs to educate visitors to Piping Plover nesting habitat. I jumped at the chance; those little birds are dear to my heart. The challenge with this kind of sign is choosing just the right length, tone, and voice.

The Approach

My goal here was to make the signs more readable, more appealing, and more interpretive. We know that not everyone who reads behavioural signs will heed them; effective protection in these settings requires a judicious combination of education, engineering, and enforcement. Many beach-goers in Atlantic Canada do want to do the right thing, though, and we wanted to be sure they understood why these creatures are special—and how important it is to behave in ways that allow them to fledge their young. We tried at least three drafts of each sign, looking for something that would appeal from a distance, draw the reader in for a moment, and give them just the right amount of information. One of the signs would be placed in parking lots and other gathering spaces; the other would be placed just at the periphery of the nesting habitat and needed to be really concise.

Lessons Learned

It felt like our little signs needed to accomplish a lot; the stakes were high. It would have been helpful to have the time to do some prototyping and to observe people interact with these signs in situ before going on to a full installation.

Welcome / Informational Sign

This sign is intended for the trailhead or the parking lot. The idea is that the visitor encounters this information well before they get close to the actual nesting site. Here’s the original:

My feeling is that this sign was too cluttered and wordy for a parking lot or trailhead sign; people have places to go and washrooms to visit at this point in their day. We needed to get the information out simply, in a more visually accessible way. Here’s what I proposed:

The Second Sign

Here is the original sign that they posted very close to the actual nests; the idea here is to keep the reader far away. My feeling was that if you were close enough to read that bottom text, you were already too close.

My Revision

My goal here was to make the signs more readable, more appealing, and more interpretive.

What do you think?

Did I succeed in my goal? Let me know in the comments.

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