Thursday, February 23, 2017

Baltimore's new gateway signs

New BALTIMORE signs are popping up at a total of 18 locations around the city and have caused WBFF to report about this in a sensational manner at the top of their local news under the rubrum "Wastewatch". The reporters yak about the overall price tag of $275,000 and interview unsuspecting folks who guess what such a sign should cost ("$250?) and then get excited once they are told $12,000 (the cost per sign varies depending on which type it is). Cornered by the local Fox affiliate, Mayor Pugh, who is generally a friend of the arts simply said she wouldn't comment on stuff she had nothing to do with and which came down from a previous administration.
New sign pylons 2017 (Photo:Kevin Lynch)

The new signs are a result of a two tier selection process from which the well known Baltimore graphic design firm of David Ashton emerged as the winner in 2015. Ashton described their design approach as based on existing monumental BALTIMORE signs which will remain:
Built by Bethlehem Steel in the 1970s Baltimore's iconic 295 pylon sign provided us with the foundation for creating the city's new “gateway” signage family. That sign along with the 2 “slice” signs on the east and west side of the city are currently being restored. 
Back in 2015 Baltimore City issued a request for qualifications for a sign designer that would custom design new signs to be placed at the major entry points into the city.
The City of Baltimore, and the Baltimore Office of Promotion & The Arts (BOPA) in collaboration with the Baltimore City Department of Transportation (DOT) are seeking a qualified designer or team to lead the process of creating a new design and style guide for the City’s gateway signage. The goal of this project is to develop a set of design solutions and improvements that will ensure Baltimore’s gateways reflect the diversity and creativity that can be found throughout the City. 
Existing monumental sign on MD 295
The language is a bit flowery, but given that SHA does not post regulation type signs at jurisdictional boundaries that identify municipalities or counties, a helpful aid for orientation that is standard practice throughout Europe, each jurisdiction is left to its own devices.

Recognizing that the were already various of signs placed from previous administrations the RFQ anticipated that some of these signs would remain, be refreshed and some replaced.
The Iconic “BALTIMORE” signs will not be replaced and will remain in their current locations, but may be repainted as part of new style guide specifications. The Box signs will be removed and replaced. This may mean a similar sign format that utilizes new, more sustainable materials and new graphics, or a new sign style all together. The replacement signage solution does not need to be a uniform design.  “Outlier” signs will either be removed or replaced with the same signs used to replace the Box signs or re-designed as part of a contemporary Gateway Sign style guide developed by the artist and DOT. 
Regulation type signs for the County
Conceptual proposals that would make it in the second round received a stipend of $1500. The initial deadline for submissions was August 21, 2015, finalists were announced in September with the final designs due in October. The five finalist designers were:
  • Ashton Design (Baltimore) – a Baltimore based, multidisciplinary graphic design firm 
  • Krivanek +Breaux/ Art + Design (Chicago) - a team comprised of public artists and designers 
  • Jillian + M Design Design (Baltimore) - a team of two Baltimore-based designers Jillian Erhardt and Emily Goldstein with backgrounds in typography, signage and environmental design. 
  • Post Typography (Baltimore) - a Baltimore-based creative studio that specializes in graphic design, illustration, custom lettering and conceptual typography 
  • R& R Studios (Miami) - the collaborative office of Roberto Behar and Rosario Marquardt, a self-described “multidisciplinary practice of visual art, exhibition, architectural, and urban design.” 
    The sign family Ashton Design developed with a map of the locations   
The budget was provided as maximal $250,000. Ashton design was eventually selected late 2015 and the new signs are now being installed in early 2017. They nicely add to the existing older signs and give those an idea where the City limits are without entirely relying on the condition of the pavement as the sole indicator.

Klaus Philipsen, FAIA

RFQ for the gateway signs
South Baltimore News 


Ashton rendering


At the selection announcement: The Ashton team in front of one of the existing
monumental signs