Monday, August 06, 2007

Regional Alignment on Wayfinding

Not many travelers combine a visit to more than one community in what we call the Triangle region. It is a polycentric region with no dominant city or center. There is so much to do in each destination community that commuting just isn't practical or desirable for visitors.

But we collaborate on a wide variety of initiatives. Destination marketing organizations, like DCVB, from across the state meet monthly to shape co-op marketing strategies, and this includes destinations in what we call the Triangle. I say that because visitors have no concept of a "triangle" except that it is a geometric shape.

But the destinations in the Triangle have found ways to collaborate other than marketing. We each draw different visitors. They are different age groups, different income levels, they come from different origins, they are drawn with different elements, usually indigenous to each community. In that way, as a NYT reporter friend of mine once said, "one of you just as well be Tulsa and the other Kuala Lumpur." But we've worked to shape the Triangle – A Family of Communities campaign. We've drawn together an advisory council of destination marketing organizations to help better brand RDU International Airport.

For 7 years, I've unsuccessfully tried to convince Durham to do a countywide wayfinding system. Impatient, Downtown end-ran the system to get one for just that one area of town, but it works and it helps people understand what real wayfinding systems will do. So it's probably ironic to some that as unsuccessful I've been so far at the local level, I'm inviting my counterparts and their respective transportation officials, along with the regional transportation alliance, together to discuss a region-wide wayfinding system.

We all suffer from geographic elements that inhibit visitors, newcomers and, most of all, residents from fully enjoying their respective communities, e.g., distance friction caused by irregular road patterns, duplicate street names, hills and dales, no defining geographic reference points like mountains etc. and ... well you get the point.

I envision a regional system will be coherent and consistent but still locally based and locally executed. Each community's system will be branded and focused on getting people around that community. But a region-wide system means that when residents travel between communities in the region or newcomers look for the right fit or visitors experience more than one community, they will find a familiar, coherent signage system.

It is still a long shot, but it's great fun.

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