The Ossipee Main Street program recognized that with more than five “villages” that have been historically associated with Ossipee, visitors, and even some residents, might be challenged to find their way to many of the attractions, businesses and other destinations in town. The Main Street committee also recognized that Ossipee is the only town in the area that does not have a welcoming sign program. Consequently, they determined that a well thought out directional signage program could help guide people into and through the community. A comprehensive signage or “wayfinding” program entails the development of a community-wide strategy for signage that:
- Welcomes visitors to the community
- Establishes a clear, positive, unique and recognizable sign design, elements of which are included in every sign installed through the program (sometimes referred to as a logo or product branding)
- Guides visitors and residents to village centers
- Guides visitors and residents to businesses, attractions and other destinations in town
A comprehensive wayfinding program includes three key elements; (1) development of a sign design or logo that has a strong and unique connection to the community, (2) creation of a hierarchy of sign types, and (3) agreement on a town-wide strategy for where to install each of the different wayfinding sign types.
Reaching agreement on how an entry sign at the border of the community should look, what it should say and what visual “feel” it should have is a very subjective task. It requires careful consideration and input from lots of people in the community to best capture the image and message that the town wants to give its visitors as they enter the community. It is like designing a book cover that will create interest and encourage the reader to invest their time and read it.
To figure out what image and message is best suited to Ossipee, a workshop was held last September. The purpose of the workshop was to define what text and visual imagery would be best suited to a coordinated informational and directional signage system for the town and where the signs would be located.
We asked the workshop participants to list and prioritize Ossipee’s features and qualities that make it a desirable community to live in and visit. After narrowing down that list and viewing examples of other community gateway signs, the following sign element options were proposed:
Main Heading: “Welcome to Ossipee”
Sub-heading or tagline:
- Home of the first snowmobile
- Four Season Fun
- Relax, Restore, Return
- Scenic Views
- Nature/outdoor sports including boating, kayaking and canoeing
Villages: The workshop participants identified a total of nine villages in town that have current or historic importance: Ossipee Corner, Center Ossipee, West Ossipee, Water Village, Granite, Roland Park, Chickville, Moultonville, and Leighton Corner. It was agreed that three of these were active business and service destinations that need to be highlighted with directional signage developed and properly situated to guide residents and visitors to them: Ossipee Corner, Center Ossipee and West Ossipee. The remaining six locations should be considered for historic/interpretive signage to celebrate their location and significance.
Taking the text and visual descriptions outlined above, the workshop participants considered several sign design themes that highlighted a rendering or silhouette of the Ossipee Mountain from the newly protected vantage point on Route 16.
In addition to the main text of “Welcome to Ossipee” many thought that the village names should also be incorporated into the design. After recognizing that there were at least nine historic village names, and listing all of them would become unreadable at normal vehicular travel speeds, it was agreed that the three major villages should be given primary consideration for listing.
If the tag line “Home of the first snowmobile” is used, it would be appropriate to include a graphic that includes the first snowmobile. An example of this was developed for the 2007 Center Ossipee Charrette conducted by Plan New Hampshire. Charrette team member and architect Tim Sappington developed this signage concept that incorporates several of the identified features.
The tag line of “Four season fun” suggests the need for images representing the four seasons. The “Relax, restore, return” tagline asks for a visual to reinforce one or more of those three words.
Several preliminary sketches were developed that incorporated these design features in different ways. A caution was raised that overloading the sign with too many words and images would significantly reduce its visual appeal and its ability to be read by a passing motorist. When viewed at 50-60 mph highway speeds, too much text makes it difficult for the reader to absorb and interpret. In short, keep it simple.
Several sign concepts were developed by Harriman Sign & Design and are attached on the following pages.
Major Gateway Signs
The primary “Ossipee” signs would be located on major roads where they enter the corporate boundaries of the town. Smaller, simpler and less costly signs would be placed on local roads as they cross into Ossipee from adjacent communities. In total we identified five major sign locations – at the primary State highway routes into town.
Secondary Gateway Signs
Once the main gateway signs have been agreed on, secondary gateway signs can be developed using the same basic shape, simplifying the text down to “Welcome to Ossipee, Home of the First Snowmobile” and fabricating them at a much smaller size (e.g. 1 x 2 or 2 x 3 feet) and producing them with more limited colors. Four secondary road signs were identified.
Village Wayfinding Signs
The three primary villages need to have directional signage that guides travelers from the major state routes to the villages through a series of simple, smaller, strategically placed signs. The signs need to incorporate a simplified version of the major gateway signs (which becomes a “brand” logo for the town) and only the name of the village to which directions are being given. These signs can be very similar to the secondary gateway signs in design, color and materials.
Activity and Commercial Destination Signs
The workshop synopsis notes highlight many retail, service, institutional and recreational destinations in town for which it may be appropriate to provide directional signage. Further community work needs to be put into which of these destinations should be provided with directional signage. Those choices should be based on overall project cost, which destinations are the most used or most interesting, keeping in mind that too many signs may become detrimental and counterproductive. The use of USDOT service, recreational and cultural symbols would be most appropriate since they are universally used and understood (see attached excerpts of these signs from the Federal Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices).
Where individual businesses want to specifically advertise their name and location, the NH Department of Transportation has a fee based program that allows “Tourist Oriented Directional Signs” (NHDOT Tra 602). These signs can be installed at the business owner’s expense to guide travelers from main roads to the business location. Several examples already exist in Ossipee along the primary state roads.
Based on the input received at the wayfinding workshop, locations for all of the sign types were identified and reviewed with the Main Street Design Committee. The accompanying map highlights all of the locations. In total there are five (5) Gateway signs, four (4) Secondary Gateway Signs, six (6) Trailblazer Signs, and twenty-three (23) Activity signs.
Harriman Sign & Design has developed the following costs for sign fabrication and installation. It should be noted that the town has total control over signs placed within the rights-of-way of roads under their jurisdiction. The NH Department of Transportation will need to be consulted for signs proposed on state controlled roads. NHDOT has standards for town gateway signs that relate to the necessary size of support posts and the positioning of signs so that they do not create traffic or site visibility hazards or are located too close to traffic directional or safety signs.
Gateway 4’ x 8’ x 1” sandblasted redwood $4,426.00
Gateway 4’ x 8’ ¾” MDO composite wood painted $ 525.00
Secondary Gateway 2’ x 3’ ¾” MDO composite wood painted $ 173.00
Secondary Gateway 2’ x 3’ aluminum $ 165.00
Trailblazer 2’ x 3’ ¾” MDO composite wood painted $ 173.00
Trailblazer directional 36” x 6” x ½” $ 52.00
Contractor Installation per sign $ 175.00
All signs are single sided
Two funding approaches are proposed to implement this wayfinding program. The higher cost option is for Town funding of $31,706 which includes the fabrication and installation of major and secondary gateway signs, trailblazer signs and activity signs. This cost could be reduced by $6,650 using Town Public Works staff resources to install the signs. The cost can be further reduced by choosing ¾”MDO painted and aluminum signs. This lower cost option (including town staff installation) would cost $5,571 – a savings of $26,135 from the higher cost option.
For the remainder of the signs, we are proposing that a wayfinding maintenance fund be established by the town. Commercial destination signs would be paid for by each business. In order to maintain those signs and keep them up to date, a small annual “registration fee” should be established. The annual registration fees would then be used to take down the signs when companies move, decide not to participate or go out of business. The fees would also be used to replace the signs when they are worn out due to age and weathering. A small portion of the fees could also be used to underwrite the long term cost of installing and maintaining the town-wide wayfinding signage program. This approach to funding will require an amendment to the Town of Ossipee Sign Ordinance to create regulations for commercial destination signs. Based on the cost of installation, it is recommended that the commercial destination signs be priced at $52 each plus the cost of installation with an annual registration fee of $20.
Long term sign maintenance is important. Regardless of the materials used, all signs have a limited useful life due to weather, exposure to sunlight and potential physical damage. It is important for the Town to keep the signs maintained in good visual repair since they will serve as the “first impression” visitors recognize as they enter Ossipee. Major gateway signs are expected to remain in good condition for twenty (20) years and secondary sign for seven (7) years. The entire wayfinding funding program needs to be self supporting through the wayfinding maintenance fund so that it does not become a long term burden on the Town’s budget.
Federal Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices: Symbol Sign Examples