Directional sign designs debated

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February 26, 2010 - 12:00 AM

Three renderings of innovative signage for Iola were unveiled Thursday night at the second of a series of Vision Iola meetings.
Graphic artist Dale Stafford of Landworks Studio, Olathe, explained the designs and their particulars to about 25 Iolans who left their chairs to closely examine the colorful and bold artwork. Landworks was hired by the city to lead the project.
Opinions floated about the room as people aired their preferences.
Focusing on the downtown square appealed to some. Others thought incorporating the area’s abundant limestone into the signs was good. Participants debated Iola’s historical significance against a more futuristic approach. Some preferred earth tones to primary colors. Some worried the signs looked “too busy,” with too many elements combined.
But David Shelby gave food for thought when he countered, “think how many things you look at when viewing a computer or a TV.” Banners scroll across the bottom of a news channel. Advertisements blink in the corner of a computer screen. “People focus on what they want to see,” Shelby said, whether it’s a sign for public restrooms or where the local park is located.
Location, proper lighting and landscaping around the signs are also crucial to their effectiveness, said Carisa McMullen, Landworks’ owner.
As visitors to Iola, McMullen and Stafford gave examples of Iola’s inadequate signage.
When approaching hospital curve, for example, McMullen said she inherently “wants to drive straight, but I don’t know where that road goes. The signs tell me Highway 54 curves to the left, but I also don’t know if that necessarily leads to downtown.” Iola’s most under-promoted asset is its community college, they said.
Participants viewed city maps and discussed where sign placement would be most helpful.

A HEARTY discussion moved beyond signage to how residents want outsiders to perceive Iola. Whatever the particulars, all agreed the signs should convey a town that is progressive and welcoming. McMullen noted in her few visits here, residents’ strong sense of community came through.
As of Thursday morning, 45 Iolans had voted online for their sign preference, a good start, McMullen said. Voting on the signs remains open at visioniola.com until 5 p.m. Tuesday. Results will be posted March 5.
Examples of the three sign packages are also on display in the lobby of city hall until next week. They also can be printed off the Web site.
After signage is selected, Vision Iola will address ways to enhance downtown Iola.
The next meeting will be in mid-March.

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