Search WWW

Pittsburgh Wayfinder System

The Wayfinder system was installed throughout the city of Pittsburgh, Pennsylania in 1995 and 1996. It was designed by Bob Firth of Informing Design in Pittsburgh, who like many is a fan of information architects such as Richard Saul Wurman and Edward Tufte.

The Wayfinder system breaks the city into five regions and assigns each a color:

North Side (light blue);
South Side (green);
Downtown/Golden Triangle (purple);
Strip District (greenish-brown);
East End (orange).

The shade of purple used for the downtown region is unusually light and reddish, almost magenta or dark pink.

The Y-shaped dark blue stripes indicate the three rivers: the Allegheny flows south to meet the Monongahela which forms the Ohio. These are the main navigational landmarks in Pittsburgh.

There are two main types of signs: directional signs and destination signs.

Directional Signs
[Frick Park sign] Directional signs guide travelers to their destination. The Wayfinder map appears at the top of each directional sign. There are two configurations for directional signs: one for signs located in the same zone as the destination, and one for signs outside the destination zone.

When the directional sign is located in the same zone as the destination, the background of the sign matches the color for that zone. The example shows a sign leading the way to the Frick Park Nature Reserve which is in the East End (orange). An arrow appears in the dark blue band at the bottom.
[Mount Washington sign] A directional sign that leads to a destination in a different zone shows the name of the destination inside a color-coded stripe which indicates in which region the destination is located. The example shows that Mount Washington is in the (green) South Side region. The background of the Directional sign is dark blue; this differentiates it from Interstate and other highway guide signs which typically have a green background. The sample sign shows that one may access Mount Washington by crossing the Liberty Bridge.
[I-376/Bigelow Blvd. sign] A variation of the directional sign does not point to a particular destination, but gives information on other highways or roads. This sign always has a dark blue background, but because it does not refer to a destination, it does not include the Wayfinder symbol. The example sign shows directions to Interstate 376 and Bigelow Blvd.

Destination Signs
[Point Park College sign] The destination sign is found directly in front of a location. The Wayfinder map appears at the top of each destination sign. The background of the sign matches the color of the region. The star indicates that you have reached the destination. The example shows the Point Park College sign which stands directly in front of the college building in downtown (purple).

Purple Belt
[Purple Belt sign] Another minor group of signs is the Purple Belt. It is an extension of the Allegheny County Belt Route System surrounding Pittsburgh.

The Purple Belt is a short loop of streets within downtown Pittsburgh. These signs are intended to be used by visitors to find their way around in the Golden Triangle without the hassles of one-way streets, no-left-turns or other confusion. The Purple Belt sign always has a dark blue background like the other Directional signs. The purple dot matches the color of the downtown region. Purple Belt and Parking signs are typically half the width of the other Wayfinder signs.

Parking and Hospital Signs
[Parking sign] Each region features signs which point to parking or hospitals. The Midtown Loop is an example of a sign which directs travelers to parking garages in downtown. It features a "P" for parking. Another similar sign has a letter "H" and points to nearby hospitals. For each of these types of signs the background matches the color code for the region.

Submit info or inquiry - share some facts or ask a question.

Page created:
Last modified: 30-Nov-1998