City of Sandusky

The City of Sandusky, Ohio sits at the mouth of Sandusky Bay and claims over 26 miles of Lake Erie’s shoreline. Rich in cultural and historic character, the city is centrally located between two Cleveland and Toledo, and anchored primarily by lake recreation and Cedar Point Amusement Park the “roller coaster capital of the world.” Sandusky’s central business district has been undergoing a resurgence of investment and business attraction to support tourism and visitors.

Project Scope

  • Community Engagement
  • Positioning
  • Wayfinding Analysis
  • Wayfinding and Sign Plan
  • Sign Program Design
  • Implementation Management

Wayfinding is a critical element of helping visitors navigate the community. It not only lets visitors know how to reach their planned destination but also makes them aware of other potential destinations in the area and gives them comfort in knowing that signage will direct them there without getting lost.

Eric Wobser, City Manager

City of Sandusky

The Problem

Best known for Cedar Point, Sandusky has a lot more to offer. The City has developed into a diverse Lake Erie port town and gateway to nearby island recreation spots. However, limited public awareness around community assets outside of Cedar Point meant visitors were missing out on all that Sandusky has to offer.

  • The location of the amusement park and a major big-box commercial district were located right off the highway on the outskirts of the Downtown. This meant that visitors didn’t have to venture any further for shopping, dining, and recreation.
  • For efficiency, any roads that lead to the park diverted traffic around the downtown. Visitors to Cedar Point had no idea that Sandusky boasts a historic waterfront downtown with well-preserved architecture, a walkable plan, and amazing spaces for new businesses who are seeking to contribute to the waterfront experience.
  • Sandusky features an interesting, if not confusing street grid that is laid out in the form of the masonic symbol.
  • The City itself has great amenities and even bigger plans. They knew they had a lot of great things to share but were struggling with how to present that message to the world.

The Solution

While originally solicited as a Wayfinding project, it was apparent that signage would not solve all of the City’s challenges when it came to lack of awareness. Wayfinding could direct people to the downtown — if they were already in Sandusky. However, it didn’t solve the problem of why would they want to go downtown, why would they care to explore? The conversation soon turned to helping the City with Brand Positioning that would be used to attract people and spur economic investment.

  • Guide facilitated a discovery session to hear key stakeholders describe the reasons they choose to live or build a business in Sandusky. Collecting input from the people who are invested in the City helps to illuminate the great things that are already happening so when they are incorporated into messaging your statements are tried and true.
  • Through the Brand Positioning work, the City gained a deeper understanding of the needs, wants, and desires of their key audiences so they could better communicate how Sandusky offers all the advantages that would allow people to “live a vacation and make a life.”
  • Guide also developed a comprehensive wayfinding master plan to help identify the barriers to getting to and connecting with all the available assets and destinations offered by the City. This exercise helps identify what types of signs are needed, where they need to go, and what they need to say to have the most positive impact on a person’s experience.
  • The sign designs were a modern take on a nautical theme that features translucent blue mosaic panels — a nod to lakefront living.

The Results

It is believed that if the downtown could attract even a small percentage of Cedar Point traffic, it would transform visitors into advocates, resulting in a tremendous impact on local businesses. With a strong belief in their Brand Positioning, the City has been implementing more and more projects that bolster Downtown as a destination. A new City Hall downtown, a boutique hotel, the Jackson Street Pier that allows the public to engage with the waterfront, and the Sandusky Bay Pathway —  an uninterrupted 13-mile-long waterfront multi-use path route are just a few that have recently opened up. The Signage and Wayfinding program is in place to support current and future entrepreneurs and destinations throughout the City and in Sandusky’s historic downtown.

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