River Falls

Case Study

Signage, Wayfinding, Wisconsin

The City of River Falls is a growing community located 30 miles east of the Minneapolis/St. Paul area in northwestern Wisconsin. Situated on the picturesque Kinnickinnic River, the city hosts two dozen parks, miles of hiking and biking trails, a vibrant downtown, and a thriving public liberal arts university.

Challenge

It’s all in the name (River Falls), but passers-through may not realize they’re in a river town because the Kinnickinnic is somewhat hidden behind buildings and trees. The city’s namesake and greatest natural asset was less than apparent. Furthermore, the signage was confusing and made it difficult to find the river and it also didn’t direct traffic downtown for economic support. Meanwhile, signage for municipal buildings, recreational facilities and city-owned parks were redundant and visually unappealing.

Objective

Develop a consistent and aesthetically pleasing wayfinding and signage system to help visitors find their way to the river for recreation, drive traffic downtown, and create a river town look and feel that highlights the natural resources.

“Our municipal and building signs had lots of clutter without a unified theme. New signage has helped us bring cohesiveness to the community, and gives us a chance to put our best foot forward.”

Brandy Howe,Senior Planner, City of River Falls

Solutions

    • Collaborated with city officials and other stakeholders in establishing community signage that embodies River Falls’ distinctive character as well as visitor destinations such as local parks, downtown dining and shopping, and the University of Wisconsin-River Falls campus.
    • Highlighted a sense of place through consistent, authentic signage that harnesses River Falls’ small-town charm, community spirit and love of nature.
    • Gateways, identification, and directional signs utilize stone and wood details resembling the region’s “lived-in” natural surroundings. A recognizable and inviting sign family creates a safe and welcoming atmosphere for residents and visitors alike.
    • Carefully established clear messaging and consistent nomenclature that aligns with the city’s websites, maps and other communication pieces.
    • Produced an expandable sign system that allows easy-to-maintain changes and updates based on ongoing community developments and events. Creating a connective yet flexible signage system helps River Falls draw repeat visitors who can then spread the word to friends and family.

“The signage is for people who are new in town. We want to show them we’re a great place to visit, and that we’re going to get them where they need to go.”

Brandy Howe

Results

In April 2018, River Falls announced a six-year timeline to establish its family of signs. The city installed a number of directional signs, parking identification signs, as well as park signs, with many more signs set for implementation in the coming years.

Photo Gallery