Final design recommendations from the Village of Oak Park’s “Wayfinding Sign Project” were presented to the Community Design Commission last month. The presentation is available on the Village’s website: 

The recommendations include the design concept for signs that will be used throughout Oak Park:  directional signage, information kiosks, maps and “interpretive” signage that provides history, context or fun facts.  There also is a special category of signs for parking information.  You’ll find in the presentation specifics regarding elevation, construction, typography and color.

The core part of each sign will feature white text on a warm “bronze” background with a neutral metallic “champagne” on the reverse side.  A burst of identifying accent color on the trim or header will indicate which business district you are in.  The consultants recommended a different accent color for eight different areas:  Downtown, Arts District, Southtown, Madison, Roosevelt, North, Chicago and the Lake and Austin district.

This caught my eye because heretofore we have said we have twelve business districts.  Perhaps this is a step towards simplifying our current structure? 

The most significant simplification is the combination of the three districts that comprise our primary shopping area:  Downtown Oak Park at Lake and Harlem, Hemingway Business District at Oak Park and Lake and the Pleasant District, just south of the tracks along Marion.  Today, these operate as three separate merchant associations.  Downtown Oak Park is funded and managed through a Special Services Area (SSA) tax while the other two are volunteer-led.

Already these three associations collaborate under the moniker “Downtown Districts.”  And the distinction between them can be confusing to consumers.  It makes sense to use a single wayfinding plan and color (dark yellow) to direct people to our major shopping area – be it one or three separate business associations.

Visit the Village’s website to see illustrations of the new signs and the design concept and colors.  It will take some time – and budget – before we see actual signs.  Expect to see new signs after major construction and streetscape renovation is completed – Lake Street and Madison Street likely will be first.  Other area signs will be replaced as budget allows.

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Cathy Yen

Cathy Yen is the Executive Director of the Oak Park River Forest Chamber of Commerce.  She has lived in Oak Park for 21 years and done business locally, first as a retailer and then as a small business...