This city is filled with signs, and there are SO MANY that I dislike, though when I did have to venture out and find examples, I found myself struggling to really pick some quality awful signage. That is, until I spotted this. My apologies for the bad lighting:
Bad signage #1
So, from the 'signage', it is a discount leather shop. However, it doesn't even emphasis the "Buy one get two free" effectively, as the font it uses to express the great deal does not stand out, but is in smaller font size than the rest of the message.
The second banner, in case you cannot read properly (and I have a feeling it would be tricky even in good light and with a good camera) reads: "Delancey Street, Downtown and Brooklyn" alongside letters in 'NYC subway font".
Is that suppose to be the name of the shop? If so, what does selling cheap leather jackets have to do with Delancey Street or subway stops? And honestly, if you are going to have a shop (even one that sells discounted goods), is it really so hard to make a better quality sign?
Today I went to Chinatown for more inspiration, where amongst the Chinese community, is a place where efficiency is key and notorious for making no effort in designing anything. It's functional, its signage usually spells out what the shop does, and that's the amount of money and time the owner is willing to spend on it. I genuinely believe that the feeling of chaos that exist in any Chinatown I have been to is due to its lack of design.
Bad signage #2
For example: I walked by this skin care salon:
As it wasn't too clear, here's a grab from google street view:
The first thing that bothered me was the font inconsistency: the descriptive font on the front of the store is different to the more sans serif font on the side, while the cases is also inconsistent: small cases for the main signage and capitalization for the alternate signage. The Chinese actually translates to "eternal beauty", with a sub-heading that translates to "slimming and beauty", which has very little to do with its English name.
The sign chose a wing of a butterfly as its outline to the "f" on the title, which sadly has nothing to do with skin care, nor do I think it succeeded in evoking any level of elegance. I believe that due to the inconsistencies of its design it immediately made the shop feel cheap. Overall, I feel that the design feels dated and cheesy, and the many variations of the signage, the failure for the two languages to represent a strong theme, makes this sign a disaster in so many ways.
Bad signage #3
Here's one shop that at least made an attempt at designing its signage:
The pink background certainly makes the sign stand out, but what exactly does "mXX" represent? The Chinese words on the left roughly translates to "messy brew", which also doesn't quite explain what the shop does. On the right there is a T-mobile flag that is consistent with the signage's colour scheme, yet "mXX" does not signify telecommunications in any way.
It's also important to pay attention to the displays on the glass doors. On the left hand side there are a lot of advertisements for phone plans, yet on the right is shaved ice and boba tea. The lack of consistency is making it very confusing for people walking by to figure out what the shop actually does!
Not to mention...why is there a sign for SPA to the left of the door that have absolutely nothing to do with all the other information that has been presented to us?
I took a stab at fixing the site, though due to my lack of Photoshop skills I might have messed up the scaling (preview vs actual), so please bear with the screengrab version:
I am going to assume that mXX is actually the name of the store, and its main services are phone and boba tea, while it could potentially be a spa space as well.
I decided to firstly give the name of the store its prominence: so I moved "mXX" to the the top, and placing it in the centre. I have also assigned it the largest font. While the name is nonsensical as far as I can tell, I still felt uncomfortable getting rid of the name entirely.
I then decided to add in a few words to at least explain what the shop actually sells as the name is not offering any hints on its services. I went with "tea, talk, relax" as it suggests the core services: boba tea, phones and perhaps spa, while avoiding being too literal about it.
I feel while hot pink is bright, it offers an energy that I think can work with the store.
Not everything is a disaster....
On the plus side, let's take a look at a design that I think is done quite well. It's Citi Bike.
Citi Bike, like many bike-sharing schemes around the world, is designed to encourage cycling, and I also think it is an useful tool for tourists. While New York City is one of the most visited in the world, it is also one of the most confounding to tourists.
What I like about the stands at Citi Bike is that it clearly identify its location, and where it is in relation to New York's neighbourhoods, as well as highlighting other bike share stations in the area.
And the instructions on how to use the bikes are also very clearly displayed and explained:
It explains how much it costs to use the service, how long you can use it for, how one can return the bike, but most importantly, it provides the laws in regards to cycling in the city. Unlike parking signs which are incomprehensible to non-New York natives, it provides the potential rider with all the necessary information to make the experience smooth and clear.
The design of the stands are also consistent with its branding: the citi bike logo is on top of the displays, and it has a long pole that makes it easy for a rider to spot the stands from a fair distance. Fonts are consistent and visual codes are used to identify sections on payments, the bicycle and returns. I particularly like the image of the bicycle helmet to encourage its use.