Strong Sense of Arrival at Roosevelt Island

November 14, 2018


A burst of new energy has Roosevelt Island buzzing with the opening of the new NYC Ferry port and Cornell Tech campus. Once a sleepy, well-kept secret, this Manhattan island – with its lovely riverside walks and unobstructed skyline views – has been rediscovered by tourists and residents alike. Wayfinding is essential to help these newcomers navigate the island.

Though small, Roosevelt Island’s existing infrastructure has a distinguished history with several distinct architectural styles. Our design approach emphasized an enhanced visitor experience and recommended a platform for linking orientation and placemaking. The monumental red logo and placemaking feature anchors the program by heralding arrival on Roosevelt Island. It’s the first part of the experience, welcoming and confirming sense of arrival. It further serves to activate the space, engage visitors and generate interest and activity about the island.

Unique in NYC and a popular tourist attraction, the Roosevelt Island Tramway connects Midtown Manhattan to the Island. We adopted the signature red and Helvetica typeface of the tram and bus to enliven and visually integrate the signage system. Aluminum, with its neutral color, allows the system to blend seamlessly into the diverse environment and further integrate with its surroundings.

This comprehensive, multi-phased wayfinding program includes three key elements. Directional finger signs guide visitors to points of interest while also providing key information such as travel distances to destinations.

Map kiosks provide key contextual information about nearby restaurants, retailers, apartment buildings, public amenities, and more.

The entire program takes advantage of sightlines from the main roads and transit hot spots coming on and off the island. Visibility and decision point studies revealed the ideal placement and sizing of these signs, resulting in a seamless experience of the island.

Our thanks to the many stakeholder groups who informed our design work, including Hudson Companies, the Roosevelt Island Operating Corporation and Manhattan Community Board 8.