Pentagram has designed new signs for NYC’s beaches.

The main welcome sign features the view of the beach from its own perspective.

In other words, what you see is what you get.

The idea is that, as many boardwalks were washed away in Sandy, there needed to be some way to convey "you’re here!" to visitors.

And there’s a level of earnest pride when beach signs showcase their own photography.

And cleverly, the concrete stanchions…

…are painted yellow at entry and exit points along the beach to help guide visitors.

Meanwhile, they also updated the warning signs. Here’s the old one…

…and here’s the new one. Friendliness is all a matter of presentation.

The "pods" were created by Garrison Architects.

They contain "convenience stations"--like bathrooms.

Bathrooms are done in steel on tile.

That poor guy is gonna see so much gum.

Finally, the "islands" were created by Sage and Coombe Architects.

Finally, the "islands" were created by Sage and Coombe Architects.

Co.Design

Pentagram Gives NYC Beaches A Post-Sandy Makeover

How do you rebuild New York’s coastline after a hurricane? Show visitors what’s still there.

Last October, Hurricane Sandy pummeled New York City’s 14 miles of coastline, washing away the sand and destroying the boardwalks. Seven months later, the beaches were mended enough to be reopened for Memorial Day, but many of the boardwalk repairs would have to wait.

In response, Pentagram’s Paula Scher was tasked with a unique challenge: Get people to the beach without any massive structures to guide them there. Her team’s response was to create a series of signs that would feel welcoming, that would make that arrival to the water feel like a mini escape.

“I know when I was a child I was always so excited to go to the beach. I would see the boardwalk, smell the suntan oil and say, ‘We’re here!’ Scher tells Co.Design. “The signs can never replace the boardwalks in people’s memories, but for young children, coming to the beach for the first time it will be a 'we’re here’ moment for them.”

To create this sensation, Pentagram took an unconventional approach. Each sign features a full-color photograph of its beach from its own perspective. In other words, each sign shows visitors the view. This literalness is a tacit, parochial statement--instead of stock photography from Hawaiian sunsets, the contextual photography is a proof of pride of New York’s own coastline. But it’s also highly functional. It says “Yes, you are here, and if you don’t believe me, just take a look!“

New "pods" by Garrison Architects.

It’s clever--so clever that I couldn’t help but ask Scher if, rather than photographs at all, they’d considered windows with a text overlay. That way, the sign would literally show visitors the view, and maybe even elicit a few chuckles in the process. “Cutting a window out of the sign is cute,” she responded, humoring me, I’m sure, “but I guarantee that most viewers would think it was a vandalized object.”

Pentagram’s other big contribution was a complete makeover of the “no lifeguard on duty” placard. The old sign was red and black, with “Danger” written in big letters. It basically told a visitor, “You shouldn’t be here.” The new sign is grounded in a soothing cerulean and a nonjudgemental Founders Grotesk, so despite the fact that a lot of the same scary information is still presented in all caps, casual beach goers don’t need to step on the sand with their stomach in knots.

“Good design is mostly about being nice to people,” Scher writes. “Warning and regulation signs are necessary. It doesn’t cost any more to make them attractive.”

Additionally, new buildings were designed by Garrison Architects and Sage and Coombe Architects. See those in the gallery above.

Learn more here.

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5 Comments

  • Jhdkfljh

    "But it’s also highly functional. It says 'Yes, you are here, and if you don’t believe me, just take a look!'"
    This doesn't make any sense.  Do people need a sign to convince them they are standing in front of a beach which is in plain view?  The aesthetics aren't bad, but the logic behind it sounds a little half-baked.

  • Tiny_kitten01

    Like the logo, the lifeguards sings and the bathrooms ideas. However, the danger sign should be using a color that represents danger, but not that blue. As for the poster sI do not find them appealing. This one of the few occasion in where simplistic design is not the right approach. Is the beach, show something with a little bit of fun or excitement. 

  • StartWorrying

    Not content with having ruined the New York Times magazine, Paula Scher now ruins one of the best places to have read it. Someone please stop her before she designs again.

  • Kidhack

    Cold. Sterile. Uninspiring. Three adjectives I'd never want to use at the beach, but that's all I see when I look at these designs. Sad.

  • Sabrtooth

    Wow, who knew that going to the beach could feel like walking into a Swiss office complex? I know I want to vacation there now.