Signage points the way to the future in Red Lodge

CTA Sign Design

An example of designs conceived by

CTA for Red Lodge’s wayfinding project.

Red Lodge’s branding is about to take another step further in the town’s efforts to make it even more attractive as a tourist desti- nation. A wayfinding proj- ect overseen by the Chamber of Commerce could see a selection of signs popping up in town to help visitors get the most from their stay and help them find their way around.

“This idea sprung from the Active Transportation Plan,” said Chamber director Sherry Weamer. “We realized that to make Red Lodge more walkable and bikeable, for both locals and visitors, we needed signage. Our first focus is to give RV and campers some- where to park.”

“We need parking spaces in the summer time be it at the Civic Center or park- ing along the school. All that is missing is a sign,” said the Chamber’s Market- ing and Public Relations Manager, Tim Weamer. “If there is no direction or a parking place, they drive on through and don’t stop.”

“We also have great trails, but would you know how to tell someone where they are? So signage would include where trails and parks are,” said Sherry.

The project will go in stages with the initial project focusing on the town.

The conceptual signs have been designed by CTA with $24,000 raised from six sources; Red Lodge Merchants and Lodging Association, TBID, Chamber, City, BRTA, and the Main Street Group.

CTA was chosen because “they understood the town and our branding,” said Tim. CTA also knew how to work with Montana Department of Transporta-tion when it came to sign placement and as well as the size and shape.

The actual project will be financed by a matching State grant that could be as high as $150,000.

“The money that comes from the state is ear marked as tourism infrastructure and came from an Accommodations tax. We’re not dipping into the general fund,” said Tim.

“Wayfinding is the state’s focus this year and our timing for rolling this out couldn’t be better.”

“This is their focus this year. The state wants us to carry out wayfinding projects, they are trying to support it,” said Sherry.

“If the parks board wanted to put up signage, they could use that money now and it can contribute to the match,” said Sherry.

The endeavor is a win-win for the town say the Weamers.

“When people see the signage it will have a cohesive feel and people will feel like they are in Red Lodge. That makes us more recognizable when they come across different features. More comfortable with the town,” said Sherry.

According to Roger Brooks, a tourism consul- tant, “ People want to park, get out of their cars, and enjoy a pedestrian experi- ence. Once out of their cars, you have a four times greater chance of getting them to spend money.”

In a 2010 United States Department of Transportation survey, “72 percent of all complaints from visitors of a new city focused on poor wayfinding and directional signage. Only about 5 percent of travelers stop at Visitor Informa- tion Centers, so placing kiosks with visitor infor- mation near attractions and amenities makes it easy to cross-sell activities and help travelers find more to do. And more to do = longer stay = more cash in the community.”

The beauty about the wayfinding project is the signs are all professionally done and can be utilized by any club.

“If the Rotary Club wants a park sign, they don’t have to design it,” said Tim. “The design is there, the brand is there, they just need to add their message.”

Once the designs have been chosen there will be a large selection made. “The way we worked with CTA is that we are going to have three different designs ready to go. If we need 10 directional signs, that is considered one design,” said Tim.

Aside from availability of the signs they will be made to blend in with their surroundings and designed to take on the wear and tear of locals and visitors check- ing them for information. At the signage reveal there were the big drive by sign, smaller ones, and those built more for pedestrians and the kiosk version.

The signs will use some metal and wood and be concreted into the ground.

It is the hope of those involved that these signs pointing out the accessibility of Red Lodge will encourage the City to think about the walkability and bikeability when a sidewalk needs repair.

“When new opportunities arise, we can incorporate the brand for a more visually appealing look,” said Sherry. 

“Such as, when the city does the readdressing, the new street signs could include this cohesive look and the Red Lodge brand,” said Tim.

“We want to give Red Lodge that outdoor base camp feel,” they said.

“One thing we don’t need is to over sign. We want people to stop and easily find what it is they are looking for but don’t want so much signage that they miss all that we have,” said Tim. “What they want is to see what is behind the sign. You get to see the beauty of what surrounds us not just the sign. They stop by a sign and get their picture taken; it’s them, the name of the town and Mount Maurice.”