Signage network not only orients residents and visitors to key locations within the community, but tells Somerset’s story along the way
While much of the last four years has been spent putting Somerset on the map statewide as not only a lake community but a downtown entertainment destination, the City of Somerset’s newest initiative is putting this community on the map in the most literal sense.
The city unveiled its new exterior wayfinding system earlier this month with the installation of directional and informational signs throughout downtown streets. The system, which carries the city’s brand and colors throughout, is designed to welcome and direct visitors to locations in downtown Somerset while also revealing connections, highlighting diversity, and demonstrating community pride.
The vehicular and pedestrian network begins in Somerset’s downtown core and is planned to eventually expand into other parts of the city.
“When I started this journey as mayor four years ago, I had a vision for better connecting downtown to other areas of the city, as well as Lake Cumberland, and that has taken the form of plans for sidewalks through our Connect Somerset project and conversations about implementing public transportation,” Somerset Mayor Alan Keck said. “But another necessary component is ensuring that residents and visitors know where to go and have an opportunity to learn and connect with who we are. I’m thrilled to introduce the next extension of our brand from the streets of downtown Somerset.”
The wayfinding and placemaking network, designed by the team at Kinetic Strategic Design (KSD) in Somerset, provides needed orientation and creates identification signage that welcomes visitors to the community. In total, 110 signs comprise the system, which informs and directs people to key community destinations while also drawing attention to parking areas, historical information and community events, and identifying walking paths for pedestrians.
“In reality, visitors coming to our community and residents who are here every day have an extremely fragmented set of shared information and experiences,” said Kirby Stephens, president of KSD. “For instance, how many Somerset residents could tell you there is a Piano Park and where it is? How many could tell you when the buildings on East Mt. Vernon Street were built and why they look the way they do? Or that Somerset once had trolley cars? And, more importantly, why does any of this matter in the continued development of the city we call Somerset?”
The civic life of a city is enriched when its public space is meaningful, interesting and worth visiting, Stephens said. KSD designed the wayfinding and placemaking system to have four components that help make this happen: welcome/identification signs, directional signs, historic interpretive signs and location maps, and kiosks.
The welcome/identification signs are the outermost component of the system and will be installed later this year at three gateways into downtown. The northern gateway sign will be located near the intersection of North Main Street and Crab Orchard Road. The western gateway sign will be positioned to greet vehicles traveling east on Ohio Street at Vortex Corner. And the southern gateway sign will be placed near the entrance of the new Fischer Fun Park 2 on South Main Street.
All three are single-sided illuminated signs that read “Welcome. Downtown Somerset, Historic Arts & Entertainment District.”
As motorists travel into the core of the city, they will begin experiencing the next component — directional signs, which point motorists to key community destinations like the library, farmers’ market, Piano Park, Judicial Center and Rocky Hollow. Many of these signs have already been installed on city light posts throughout town.
These signs are part of the “Walk Somerset” historic interpretive component to the city’s new wayfinding system. There are 24 panels total that are installed at strategic locations around town.
The third layer is an engaging component that offers a physical, public sense of place for visitors and local residents to share. Titled “Walk Somerset,” it includes 24 historic interpretive panels and location maps that will be installed at strategic locations around town. These markers offer casual observers and interested readers a glimpse into the history, culture, and development of Somerset. City parks and community artwork are highlighted as part of the self-guided walking tour. The interpretive panels note interesting people, places and events that connect with America’s broader history and uniquely local stories.
Walk Somerset also provides a constant reminder of the city’s Healthy Somerset initiative and encourages residents and visitors to participate. Providing people with destinations to walk to, as well as safe, continuous, and interesting pathways on which to travel, can have an enormous impact on an individual’s decision to incorporate physical activity into his or her daily life, Stephens said. Multiple map locations identify a variety of walking routes that range from about one to three miles.
The fourth and final component of the new wayfinding system includes four digital kiosks placed at key community gathering spots in the core of the city: the Lake Cumberland Farmers Market, Somerset High School campus, the Pulaski County Judicial Center Plaza, and the Pulaski County Public Library. Each of these kiosks have a remotely programmable digital, high-resolution screen that feature rotating visual messages about important community events, schedules, and announcements.
Combined, the wayfinding and placemaking components are valuable building block for the City of Somerset’s communication and growth strategy, Stephens said.
Keck said the new wayfinding and placemaking system does more than just direct people to destinations.
“At every touchpoint, this wayfinding strategy not only points residents and visitors in the correct direction, but it invites them to be a part of our story, whether that be in the distant past when our founders first established this beautiful city or in the more recent past as we’ve developed it for future generations through revitalization and growth,” Keck said. “I love the way it knits together a common sense of place for our people and encourages them to be the healthiest, most engaged version of themselves. As we prepare this community for our children and grandchildren, it is important to be informed about where we’ve been so that we can better understand where we’re going. This project will create a lasting impact for the people who will walk and drive these streets in the years to come.”