Green Lake Park Redesign

The new design system for Green Lake is aimed towards active people of all ages who come to the park to exercise. It utilizes a dynamic and energetic color palette that will stand out in the park at any season as well as friendly illustration style.

I have learned a lot about similarities between interaction design and environmental design while I was working on this project. It also became a good exercise in creating a design system that would work both for regulatory signs, icons and art (Aqua Theater mural).

Roles: branding; design system; illustration; environmental graphics.
Skills: drawing, digital illustration, Adobe Illustrator, InDesign
Timeframe: 5 weeks
Collaborators: solo

01. Description

This new design system for Green Lake is aimed towards active people of all ages and backgrounds who come to the park to have fun and to exercise. I took the inspiration from edgy sportswear designs and street art. The new system utilizes a dynamic and energetic color palette that will stand out in the park at any time of the year; consistent usage of patterns is aimed to make the icons and signs more fun but at the same time still legible and clear.

The illustration style makes icons and regulatory signs feel more personal and friendly. The map of the park was redesigned applying interaction design principles.

I worked on: research and branding; user personas, design system, illustrations, icon family, map, regulatory signs, and mural art.

02. Challenge and objectives

Challenge/Problem:  Greenlake Parks signage and wayfinding have become dated. Redesign a new look for Greenlake park that reflects Seattle’s modern park patron.

Project Goals and Objectives: The main goal of the project was to create a distinctive look for Green Lake Park.

Target Audience: Seattle Residents of all ages.

Deliverables: a set of 14 icons; orientation sign: map of Greenlake; regulatory sign: park rules; monument sign: history of Greenlake; directional sign: Lane signage Feet/Wheels -freestanding sign and ground; regulatory sign: Leash Pets Obey scoop Law; regulatory sign: Open Water Swimming; mural for Aqua Theater

We were given all technical specifications for the signs so we didn’t have to research the sizes and types of it.

I personally took this assignment as a chance to work on creating a design system that isgeared towards interaction in different kinds of ways. I see developing a system of icons and signs as a UX problem first. I approached this challenge while creating a visually distinctive and dynamic look at the same time.

Project Background and Description: Green Lake is one of Seattle’s most beloved parks. Its expanse of water and green space in the center of a dense urban neighborhood draws thousands of people daily from all over the city. The park serves as a natural preserve for hundreds of species of trees and plants, as well as numerous birds and waterfowl. The newly reconstructed 2.8-mile path around the lake provides a perfect recreational spot for runners, bikers, skaters and walkers. Many others use the athletic fields or visit the park for boating, picnics and swimming.

03. Process

Step 1. Research.

I went to the park ito observe how people interact with the signage and what they do in Green Lake in general. I’ve been there before but this time I was taking pictures of the signage and looking at its actual users. I’ve noticed that most of the people were at Green Lake Park for some kind of physical activity, be it walking along the Green Lake trail, running or biking. They were of different ages, but their energy had some dissonance with the older, traditional and rather calm branding of the park.

To support my research, I have created several user personas of different age groups and activities that I wanted to keep in mind while designing the signage. I included an international student runner, an older couple of seattleites from the neighborhood, a family with a toddler, and a new transplant with a dog.

Step 2. Design concept.

I feel that most of people come to Green Lake park to exercise – run around, walk, rent a boat etc. The perception of the park is a place for active recreation, so I wanted to show this energy in my moodboard. I decided to take inspiration from some street graphics and sport labels. My two main inspirations are the photo of a basketball camp and one of the models of Adidas sneakers for textures and patterns. I haven’t used exactly the same patterns but I was drawing my inspiration from the overall mood that was conveyed by the two photos.

I decided to stick to mainly the primary color palette by choosing some hues closer to blue, red and yellow, because it is the most energetic combination of all.

My main type choice is Omnes which is used for signage by the Amsterdam Zoo and some other public facilities. It is legible and friendly, and I used a bold version for my headlines and bigger type, and a regular weight for the smaller body copy.

Step 3. Testing the design concept: an icon family.

One of our deliverables was an icon family. I wanted icons to be simple but playful. The scale of all the surfaces where they would appear is rather big, so I gave myself a little more freedom and added some details that are not as easy to incorporate in mobile UI design. At first, I started to make the icons in three of four main colors (blue, red and yellow, hues of a primary color palette) but then I decided to make them just black and yellow and keep other colors for other purposes.

I set up several rules for the icon set:

  • always black and yellow color;
  • one pattern area and one solid black shape in each icon;
  • always use same patterns for ground, water and objects;
  • people are always black and their clothes are yellow.

I feel pretty confident about choosing yellow as a main color because it stands out both on grey rainy winter days and in a green summer environment.

Step 4. Making the rest of the signs.

I based all redesigns on reusing the icon family when possible and keeping the colors and type simple. I created some small cute illustrations for the historical informational sign. I decided to build a different history sign, using the information from Wikipedia and some other online resources about the history of Seattle and Green Lake Park. I think as people in Green Lake Park are usually moving pretty fast, they are not in the mood for long reads but short paragraphs and timeline format would be less intimidating for a reader.

Before and after:

My first approach to Green Lake map was based on the initial map that was photographed in the park. Two weeks after my first redesign, I decided to return to the map and work on it more, applying the rules of interaction design that I’ve learned. I’ve talked to some potential users of the map, and learned a few things about it:

  • As the map is for use in the park, people in general know where they came from or where they parked. They didn’t feel that much need in a detailed city map from outside of the park.
  • People were more interested in distances from one area to another. Previous map were not very clear about it.
  • “You are here” icon needed to be bigger.

Among the changes that I’ve made are simplified street map, new distance relationships between different paths, and a new “You are here” icon.

Step 5. Aqua Theater Mural.

Another piece of this assignment was to think about decorating the Green Lake Aqua theater. I chose to make a mural, and I based it on all the previous drawings and patterns that I made. The design system that I initially created is limited but it turned out to be enough variety for creating a bigger piece including a lot of shapes and details.

Step 6. Signage mock-ups.

We were provided with the measurements for the signs, so I just used some drawings of people to show it to human scale for the final presentation.  All of the signs will be demonstrated on the mock ups next to the photos of the current signs.

04. Solution

Dynamic and energetic color palette, consistent usage of patterns to make the icons and signs mre fun but at the same time legible and clear, minimal use of bright colors that stand out in the park at any time of the year. Yellow and black for all important signs and notifications, together with Omnes typeface that is used by several public organizations (such as Amsterdam Zoo) and is both legible and friendly. Friendly and simple illustration style for icons.

It turned out to be a great exercise in building a consistent and simple design system in the beginning that helped me to handle all of the cases that we needed for the assignment. My next goal is animating the icons to add an interactive component to the design and testing the icon family with some of the potential users to see if they are easy to understand.

In the future, I’d like to create an AR app for the mobile phone that would allow users to navigate the park using the icons and maps, to see what is on the other side of the lake and if some of the services are open at the time of their visit. It could also guide visitors through the park telling more about the plants and animals that they might encounter there as well as small stories about different corners of the park, such as the history of Swan Island or a Led Zeppelin show that occured at the Aqua Theater in the 1969.