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Vancouver’s ‘living map’ looks ahead with Applied
A network of 200+ map stands will now feature detailed maps and directional information designed by Applied Information Group

Encouraging and fostering a culture of walking is key to several of the City of Vancouver’s long-range goals. Giving Vancouver a walking identity will fall in line with their current Healthy City Strategy and their long-term goal to become the greenest city in the world by 2020. To help achieve this goal, Vancouver has implemented a new pedestrian signage system designed by Applied.

A network of more than 200 map stands throughout the Canadian city will now feature detailed maps designed by the Applied team. The first have been installed in downtown neighbourhoods, including the West End, Coal Harbour, Gastown and the Central Business District.

The maps are oriented to the user’s view. This heads-up approach allows the viewer to easily understand what streets and landmarks are up the road from them. The maps, designed as a physical manifestation of a live digital blueprint of the city, can be updated regularly to incorporate new development, destinations, infrastructure, and changes to transport and other services.

On-steet monolith. ©City of Vancouver

According to Jerry Dobrovolny, Director of Transportation at the City of Vancouver, residents are already pleased with the project. “Every trip starts and ends on foot,” said Dobrovolny. “Even in a city as walkable as Vancouver we sometimes need an extra excuse to get out and walk or bike to our destination. The improved and expanded wayfinding system helps residents and visitors make smarter transportation choices, and discover more of our city in the process.

“This wayfinding signage is part of a commitment by the City of Vancouver to ensure that navigating is easy and enjoyable for pedestrians, so that we can contribute to an inclusive, healthy, prosperous and livable future for Vancouver,” continued Dobrovolny.

We have a long track record of projects in Vancouver, including work for TransLink, Metro Vancouver’s regional transportation authority, and the University of British Columbia.

Applied founder, Tim Fendley, commented on the project: “We’ve enjoyed working in Vancouver for seven years now, starting with TransLink. It’s great to see a city that believes just putting signage in the ground isn’t enough, the signs have to be well thought out and properly designed.”

In a future of increasingly digital cities, the project has, according to Jerry Dobrovolny, “opened the door to exploring digital applications for our map in the future, as a way to provide more detailed, accurate and aesthetically pleasing city data.”

Digital map application for the City of Vancouver

We used ‘living map’ technology, developed by sister company Living Map. The Living Map system creates a digital database map that automatically produces high-quality heads-up maps, with back-end editing tools. We are now exploring the use of the system for detailed print and online apps.

The data and design of Vancouver’s digital map are already being used by the Downtown Vancouver Business Improvement Association and Tourism Vancouver. They and other organisations are being encouraged to apply the data when printing their own maps of the city, in order to make wayfinding a coherent experience for all users.

A number of applications have already been created, including a downtown visitor map, self-guided downtown walking tour maps, local transit station walking maps, and a new pocket-sized bicycle route map and guide. Tourists will experience greater access, giving them a unique perspective that has the potential to catapult tourism.

On-street sign detail. ©City of Vancouver

The project will thrive with ongoing commitment from the City and Applied. Tim commented on the endeavor: “The system we put in will be managed and looked after, and will appear in a whole range of media in the coming years. It is a new benchmark for wayfinding in Canada.”

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