Seamless Seattle

Making Seattle the most walkable city in America

Seattle has a long-term ambition to become the most walkable city in the United States. With Legible London as their reference, the City sought out Applied as the creators of the international benchmark to help develop the strategy and design to reach their ambitious goal. After the appointment from Seattle Department of Transportation, Applied began the development of a city-wide pedestrian wayfinding that will encourage and enable more walking.

Applied used its broad experience on city wayfinding to advise the City on proven design approaches for walking information.

A comprehensive wayfinding system has now started to be implemented. This system includes elements designed to connect the walking environment to transit facilities, and accessible, gradient-beating elevators & escalators.

The City of Seattle Department of Transportation
Seattle, Washington, USA
40 million visitors

To the city each year

35% of all trips

To be completed on foot by 2035

Collaborative effort

The project team worked closely with the local residents, the Seattle Department of Transportation, transit agencies, local business and community partners to build consensus.

One system for everywhere

Seattle had a variety of unmaintained previous attempts at wayfinding, particularly in the downtown area.

Not only did this point to problems with ongoing maintenance planning, but also created a cluttered visual experience and demoted public confidence in any street information.

Evidence based

This master plan was based on extensive research into how people navigate, combined with the specific conditions that influence spatial legibility in Seattle.


The strategy for increased walking was built on four pillars: Modal integration, local distinctiveness, design for all, and systemisation.

The strategy provided the principles, user needs and outcomes for the project that were then translated into graphic, digital and industrial designs.

The strategy lobbied for collaboration around a common set of elements, rules and applications that drove a governance plan to ensure implementation and management is efficiently shared and coordinated across SDOT and the strategic partners responsible for a variety of public wayfinding touchpoints.


Focus groups, community workshops and partner consultations highlighted the local issues and requirements that the master plan and system was to respond to.

Design for all

Integration of braille & tactile panels providing orientation information on all signs. Design elements which aimed to meet the needs of the widest range of users.

Parallel developments

In parallel with the design tasks, Applied also led two associated tasks essential to the effective management and implementation of the proposed new system.

A governance strategy was developed based on a leadership model for SDOT and the key transit agency partners to deliver a strategic plan in the densest walking areas of the city.


An important principle of this plan is that for every sign installed, five existing signs might be removed.

Heads-up mapping

Design features such as ‘heads up’ mapping allows walking-level of detail to be shown, helping people self-locate, orientate and plan journeys according to their personal interests and needs.

Transit integration

Major deliverables were detailed wayfinding standards & guidelines document, and all necessary plans & specifications for full-scale implementation in two pilot areas around the Westlake and Jackson transit hubs. The first stage of the pilots was integrating the maps into the transit network.

In the summer of 2021 the new pedestrian system was rolled out in Westlake and the Jackson hub. Applied and SDOT continue to work together to develop the wayfinding standards and deliver extensions of the system to districts around the city.

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