Sharp-eyed Fresnans will have noticed new signage that has gone up on the corner of Tuolumne and Fulton streets in downtown Fresno. The street signs have a cool vintage look to them, with the outline of the Pacific Southwest Building easily identified.
The new signs were designed by Bertz-Rosa Strategy & Creative. I asked owner and designer Suzanne Bertz-Rosa to tell me a little bit about how the signs came to be, and where we can expect to see more popping up in Fresno in the future.
Tell me about the design process. How long did it take from start to finish?
The street signs are part of a larger signage system that will include wayfinding and monument signs. The design process for the signage began in 2014. Bertz-Rosa Strategy & Creative was hired by RHAA, the landscape architect on the project.
The signage design was intertwined with the design and construction for the overall project. In large-scale projects like this with many moving pieces, design is done in phases. We started with the wayfinding signage design. Once that was approved, we did the street sign design. Then there was a pause in the sign part of the project as all of the construction and engineering details were fleshed out.
We then as a team determined where the wayfinding signs would go. Then the project went to bid. Once the contractor and fabricator were on-board, we worked with them and the team at City of Fresno to ensure the end product matched the design.
Initially, we had to cut the wayfinding signs from the project, but because of cost savings in other areas, the signs were added back in. I’m super excited to see the street signs go in, and I can’t wait for the additional wayfinding signage to be installed and see the refurbished art returned. It’s going to be great.
How did you decide to put the Pacific Southwest Building on the signs?
The Pacific Southwest Building is an iconic building in the Fresno skyline. It’s located on Fulton, near where the city itself started on Mariposa, and it’s the building that Fresno is most identified by. As a kid, in the backseat as my family drove up from Visalia, I knew we were almost to Fresno when I saw the then-Security Bank Building. It was the icon of the big city of Fresno even then to this small town girl.
We experimented with other iconic visuals, but nothing “read” as well as the Pacific Southwest Building to identify downtown Fresno and specifically Fulton.
How did you come up with the shape of the signs?
The street signs were designed after the wayfinding signs, which will be going in soon. The entire team really liked the icon from the retro direction, so we worked it into both the street signs and the wayfinding options. The icon itself was drawn by Scott Severance based on a rough concept we provided.
The goal of the street signs was not only to help people find their way with the names and numbers, but also to denote a sense of place. The Pacific Southwest Building icon was in a circle—we chopped it in half to top the street signs. Rather than crowding the sign with the street numbers, we wanted to center that below, which also strengthened the sign because of the centered icon.
Were there any scrapped designs?
There are always scrapped designs. Design is a process. We sketched a bunch of ideas for the wayfinding, and presented three to the City of Fresno. One concept was straight-forward and modern to represent a new era of Downtown, one was retro and included the Pacific Southwest icon in the design, and the one that was chosen was inspired by the two great heydays of Fulton, the 1920s and 1960s. We looked for design elements that were common to both of those eras. The color palette and lines of the design are based on those eras with a mix of small modern sprinkles. In the wayfinding signage, our homage to the mall’s designer Garrett Eckbo’s work, which is being retained in the concrete as well, can more quickly be identified. Stay tuned for those.
Will there be more signs added throughout downtown Fresno, or will they only be on the newly renovated part of Fulton Street?
The new street signs will be located throughout the Fulton District area. Initially, the signs will in the renovated area, but eventually their presence will expand as other signs need replacing or new projects are done.
What other projects have you worked on with the City of Fresno?
We recently designed the FAX15 buses that run along Shaw and Cedar avenues. The bus rapid transit system, FAX Q, that will be rolling out in early 2018, is another project we worked on with the primary contractor Parsons Brinckerhoff. The new FAX logo will be released with the FAX Q buses. We also worked on the recently re-launched City of Fresno website. In all cases, we collaborated closely with the amazing team at the City and other world-class contractors and local subcontractors.