This critique, penned by Tim Stonor, is intended to be helpful and I hope it is useful as the project moves forward.
This project, if properly specified and carefully designed, would be a ‘nice to have’ for Faversham but it is not a top priority. As currently developed, it is unlikely to have the impact it deserves.
Key questions remain about a series of issues including a) the importance of the project alongside other priorities for the Town, b) its geographic extent and c) the detailed design of the signage:
1. Evidence of need
What is wrong with current signage? What are the particular concerns in Faversham? How do the current designs address these shortcomings/concerns?
We were told that this is covered in earlier reports and I would therefore like to see these.
2. Evaluation of effectiveness
We were told that there is no methodology for doing so, which raises concerns about long-term auditing for value for money.
3. Geographic coverage
We were told that the ‘zone of study’ is limited to the central area of the town. This is insufficient since Faversham’s visitor attractions extend across a wider geographic area eg The Jubilee Centre, St Catherine’s, the Maison Dieu, Davington Priory, The Shrine of St Jude, The Westbrook and Stonebridge Pond. In a similar vein, the points of arrival into the town are not confined to the central area, meaning that visitors need signs in non-central locations.
By limiting itself to the central area only, and by pursuing a design that does not include a wider map of the town, the project is fettered in the short term as well as the long.
4. Current/alternative signage
What happens to the current signage information? Is it retained or replaced? How does this project integrate with other signage efforts in the town eg the Westbrook signage project?
What is the likely order of costs for the full project? How do these costs sit alongside other projects contending for Swale BC investment (eg walking and cycling infrastructure projects)? How are priorities being established at SBC?
We were told that the current project funding is limited to three or four ‘totems’. This is insufficient to deliver an effective project. A larger budget needs to be committed for the long term, but only after more important public realm projects are funded.
The designs employ colours that will add visual ‘noise’ to the public realm of the town. Other schemes, such as in London and Bristol, have employed a less intrusive palette of colours. The colours chosen do not obviously speak of Faversham and I wasn’t convinced by the explanation as to why and how they had been selected
7. Named destinations
The selected destinations are insufficient and incorrect. The room was unconvinced that proper efforts had been made to engage with local knowledge and experience.
Since the list of ‘key’ destinations is likely to be long, my recommendation is to abandon the shortlist at the top of each totem and replace this with an overview map of the town showing key destinations that will address the concern in point 3 about the geographic extent of the project. In doing so, the portrait proportions of the main, more detailed, the map could be adjusted to a square so that all mapping information can be readable to people of all heights.
A further point: do you really need to include ‘Station’ at the top of a totem when the building and its associated signage are right in front of you?
8. Locations of the totems
There is already much happening at these locations. The proposed locations warrant a closer look.
9. Digital integration
We were told that there are no plans for integrating the physical signs with digital information, which seems a significant shortcoming/missed opportunity. Other signs in Faversham already offer eg QR links to further, online information.
The pictograms, eg for the Recreation Ground, add visual noise to the signs. The clue is in the name!
11. Maps A
It is positive that the maps highlight the pedestrian network of the town eg Cross Lane/Gatefield Lane, which has been a shortcoming of previous ‘road-based’ mapping projects.
12. Maps B
The 3D pictogram of the Guildhall is helpful but other buildings such as St Mary of Charity and Davington Priory would also be helpful.
Likewise, it would be helpful to include the names of local pubs on the maps since this is how directions are often given in Faversham.
13. Walking times
These may be helpful to the station but should otherwise be used sparingly to avoid visual clutter.
VISITOR INFORMATION CENTRE
12 Market Place
10am to 4pm - Monday to Saturday
10am to 1pm - Sunday (opening hours may vary)
FLEUR MUSEUM - FREE ENTRY
11am to 3pm - Friday and Saturday
10am to 3.30pm - Monday to Saturday
Closed until Spring 2023