Welcome to Issue 4 of Arrows & Icons Magazine! The feature for this month is going to be a little different. The past couple months have had some pretty intensive reads, including a great article about New Jersey Wayfinding by Kelly Bennett and Amy Rees, so I thought I’d make this month’s feature a bit more visual. It’ll be a little more casual, a little bit personal but hopefully engaging as I take you on a tour of environmental design here in Boise, Idaho.
If you’ll remember back to Geography class, Boise is the capital of Idaho. Our population here is around 200,000, within a metropolitan area of about half a million when you include neighboring Eagle, Garden City and Meridian. We have pretty significant downtown, shopping and entertainment districts with lots of big city amenities, but without the big city traffic
View of Boise down Capitol Boulevard
Unfortunately the value and understanding of environmental design hasn’t fully caught on, but there are some talented folks doing some great things here. I’ve collected a few of the better examples across a number of different categories. I don’t know the designer or fabricator of most of these, but most of the ornate looking ones are done by either Classic Design Studio or Advanced Sign & Design. I apologize in advance for any load times you might experience, bear with me as there are plenty of photos in this one!
Delta Dental corporate offices monument. The green is backlit and glows at night. Designed and fabricated by Golden West Signs.
Exterior signage for Idaho Trust bank, located on 9th St. in the BoDo district.
Exterior identifying signage for Oliver Russell, one of the larger brand marketing firms in the state.
Typographical identification sign for the Plaza One Twenty One office building downtown on 9th St.
Exterior elements of the Veltex Building on 5th and Main St. downtown.
The Veltex Building sits on the site of an historic Veltex service station in the Old Boise district. The building’s developers designed the building in a way that would allow them to incorporate the original Veltex sign and light fixtures from the original station.
Boise is actually made up of many districts, however many are poorly designated (or not at all). In recent years there has been lots of development of new districts or revitalizing of old ones.
Monument for the historic 8th Street Marketplace, part of the BoDo district.
Stone monuments at each entrance of the recently completed Bown Crossing district.
The linear illustration face that signifies Boise’s Cultural District, loosely up and down 8th St. from Bannock to Front St.
Sign post for the Warm Springs Historic District, one of the older areas of town and home to the old Pioneer Cemetary and many beautiful historic homes.
Monument for the new Waterfront District on the Boise River near Garden City.
Educational Institution Signage
Monument for Boise State University on Capitol Boulevard.
Boise is home to Boise State University, the largest university in Idaho.
Vehicular (left) and pedestrian (right) wayfinding signs on the BSU campus.
Monument and flush-mount building identification signs on the BSU campus.
Identification sign for the Integrated Design Lab in downtown Boise, a program of the University of Idaho.
There’s a lot of architectural history in Boise, and many of those buildings still feature the original signage or environmental graphics.
Rotating sign for the American Cleaning Service Co. on Front St.
Lettering and clock on the tower of the old Boise train depot.
Original tile work on the towers of the Capitol Boulevard Memorial Bridge.
Engraving on the old Central Firestation at 6th and Idaho St.
The original horse and engraving of the Pioneer Tent Building paired with contemporary icons. Part of Old Boise on 6th and Main St.
Boise is home to two huge regional hospitals, St. Luke’s downtown and St. Alphonsus up off the interstate connector. St. Luke’s is more self contained, but St. Al’s has more of a medical campus featuring a great new signage program.
Signage on the entrance at the back side of the main hospital.
Monument at the main street entrance on Curtis Rd.
Vehicular wayfinding signage around the medical campus.
Building identification signs.
Hotels, Residential & Hospitality Signage
Recently redesigned identification signage and readerboard for the Boise Center, our convention and event facilities on the Grove area downtown. It features the redesigned logo by Rizen Creative.
Identification sign for Hotel 43 downtown on 9th St. Designed by Oliver Russell.
Entrance to the historic Idanha Hotel building on Main St., which has now been converted into apartments.
Signage on the Linen Building in the heart of the Linen District on Grove St.
Signage and readerboard for the Modern Hotel, also in the Linen District. Designed by Oliver Russell.
The Modern Hotel is actually a pretty cool story. The developers of the Linen District took an old TraveLodge motel and redesigned it and converted into a retro-modern boutique hotel. The rooms are done up in contemporary furniture, and the hotel itself is a big part of the art scene here. The Modern Bar hosts many an AIGA Idaho social event as well.
Interpretive stations in the Basque District on Grove St.
Boise has a significant Basque population, and Grove St. between 6th and Capitol is known as the Basque District. There are a few restaurants serving Basque and Spanish food, a market, a cultural center and the Basque Museum.
Ring structures outside Hotel 43 commemorating the original Boise Canal that lined Grove St.
At the turn of the century Grove Street was one of the most prominent residential areas in Boise, and the original Boise City Canal ran alongside it irrigating the street’s trees with numerous water wheels. This interpretive installation talks about the canal and the history of Grove Street.
Engravings and interpretive station at the Boise Canal installation.
Oregon Trail interpretive monument on Boise Avenue.
Old Fort Boise was a popular stop on the Oregon Trail, and as the city grew it eventually enveloped the original trail. These pyramid monuments mark the original trail as it winds across town and tell the stories of the pioneers who traveled it.
Platt Gardens interpretive stations outside the Boise Train Depot.
There are many murals throughout downtown Boise commemorating the history of the city.
Mural painted on the sides of the Capitol Terrace garage escalator on 8th St.
Mural behind the 5 Front building on 5th and Front St. This one shows Boise’s railroad heritage.
Old Boise mural on the side of the Pioneer Tent Building. Surrounding the mural are the names of businesses within the Old Boise district.
Stearns automobiles mural on the side of the Adelmann Building on Idaho and Capitol Blvd.
Trolley House cafe mural showing the streetcar that ran down Warm Springs Avenue in the 1890s.
Faded Lettering & Signage Residue
I’m a big fan of signage remnants and faded lettering. There quite a few of these fossils hidden around Boise, remnants of the city’s transformation over the years.
Remnants of an Anderson Co. general store, found in an alley off 8th St.
Still in use, but not quite the same, the original neon Boulevard Motel sign.
Lettering for the Hotel Manitou downtown on Main St. Quite a rate at that place back in the day!
Dilapidated neon sign for the Olympic Hotel, on a much older block of Main St.
Old directional indicators for downtown Boise’s one-way grid.
Parks, Recreation & Entertainment Signage
A bit dated, but this is an example of a typical city park monument.
Flag-mount sign of the Basque Museum in the Basque District.
One of my favorites, a fun, active monument sign for the Discovery Center of Idaho, our local science center.
Gateway arch and lettering for Julia Davis Park. The park is one of the oldest, and home to the Boise Art Museum, the Historical Museum, Zoo Boise, our annual Art In The Park event and a paddleboat pond.
The main branch of our exciting Boise Public Library! The addition of the exclamation point a few years ago was quite newsworthy.
Public Works, Parking & Public Transportation Signage
Exterior of the Capitol Terrace garage with the recent addition of color coded levels.
Sample level color indicator, in the garage itself (left) and from the stairwell (right).
Exterior signage of the parking garage on 9th St. and a public parking map right inside.
A seal on the Plaza One Twenty One building on 9th St. indicating the use of geothermal heat.
A sample zone indication at a bus station downtown on Main St. The transit information design is about as inefficient as the bus system itself.
Restaurant & Bar Signage
Recently reinstalled Monument for Angell’s Bar and Grill after their rebrand.
Some great lettering and cultural patterns and details on this sign for the Basque Market in the Basque District.
Beautiful flush– and flag-mount signage for Le Cafe de Paris, a French cafe on Capitol Blvd. Notice the lettering on the ends looks inspired by Hector Guimard’s Paris Metro lettering.
Sign for Goldy’s Diner, the best breakfast in town.
Signage for the Red Feather Lounge on 8th St. The Red Feather and sister Bittercreek Alehouse were recently in the New York Times re: the owners’ incredible sustainability efforts.
Sign on the Mercantile Building of the 8th St. Marketplace in BoDo. This one shows all the retailers in the particular building.
Redesigned facade for our mall, the Boise Towne Square.
Cut metal lettering typical of the shops and restaurants in Bown Crossing in SE Boise.
East side of the Hitchcock Building, home to our local independent music store the Record Exchange. The entire building features a beautiful mural designed by Oliver Russell.
North side of the Hitchcock building.
Sign for the ReBoutique using some great assembled elements. Also notice the 8M mark used on all the signage at the 8th St. Marketplace.
Public & Street Art
Boise has a wonderful local art scene which has contributed greatly to public and street art downtown.
Beautiful graffiti piece found in Freak Alley, a hidden graffiti gold mine between 8th and 9th streets.
The famous fish on Tom Grainey’s bar. Occasionally they rotate him so he swims in the opposite direction, albeit upside down.
This sculpture of the river adorns the Front St. and Capitol Blvd. corner of the Grove Hotel downtown.
One of many alleyway art pieces, this mixed media collage of the Idaho Spud is installed in an alley off 9th St. Many pieces like this were commissioned by the city and installed in alleys all over downtown Boise.
The most recent street art campaign is these painted power boxes. Each box downtown is painted by a different artist.
Up until now Boise probably wasn’t big enough to warrant a comprehensive wayfinding system. As the city grows and more of downtown is being developed (or redeveloped), we’re starting to see the need for more.
This map station at BSU, while a bit older, helps visitors find their way around the constantly growing campus.
Baby steps toward a larger system, we now have two of these beautiful orientation map stations downtown. This one on 8th St. has severe placement problems (and is the only one in the core downtown area), but the other in BoDo is more useful.
This map of the Waterfront District shows built areas as well as lots under development. Once completed the Waterfront District will be home to mixed use and plenty of live/work facilities, as well as a new rafting park on the river behind.
More complete programs can be found at the hospitals, university and public parking facilities. Downtown Boise could definitely use more directional signage to be used in conjunction with the current wayfinder maps.
That’s it for our tour around Boise, I hope you enjoyed it! As you can see there is some great creative here, and as the art of EGD starts to catch on I look forward to even more.
Have you visited or do you live in a city that has some great environmental design? If so we’d love to have you shoot some photos and contribute a post about your city! Write to contribute [at] arrowsandicons.com for more information.