Metropolitan Homesick Blues

Southampton Stories & Other Stuff

Gateway – Signs of the Times

with 2 comments

Somewhere, on a continuum of approval, lies the prospect of new Gateway Signs for Southampton and Port Elgin.

Those are the installations that greet visitors and locals alike as they drive into either town. It’s all part of a Bruce County signage strategy. Which is all well and good. But, there seems to be a problem. No one can agree on anything. The curse of committee consensus is upon the project. Which is not a surprise.

Consensus is not a creative force. Good design is seldom the end result of approval committees. Public Meetings, Focus Groups and research can provide direction, but, more often then not, they are misinterpreted and their dictums carved in stone. Everyone has a different take on objectives, creative strategy and tactics. A quick reading of all the articles on this subject proves me accurate.

What is even more surprising is that a American Firm is charged with designing for small town Ontario. More surprising is  that the cost of these Gateway Signs is approximated at $40,000 to $50,000. Really! Just looking at some of their proposals shows you how off-base they are.



I have only one question – Are there not creative, competent design houses in Canada? Having worked in the business, I would have to say “Yes!” Why we went across the border for an American interpretation of our County is beyond me. That’s a question for Bruce County Tourism.

Nonetheless, I can’t recall the Port Elgin sign. But, the one for Southampton features a visual of the Imperial Light on Chantry Island and the line – “The Oldest Port on the Bruce Coast.” You can’t turn around in ‘South’ without seeing some replica/picture of that beacon. And so it should be.

The Chantry Island Light

The Chantry Island Light

The lighthouse identifies the town. That place, where the Saugeen flows into Lake Huron, the reference to the harbour, radiates years of historical importance.

It’s a great sign. Relevant, intriguing and instant in its communication. Sure it could stand a little freshening up – or some new reincarnation – but it needs no more than that. Southampton’s Gateway Sign needs no change as far as content is concerned.

Port Elgin faces a bigger challenge. Committees, consensus and politics are bad designers. Yet, there doesn’t seem to be any other way. I wish them luck.

Written by metropolitanhomesickblues

January 21, 2009 at 10:55 PM

2 Responses

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  1. Hi Ed,
    I can’t believe this is actually happening. It’s embarrassing, like you said there’s no shortage of world-class design houses in this province and country. And you can’t throw a rock up in the county without hitting an artist of some sort that lives and breathes and celebrates where they call home. I think there should be a petition to shame the ministry of tourism to rethink at least the use of an american firm. Yikes.

    Lazarus Ioannou

    January 23, 2009 at 2:12 PM

  2. I’m a little late getting to your blog. But did you realize that county council is spending more than $200,000 on this consulting work. That doesn’t include specific signs construction for each community. We could have 10-15 road signs worth $50,000 each. Hmmm…for a total closing in on $1 million. And it’s not that difficult to get to Southampton and Port Elgin from the south. Maybe the money would be better spent on attractions rather than signage.

    Wayne MacDonald

    July 17, 2009 at 3:04 PM

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