Mayor Elizabeth Tisdahl claimed this week that the entrances to Evanston don’t look very inviting.

The “Evanston – Founded 1863” monolith at Green Bay and Isabella, surrounded by other signs.

Mayor Elizabeth Tisdahl confessed this week that the entrances to Evanston don’t look very inviting.

In the midst of a discussion about how to celebrate the city’s upcoming 150th anniversary, City Manager Wally Bobkiewicz had just suggested adding an anniversary logo to the brick monoliths at some entrances to town.

That’s when the mayor said that when a professional video team was trying to create a promotional video for the city, “finding a welcoming entrance was extremely difficult.”

The mayor said as soon as people hit the welcome sign they’re also faced with an array of warnings — “don’t use cell phones, not a truck route, all those things you can’t do.”

“Maybe putting all the ‘you can’t do’ signs a little further away would be a good thing,” the mayor suggested.

Could she be right?

Evanston Now headed to the intersection of Green Bay Road and Isabella Street, where Evanston meets Wilmette.

We looked north and saw the welcome sign for Wilmette, and noted that other than a “Tree City USA” sign and some no-parking signs, nothing else cluttered the northbound driver’s view for a block or more.

Then we turned south and checked for signs in the first block in Evanston. Here’s some of what we saw.

So, that’s the picture. We invite your comments on what — if anything — Evanston should do about it.

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

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  1. Signs in evanston

    At last- someone has noticed this plethora of signs infesting every corner in Evanston.  Without averting my gaze in any direction but straight ahead, I see 13 signs on my 4 corner residential intersection of Ashland and Davis.

    Welcome to Evanston. City of Signs.

  2. When is she going to worry about the empty business locations?

    While I agree that this should be on the list of things to worry about. Any good CEO, Business Leader, or Mayor should learn to prioritize. First things First…. we could spend more money we don't have to have beautiful signs and then downtown end up a ghost town, so the 'thank you for visiting' signs would be seen more. This is getting a bit ridiculous, she worries about this, about making pot legal, and not about the real issues. Empty store fronts = less taxes = the city is broke!

  3. Wayfinding and streetscape

    This is part of whats called wayfinding and is part of sound economic development planning.  Communities that develop strong wayfinding and streetscape plans that bring a distinctive coordinated look to their physical visuals tend to draw more business development and customers. 

    Those communities have "branded" their identity in such a way that gives them a readily identifiable sense of place and destination.  Business is attracted to those type of communities because they realize those efforts help draw visitors (customers) and other like minded companies.  

    Communities that do this the best tend to have strong identities as recreation or vacation destination spots.  Others do it to define themselves as business/research centers, others for cultural identities.  The end "message" varies but the results are always based on sound economic development.

    In the end, the successful communities almost always have a strong visual asthetic coordinating look and color to their signage and streetscape.  They have established an identity that people who may have never even visited there have a defined sense of what they can expect there.   

    They mayor is correct in saying we have visual blight.  Drive west to east on Church st. and you will see a dozen different types of signs, different colors, shapes, logos.  This visual blight hurts us in subtle but costly ways.  Fewer business attracted, fewer jobs created, fewer customers visiting, and less tax revenue generated for the community.  Mayor, lets get that changed.

  4. I totally agree go for it Mayor!

    You would hardly know you were in Evanston when you enter the city on Church St. There is a huge open space, we'll call it "park land" right after you cross the river. It would be the perfect place for a nice sign and landscaping similar to the Wilmette sign you have pictured above. Evanston looks more like Chicago when you enter, nothing but sign pollution, faded signs and even out dated junky metal signs.

    Go for it Mayor!

  5. Signs, signs

    "Signs"  – 1971

    Whoa, sign, sign.
    Everywhere a sign.
    Blockin' out the scen'ry.
    Breakin' my mind.
    Do this. Don't do that.
    Can't you read the sign?

  6. Yes! Too much signage

    I agree wholeheartedly with Mayor Tisdahl.  The visual impact of our City is a mess.  It looks haphazard because it is haphazard.  It is in need of an overhaul – both the City's own signage (way too many signs!) and the private business signs.  I know that we have sign regulations, but I think that either they are not appropriately restrictive or they are being ignored entirely.  Dulxer tiire on Green Bay is an example of too much signage for a small lot.  They have signage on their wall – and a very large freestanding sign.  There are other businesses too that need to bring the scale of the signage down to a more pedestrian level.  The City's signage – as beautifully captured in the EvanstonNow photo above – is over the top.  There are so many signs that you don't see any of them anymore.  As a result, they have not only become a visual eyesore, they are now almost meaningless.   It is obviously out of hand.

    We are not unique in this over-signed situation.  No need to reinvent the wheel as there must be other towns in this country that do it better!  City staff should research options.  I am proud of the Mayor for stepping back and calling attention to this visual clutter.

  7. Signs are….

    Our Traffic Division's answer to every issue. Put up a sign so they can point at it and talk about how they are fixing issues residents are having with scofflaws. Laws, signs and no enforcement…. that is Evanston.

  8. My favorite combo..

    My favorite combination is in the last photograph.

    "Welcome to Evanston!"


    "Please call 311 for more information!"

    Who came up with that brilliant idea to put the two right next to one another?

  9. South Side

    The prettiest entrance into Evanston is on the south side on Ridge Avenue, especially in the spring and summer with the tree arches.  Did the videographer sight any southern entrances or is only the north side participating in the anniversary?

  10. We have lots of excess funds

    We have lots of excess funds for the council to dribble out wherever they wish — to developers, for TIFs, for public art.  Why not spend some more needlessly?

  11. sign pollution – the Europeans have some ideas

    RE – the mayor's remarks about signage overload, the more signs there are, the less people pay attention to them, so then they are made bigger, more colorful, brighter. People take that in stride and ignore the new signs like they did the old ones.

    I've been going to the Dominick's on GBR for years and only the other day noticed the Evanston city sign. I had always assumed it was a Dominick's sign, so never really looked at it.

    Those Europeans, always thinking about pollution, have come up with ideas on sign pollution. I've read of studies that show that traffic sign removal actually improves urban road safety in addition to reducing the visual blight.

    BTW and just a tad off topic – doesn't Evanston have an ordinance prohibiting business signs with flashing lights?

  12. It is simple, take the

    It is simple, take the signage design out of the hands of traffic engineers and place it with visual designers.

  13. Purpose of signs ?

    This reminds me of years ago I was with a friend who made a left turn with a green light [at Kimball and Lawrence in Chicago as I recall].  Immediately a policeman [who was sitting at the side street] pulled him over and gave him a ticket.

    We then checked and yes there was a 'No Left Turn' sign but in the middle of a number of other signs and not only easy to miss but seemingly designed to be missed.  Later that night I mentioned it at a bar [on Howard no less] and two people there had the same story for the same spot.  My friend went to the police station two days later and three people in line were ticketed for exactly the same place and violation.  I mentioned this to several people and they or people they knew had the same experience.

    Clearly Chicago wanted to raise money and knew the problem but it was too lucrative so fix.  Does Evanston do the same ?

    More important does the sign pollution cause important notices to be missed because of clutter or because people know there are un-important signs at a location and stop paying attention—thus leading to accidents.

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