Designing Signage, Kiosk, and Displays
to Attract and Inform the Public 

Latest changes: 2018-05-08: fix bad links / 2020-0-8-11: drop current signs

Links for this page:
W3R®-US and WARO Logos
Route Marker (wayfinding sign, helps you follow a trail)
Gateway Sign (state overview, key to related trails)
Interpretive Sign (overlook sign, describes an event or site)
Guidelines (Standards) for a W3R®-US Interpretive Sign
Frequently-Asked Questions about putting up signs
Kiosk (to provide more information and an interactive experience)
Display Material (for a library or exhibition)

The W3R®-US Logo 

In 2005 the W3R®-US held a signage workshop in conjunction with its Annual Meeting. The logo in use at that time had many letters and small design elements, and many people felt that people traveling at highway speeds along the W3R® would not be able to read it or understand what it represented. Several months later representatives from most of the W3R® states met with the National Park Service's Sign Shop staff at the NPS Harper's Ferry facility to get suggestions for a simpler design. The representatives then designed and the W3R®-US adopted the logo shown at right.

The W3R®-US logo has been registered (with the U.S. Patents and Trademarks Office) as a servicemark. People, companies, and organizations who wish to use this logo must secure a limited license from the W3R®-US for the intended use. Further information is available from the Executive Director of the W3R®-US, who can provide authorized users with graphics files suitable for printing the logo for high-resolution prints and large-scale signs.

The WARO Logo

The National Park Service has a specific shape and format for the logos that it uses to identify the various national historic trails. To avoid confusion with non-NPS literature, signs, sites, and trails these logos are protected by federal law. The WARO logo was developed in 2011 for NPS use. While the National Park Service encourages the appropriate use of this logo by trail partners, the WARO logo may not be used without the written permission of the Trail Administrator.. The small version shown at left here is used with permission of the National Park Service.
--- Lewis and Clark Trail [paragraph on Certified Sites],
--- Santa Fe Trail, and
--- Trail of Tears

Route Markers (Wayfinding Signs, Trail Markers) 

Tourists like to have a series of small route-specific signs to let them know they are still on the right trail and to alert them to important turns and nearby W3R®-related historical sites. For good visibility route markers should be about 12 by 15 inches in size and contain either
  • the W3R®-US logo by itself

  • the logo with an arrow at the bottom to indicate a route turn or

  • the logo and an arrow and a name to indicate a side-path to a nearby site related to the W3R®.

Status and location of route and interpretive signage

Gateway Sgns 

It is helpful to give tourists an overview of the W3R® in the state and to note other nearby related trails. This can be done using a gateway sign that is larger and more elaborate than a route sign. The sign may display a state route-map showing the locations of kiosks, interpretive signs, and major sites near the route that are related to the W3R®.

Interpretive (or Overlook) Signs 

When tourists stop at the site of a major event or building they want to learn more about the historical actions and people. An interpretive sign can provide several paragraphs of information and one or more graphics to supplement the view, brochures, and local guides.

Status and location of route and interpretive signage

The W3R® interpretive signs in Connecticut and New York were designed before there was a W3R®-US sign standard and thus use earlier logos and a smaller font for text.

Below is a small-size graphic of an interpretive sign that conforms to the W3R®-US guidelines (standards) -- see next paragraph..

Guidelines (Standard) for Designing WR-US Interpretive Signs 

Using Powerpoint(SM) we have created a full-size (40" high by 44" wide) interpretive sign that conforms to (and describes) the 2005 W3R®-US sign design standard. To view a full-size sheet (44 by 40 inches) click on
W3R-US Signage Standard [PDF file, 8 MB]

To review the standard it is easier to download and print the
Letter-paper size version [PDF file]
This is the same sign as displayed above as a (smaller) graphic.

To see how large the letters are at full scale download and print the
full-size standard fonts [PDF file]

Specifications: The following are for a 36" high by 48" wide sign. Scale these down for smaller signs.

The Top Band - Identification
The top band height should be 10% of the height of the sign, printed with ink matching Pantone 287 (RGB values = 0, 56,147) Use white ink for the text in this band. For the title use 120-point Arial bold font. To the right of the title place a small W3R®-US logo, and to the right of that in 28-point Arial bold font print the full name of the trail:

Revolutionary Route
National Historic Trail
You might place a logo and the name of the site or park at the left of the title.

The Middle Band - Historical Content
Case A) Signs with little text (50 words) should be focused on a large graphic which can serve as background for the interpretive text. The graphic should have an area of relatively uniform color, over which you can place interpretive text. The print color should contrast strongly with the background for better legibility. Use 80-point Garamond italic font.
Case B) Signs with a lot of text (over 100 words) may use several graphics and develop several themes. The background color for text areas should be light, with dark colored text. Break text into blocks with no more than 250 words on a common topic. Title each blocki using 48-point Times bold italic font. The interpretive text should be in 36-point Times bold italic font, spaced 1.5 lines apart, justified.

The Bottom Band - Notes and Sponsors
If you use a bottom band it should be the same color as the top band, and it may be up to 25% of the height of the sign. You may place here maps showing the W3R® route through the state, and other small graphics and text describing the graphics. This is a good place to put the URL of the W3R®-US, which is WWW.W3R-US.ORG (It should be fully capitalized.) You may also place sponsor logos and names here. Use white ink for the text in this band. Use 28-point Arial bold font for sponsors and 32-point Times bold italic font for descriptions, with multiple lines spaced 1.5 lines apart

Fabrication: Unattended public displays are subject to graffiti, so interpretive signs are often printed on fiberglass panels about an eighth of an inch thick which are then covered with a clear, cut-resistant film.
See also Frequently-Asked Questions about putting up signs

Display Materials 

The following two files provide a layout diagram and 15 pages that maybe printed out and used for a 36" by 72" display. You need not request permission from the W3R®-US to do this, but we would appreciate getting a short photo-report of your display and its effectiveness. The layout diagram refers to a bicorn hat, gorget, and epee that were used in a display in Florida. You will attract more attention if you use some such three-dimensional items (related to France) in the display -- perhaps a modern Eiffel tower and a bottle of wine.
landscape format pages [PDF] (starts with layout diagram)
portrait format pages [PDF]
You should replace the pages that are specific to Florida with pages that show how allied aid during the American Revolution affected your state.

Kiosks and the Web 

Interactive kiosks based on a captive Web site (one that displays only pages posted on the sponsor's site) are the modern alternatives to the earlier interpretive signs that used static text and graphics painted onto boards, baked as enamel on steel plates, and ink-jet printed laminated fiberglass panels.

An interactive kiosk funded by the Delaware Department of Tourism was unveiled in 2006 at the Amtrak Station in Wilmington DE -- a site visited by over a million travellers each year. The kiosk featured information on
      (1) the history of the W3R® in Delaware
      (2) the historic homes still present along the route in 1781
      (3) related heritage tourism sites to visit in Delaware
The kiosk has since been moved to the Pencader Heritage Area Museum in Pencader, Delaware.
Dimensions and details

Craig Johnson (Talisman Interactive) and Kim Burdick (then W3R®-DE chair)
at the kiosk's ribbon-cutting ceremony on July 4, 2006.

Frequently-Asked Questions 

  • Who can design, fabricate, install, and maintain them?
    Answer: Various groups have been involved in these steps.
    Design of an interpretive panel often starts as a W3R® state group drafts text and identifies prospective images for the sign. Final choice of titles, organization of text and images, and other design elements in conformity with W3R®-US, state, or federal guidelines is done in conjunction with a professional design firm, such as
    Phillips-Saddler Creative of Claymont DE.
    Funding may be secured from an organization (such as the SAR, DAR, or local historical society) or from a state department of transportation, tourism, or historic affairs.
    Fabrication is generally done by a firm that has experience in making printed fiberglass panel with park-standard sign-frames, such as
    Pannier Graphics of Gibsonia PA.
    Permits may be required by the city, county, or state to ensure compliance with local signage restrictions on location, size, font size, colors, height above the pavement, support pole, etc.
    Installation is generally done by a local firm, but you should at an early stage consult local officials about signage placement codes. You will need permission from the land-owner to place the signs on the property.
    Maintenance: The land-owner will want to be sure that there is an insurance policy on the sign (in case someone gets hurt on it) for as long as it is in place. Most groups do not have policies with this sort of coverage, so it is best if you can donate the sign to the local parks and recreation or tourism department, which already insures and maintains hundreds of signs.

  • Will signs be erected within the states as part of the development of the trail?
    Answer: Yes. Over a hundred have already been put up. See Installed Signs. At the annual meeting of the W3R®-US in 2006 Steve Elkinton, Program Leader for the National Trails System, encouraged the W3R®-US to continue to develop and place signs along the WARO trail network, since there are many more signage opportunities than the NPS can fund, and local pride in a locally-funded sign often make it more effective than a government-placed sign.

  • Question: Were the RI an CT gateway signs designed by the NPS?
    Answer: No. They were designed by Phillips-Saddler Creative of Claymont DE, using a logo that was developed by a W3R®-US committee based on consultation and recommendations of the National Park Service Sign Shop staff at the NPS Harper's Ferry site. That logo has since been registered with the U.S. Patents and Trademarks Office as a servicemark of the W3R®-US, so any new signs should have a © on that logo. Details of recommended designs for non-NPS route markers, gateway signs, and interpretive signs are discussed above. The NPS is developing its own special logo for the trail (which we hope will make use of elements of the W3R®-US logo) and already has federal signage guidelines -- but only the NPS may use these type fonts and the NPS logo for signage.

  • Question: Are signs similar to these to be put up at state lines for all states on the WARO?
    Answer: Delaware has them at the PA-DE border and one at the DE-MD border. Future border signs should be designed and placed after consultation with the NPS Superintendent for the WARO. I believe that the NPS is unlikely to have a plan for or funding for such signs for several years, so it would be helpful if state highway departments could fabricate, install, and maintain such signs as part of their tourism programs (as was done in DE and RI) -- we hope that they would use the DE-RI-CT signs as a design guide.