A place to indulge an affliction

Beavers and Blossoms: A Design Safari


Cherry blossoms sunrise photo trek by the Tidal Basin (April 1, 2010)

Cherry blossoms sunrise photo trek by the Tidal Basin (April 1, 2010)

This is my favorite time of the year in the D.C. area and I took the opportunity during this morning’s sunrise photo trek at the Tidal Basin to also complete the design safari assignment. One of the first signs that interested me was this one, reminding visitors not to climb the trees or pick the blooms:Image

The first question that crossed my mind was, “What’s a beaver go to do with cherry blossoms/cherry trees?” I didn’t think the National Park Service (NPS) would randomly choose the beaver as a mascot, so as soon as I got to the office, I did a Google search. I soon learned that in the late 1990s, beavers killed several cherry trees at the Tidal Basin by gnawing on the trunks. I also learned about Paddles the Beaver, official mascot of the Cherry Blossom Festival. Despite this new information, I was still not impressed by the design of the sign. It fails in its attempt to use Symbols/Metaphor. A cute, cartoony beaver was not going to deter someone from picking the blooms or climbing the trees. And if one was not aware of the history of beavers at the Tidal Basin, the choice of animal would seem odd. I think the sign would be more effective if it showed a beaver gnawing on a cherry tree with a red diagonal slash across it and in text,“Don’t be a beaver. Do not destroy the Tidal Basin cherry trees by climbing them or picking the blooms.”

I made a mock up of this sign idea below, using ClipArt and a Google Image search for “beaver gnaw cherry tree.”:

A better sign for the Tidal Basin?

A better sign for the Tidal Basin?

During the photo trek, I saw another (beaver-less) sign requesting visitors to assist with preserving the cherry trees:

HELP US preserve these cherry trees

HELP US preserve these cherry trees

This sign employs great use of typography, exemplified by the capitalized “HELP US” text. That’s how I first noticed the sign. The bulleted details succintly convey the information. Unfortunately, the sign is posted low to the ground and not noticeable by visitors who are looking up and about admiring the cherry blossoms.

Placement of the "HELP US preserve these cherry blossoms" sign (April 10, 2014)

Placement of the “HELP US preserve these cherry blossoms” sign (April 10, 2014)

In any case, enjoy these cherry blossoms:

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3 thoughts on “Beavers and Blossoms: A Design Safari

  1. Oh those blossoms look amazing! I totally understand the attraction to be out there with the camera.

    These are great examples and I like seeing how you are finding elements, plus the research into the beaver makes a case for not using metaphors without context. The first beaver sign also uses the shape of the sign to suggest the “STOP” sign. The use of a san-serif font makes it readable, but does not really grab your attention.

    You are right that the second one is better visually designed, more elegant. Note too that the headlines uses a serif font, and the text a sans-serif one, that is typical design advice.

    To me a design problem here is that the important message is delivered in text-and a fair amount of text for a sign. D.C. is frequented by millions of people who do not necessarily read in English. These signs would have no meaning. But your re-design (which I really am liking seeing as it was not even part of the assignment) gets at more of a recognizable graphical representation of the message.

    Those pesky beavers….

  2. Pingback: Week 4 Summary | chronicwnderlst

  3. I have to agree with you both! That beaver sign seems too “Cartoonish” to me and not very influential. It almost seems like it would be found at something like a children’s daycare or playground! @chonicwndlst, great job noticing this! The font is not persuading enough and although you did the research behind why its a beaver holding the sign, not everyone will look that up, so they may see the beaver and just completely ignore it. Your use of the universally accepted “PROHIBITED” red overlay was a smart alternative!

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