What image should be used on light rail signs for Capitol Hill Station?

crow_pictoBeacon Hill’s Othello Station is represented by the noble stag.

Sound Transit is running a survey through mid-April to help determine what imagery should represent Capitol Hill Station, Broadway’s under-construction light rail stop:


Othello Station’s pictogram via Beacon Hill Blog

Sound Transit is developing pictograms for future Link light rail stations. A pictogram is an icon that conveys meaning through its pictorial resemblance of a physical object. Pictograms are used on Sound Transit’s Link light rail station signage and way-finding materials. Paired with station names, they help identify stations and the surrounding neighborhood. Pictograms serve as station identification symbols for non-English customers, primarily those that use a non-Roman based alphabet.

Sound Transit would like to begin the process by getting input from you.

You can take the questionnaire here. It includes interesting queries like this as planners seek to build community descriptions of the areas where upcoming stations are planned:Screen Shot 2014-03-31 at 11.52.06 AM

A Sound Transit rep says the feedback will be just part of a community process to arrive at the final symbol for Capitol Hill’s Broadway stop, UW and beyond. To  be effective, the final symbol must achieve three goals:

Pictograms are intended to be station identification symbols for non-English audiences, primarily those that use a non-Roman based alphabet. To be effective, Sound Transit’s Link light rail station pictograms must meet these requirements:

  • Simple in form, and are an easily recognizable symbol

  • Readable at many scales; including signage, print material, online and mobile devices

  • Are individually distinguishable and read as a family

Capitol Hill Station is currently described as at around 30% complete as construction crews continue to work at building the station’s platforms and light rail facilities. Meanwhile, a separate process to determine developers for housing, retail and community space on Sound Transit-owned land around the station is underway. Capitol Hill Station and the 3.1 mile U-Link extension connecting the downtown transit tunnel through the Hill to Montlake is expected to open in early 2016. No word, yet, on who the lucky winners are who will get to take a walk in one of the completed twin-tunnels as part of a Sound Transit promotion.

Inside Capitol Hill Station (Image: Hewitt Seattle)

Inside Capitol Hill Station (Image: Hewitt Seattle)

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22 thoughts on “What image should be used on light rail signs for Capitol Hill Station?

  1. The current pictograms are a bit tough, since very few neighborhoods have some single thing you could use as the symbol. The dragon one works for ID, as does something like a pictogram of rainier for the rainier beach station –if that is what they use there, I don’t go to the airport frequently enough to remember these.

    aha, if you click the station names in the list on this page you can see the current pictogram: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Central_Link –the mountain one is mount baker. Various birds though.. I don’t see the connection, so it’s a bit confusing. I’d argue a bunch of birds aren’t “individually distinguishable” for anyone who isn’t into birding.

    What about something actually symbolic of the neighborhood. With Capitol Hill it’s tricky, maybe the Cal Anderson fountain or Volunteer Park tower? For University District, a book or something that symbolizes a university without using the UW “W” logo?

    • oh cool, the survey actually does ask for nominations of landmarks. submitted the tower and the fountain.

      also I looked through other stations. SeaTac airport station is.. a rug? Some of these are pretty weird, and I’m sure there’s meaning behind them but it’s not at all obvious.

      • I think it’s supposed to be a flying carpet. Get it? “A whole new world…!” Ugh. Yeah, it would have made a lot more sense (and be far less confusing) if they simply used a jet airliner logo for SeaTac Station. But that’s par for the course of Seattle’s incredibly confusing signage for their stations. How many utterly befuddled tourists have you had to help at Westlake Station? I’ve lost count.

  2. I guess it sort of depends on whether the icon should be informative or simply symbolic. For example, I believe University station is opera glasses for Benaroya Hall. Capitol Hill could then be a beer bottle, mug, guitar, disco ball or something.
    On the other hand, if it’s simply symbolic, I’d go for a icon of a mustache. 1. It’s silly and 2. it sort of hints at the neighborhoods gay history and hipster present. Lot’s of good mustache ride jokes too. :)

  3. I’m not sure whether the Light Fail signage is so terrible as a direct result of the public input process, or whether the terrible signage is merely an independent manifestation of the dithering incompetence which decrees that every governmental decision must be vetted by a committee of the entire population of Seattle, but they surely must be related in some way.

    A local might draw the connection between opera glasses (Benaroya Hall….not actually an opera house, but maybe some people use those glasses at the symphony, I suppose) and University Station, but would a non-local?

    I actually get why Columbia City’s symbol is the dove (“Columbia” is from the Latin for “dove”), but surely they shouldn’t have given another station a bird symbol too? Especially when the connection between Rainier Beach and a stork is none too obvious? If two bird symbols doesn’t violate their principle of distinguishability, why not give Beacon Hill a hill shape slightly different from Mount Baker’s?

    Is there something wrong with a picture of an airplane for SeaTac? Is “cutesy” more important than “informative”?

    Why isn’t Stadium’s symbol a picture of a stadium? When, for once, the station is named for an object that CAN BE LITERALLY DEPICTED (as opposed to, e.g., Tukwila), why go abstract?

    I think the Capitol Hill symbol should be the Albanian flag, it would be just as relevant to the name/location of the station and just as useful to potential passengers as most of the other symbols used, and the Albanian flag kind of kicks ass.

  4. any body know how much the survey costs and how much the signage will cost? Seems like a lot of trouble for the relatively few riders that can’t read Roman-based alphabets.

  5. So my snarky side suggests these:
    1. A collage of a broken beer bottle, a used condom and a used syringe.
    2. A shopping cart overflowing with a bunch of crap
    3. The silhouette of an apodment building that is too tall for the house it’s next to
    4. A graffiti-covered pump house at Cal Anderson Park

  6. I hope everyone commenting here actually has filled out the survey. I just did (before reading the comments). Overall, I think they have to get very specific and playful with most of these as if the light rail expands, it will mean even more neighborhoods needing pictograms. It was really hard to come up with something for the U District. But for Capitol Hill, I went for disco ball (with Cal Anderson fountain as a backup). Volunteer Park water tower is a thing, but I think the shape isn’t that distinctive. Overall disco ball has a modern and vintage appeal, and is inclusive of lgbt but also appeals to all, or is at least recognizable.

    The hardest one was Roosevelt. I mean how do you communicate yuppie trash in an icon? Maybe a picture of an $11 cashew juice from Whole Foods Roosevelt?

    • This is absurd. How will somebody who doesn’t know Capitol Hill know the shape of the water tower? Why would somebody automatically associate a disco ball w/ CapHill if they hadn’t already partied there before?

      The point of pictograms is also to help a lot of people WHO DON’T ALREADY KNOW WHERE THEY”RE GOING. This whole project is missing the point of easy-ID while it strives for cutesy.

      Chinese arch for Intl District
      Airplane for SeaTac
      Capitol Dome for Capitol Hill
      Baseball, football, soccer balls for Stadiums
      Lighthouse for Beacon Hill