Growing up in Miami was an interesting experience. The reason why I use the word “interesting” is because I feel like that sums up all of the things it turned out to be for me. I used to hate living there, and when I was able to escape and get away to college, I didn’t care much for going home to visit. Over the years, my love and appreciation for my roots has grown, and I look forward to going home.
One of the things that always sticks out to me now when I visit is the copious amounts of signage along the streets. The air space is stacked with it. In fact, it’s hard to drive down U.S. 1 in a timely manner because you want to stare at all of it, as to not miss anything! There’s something nostalgic about it all. I love it, but I wonder what Miami would look like if there wasn’t all of those signs, block after block.
That leads me to these questions: How much signage is too much? Are there laws in other countries prohibiting the overuse of signage? What would it feel like to visit a large, metropolitan city that had no signage?
That second and third question can be answered if you take a trip to Sao Paulo, Brazil. In 2007, the Mayor had a ban passed on all outdoor advertising, mainly targeting large billboards, flashy signs and even advertisements on the sides of public transportation. It sounds crazy, but he managed to pull it off with much influential support, despite the massive opposition from the advertising companies. Gilberto Kassab saw his city as one big, polluted mess. This ban was part of the efforts to create a less-polluted community and lower the crime rate. You’d think it would be really weird to walk around a huge city with plain buildings and no color, but according to this article from ADBUSTERS, more than 70 percent of the population approve of the decision. They see it as a step towards a better community.
The signage was so heavy in some areas that the majority of the population had no idea that certain neighborhoods even existed. In the article, a man named Vinivius Galveo was asked what the city looked like before the ban took place, and he answered with this:
São Paulo’s a very vertical city. That makes it very frenetic. You couldn’t even realize the architecture of the old buildings, because all the buildings, all the houses were just covered with billboards and logos and propaganda. And there was no criteria.
And now it’s amazing. They uncovered a lot of problems the city had that we never realized. For example, there are some favelas, which are the shantytowns. I wrote a big story in my newspaper today that in a lot of parts of the city we never realized there was a big shantytown. People were shocked because they never saw that before, just because there were a lot of billboards covering the area.
I personally think that that is an extreme measure that should be taken in extreme cases. In Sao Paulo’s case, it was. Signage, however, is important and can be very helpful, when used tastefully and correctly. Businesses thrive off of their advertisement, and store signs, banners and billboards are still the main way to go, even in our technologically-growing culture.
But the first question still remains. How much is too much?
What do you think?