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NATIONAL ZOOLOGICAL PARK   /   WASHINGTON, DC

THE TRAILS
THE CONCEPT
THE SYMBOL
Map and plan of the Zoo's terrain with main artery 
  		identified in red
The Zoo Master Plan showing our proposed main artery from which each trail would start and end. This artery was named Olmsted Walk honoring the Park's original designer.
Retained in 1973 to create a new Way-finding System for the new Master Plan developed for the National Zoo. The 163 acre Park was being upgraded to provide more natural habitats for the animals. The original way-finding signage submitted by the Architects was rejected by the Zoo and the Fine Arts Commission.

Working with the Zoo Director, The Fine Arts Commission and the Architect, our new concept focused on establishing a major walkway thru the Zoo from which a series of individual trails would take the visitor past all the major animal exhibits in the Park.

This design approach allowed the Zoo experience to be segmented into a series of family visits rather than the exhaustive “Do it all at once” option.
Old signage for the Zoo that was replaced Image of bald eagle The main Zoo symbol featuring an eagle feeding a young chick
A symbol developed for the Zoo combined the Eagle and its chick representing the Zoo’s mission: “the continuation of the species.”
Existing signage at the Zoo was varied, disorganized, inconsistent and numbered in the hundreds.
THE TOTEMS
Map of the Olmstead walk
Dedicating the main artery as Olmsted Walk, six trails were plotted to cover specific areas and animals. This gave the visitor 6 options to visit the Zoo. Each Trail started and ended back on Olmsted Walk and would be identified by Totems with animal pictograms.
Children looking up at a totem
The notion to identify trails with TOTEM like structures provided a base for color coded visual information relative to the features of that trail. A major symbol identified each of the 6 Trails - CRANE, ZEBRA, ELEPHANT, POLAR BEAR, LION and DUCK.
To identify the 6 Trails, 12 TOTEMS were placed on Olmsted Walk to mark the entry to specific trails. Pictograms provided non-verbal information of the animals featured on that Trail.
THE PICTOGRAMS
Image of a zebra's head Symbol of a zebra's head
Thirty six pictograms of featured animals are utilized on a variety of items including Totems, Maps, Posters and other Merchandise.
Female child looking at a totem display
The lower TOTEM panels displayed information on the animals on that Trail, a Trail Map, Services on the Trail and the Trailblazer symbol.
Mechanical drawing of how the totems were to be constructed
Click to enlarge
Poster of all the Zoo symbols featuring different animals
The upper portion of the TOTEM displays pictograms of animal exhibits along that trail.
Map inside one of the totem squares
The Trail information panel included a Trailblazer pictogram, the name of the Trail, the animals on that trail, the length of the trail and the estimated time to walk it.
Six different totems with a 
	sillouette of a mother and child in front
Six color coded TOTEMS mark the beginning of each Trail. Two of each were produced to mark the the Trails beginning or end.
A woman looking at a totem
A full scale foam-core mock-up of the TOTEM structure was evaluated in Central Park.
Modular precast TOTEM assembly drawing.
THE TRAILBLAZERS
bird tracks in the sand
Noting the impressions left in soft concrete triggered the idea for Trail markers.
Taking a hint from nature, the Trailblazer pictograms were then developed for each featured Trail animal.
Symbo of a paw print
The Lion Trail trailblazer.
footprints of various animals beneath their respective symbols
Trailblazers were designed for each of the 6 featured
Trail animals based on their paw prints.
People walking over a trail with colored paw prints on it
Trailblazers are spaced along each Trail pathway and lead visitors to the specific animal exhibits and back to the main artery, Olmsted Walk.
THE DIRECTORIES
Map of the Zoo trails and directory
Six free-standing Directory Maps were located at the ZOO’s two entrances and at four strategic points within the ZOO.
A series of buttons featuring the different animal symbols
THE DIRECTORIES
Map of the Zoo trails and directory
Six free-standing Directory Maps were located at the ZOO’s two entrances and at four strategic points within the ZOO.
A series of buttons featuring the different animal symbols
Pictograms were implemented on a variety of items including posters, banners buttons, jewelry, including a variety of food service items.
Map of the zoo trails
Color-coded Directory Maps (porcelain enamel on steel) use Pictograms and Trailblazers to minimize text and encourage their use by children.
Trash bin with symbos on the side of it
The re-designed trash receptacles (150) served a dual-purpose, displaying directionals for all related services available throughout the ZOO.
Symbols for various services, such as bathrooms and telephones
The Service Symbols for directions, restrooms, telephone and food service.
THE TYPOGRAPHY
Entrance letters and symbol together A to Z image of the font developed for the Zoo project Entrace sign and Zoo font in stone
A scale model of the proposed
ZOO’s entrance sign.
The precast ZOO entrance sign with transparent insert panels.
A custom font, based on the geometry of the TOTEM design was developed for all of the ZOO’s text applications.
CONCLUSION
“The final Way-finding System for the National Zoo was accomplished with 2 Entry Signs, 6 Directory Maps and 12 Totems.
Supported by Trailblazers and Service Symbols, this system replaced hundreds of signs that had littered the landscape before.”