Smart Signs – A Need For Smart Cities

Alpana Parida


Signs in India assume you do not need them! Driving back from the Mumbai Airport recently, I took the above pictures of the toll plaza at the Sea Link. The image on the right is the approach – and the one on left is what you see when you reach the booth.

If my driver had not known the toll amount we would have waited an additional 3-4 minutes, finding the money, and waiting for the change. The toll amount is invisible during approach and is written on the blue patch below the toll booth window. You can only see it when you get there. The blue-on-blue toll rates sign renders the numbers harder to read. It is, quite simply, the most inefficient sign system I have seen anywhere in the world.

If you need to change lanes for the International Airport on the Western Express Highway, you can miss the really small signs on the divider to your right, unless you are on the right, to begin with.

Sign systems are a science. Design of a good signage system requires an understanding of the distance and height of sign placement, size of letters, colour of sign, the number of words and letters on the sign, the use of visual mnemonics for readability as well as the exact location of the sign. All these help make signage effective.

The other common Indian malaise is verbosity. “Water Is Scarce, Please Do Not Waste Water” replaced by a graphic of a cross on a tap dripping water would have sufficed. A road safety sign I came across says “WARNING. Work in Progress. Go Slow PWD. Mapusa to Salgaon” Smart cities in India will, hopefully, be smarter than this.
As Published in Hindu Business Line on March 10, 2016.

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