Connect with us

Mark Kissling

These 4 Men Make 20,000 Signs for Chicago’s Transportation System Every Year

The crew manager shares the keys to creating wayfinding signage in the Windy City.

mm

Published

on

Members of CTA’s signage department (left to right): Nathaniel Matos, environmental graphic designer; Victor A. Ramirez, manager, signage & wayfinding; Michal Wyka, environmental graphic designer; Antonio Buccini, graphics production coordinator. Members of CTA’s signage department (left to right): Nathaniel Matos, environmental graphic designer; Victor A. Ramirez, manager, signage & wayfinding; Michal Wyka, environmental graphic designer; Antonio Buccini, graphics production coordinator.

THE CHICAGO TRANSIT Authority (CTA) operates the nation’s second largest public transportation system and covers the City of Chicago and 35 surrounding suburbs, according to CTA’s website. On an average weekday, approximately 1.6 million bus and train rides are taken on the CTA. All those riders need signs to know where they’re going. Enter Victor Ramirez, manager, signage & wayfinding for CTA and his team.

“Our department supervises the planning, development and installation of rail station and bus information signage system-wide,” Ramirez said. He and his team — one of the few full-service shops located inside a transit agency in the US — are constantly designing new environmental graphics and signage with the understanding of clear wayfinding elements, which he said requires strong conceptual thought processes and the ability to quickly generate several design concepts that can be developed into practical design solutions.

Each year, the department generates approximately 20,000 signs and decals. “This past year with COVID-19, our department produced about 5,000 signs ranging from floor decals to wall-mounted signs with safe-distance practices,” Ramirez said, adding that the department cranked out those COVID signs in about one very busy month.

His team must ensure they have enough media in stock to print any emergency print job, while “hoping that the printheads are not clogged or need replacement and that I have enough ink on hand for each printer,” he said. At times in the past CTA’s internal network has gone down or the department’s PC has crashed with their only copy of ONYX Thrive. “We have learned our lesson and now stock extra printheads, ink, vinyls and have Onyx installed on a second PC,” Ramirez said.

He offered this advice for sign companies looking to enter the market for transportation signs: “First, understand the local DOT requirements for signage in your city or municipality,” Ramirez said. “Everybody has differences on sizes, wording, materials.” For the signs themselves, he suggested companies test reflective vinyls from 3M, ORAFOL, Sihl and others to see what works for them. “Test inks to see if solvent, latex or silk screening would be cost effective, produce a great looking result and save time,” Ramirez said.

And you can check out some of his department’s work on television and in movies. Many of their signs can be seen in films such as Mercury Rising, Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice and this past summer’s Candyman, as well as NBC’s weeknight dramas, Chicago Med, Chicago Fire and Chicago P.d. “It’s so much fun to work with the PR and marketing divisions [of] these movies and television shows,” Ramirez said. “Every week, my daughters ask if I personally designed and fabricated that sign in the background. It’s a fun job, fun department and fun company to work at.”

Advertisement

Mark Kissling is ST’s Editor-in-Chief. Contact him at [email protected]

Advertisement

SPONSORED VIDEO

New Golf Course Graphic Installations With Mactac

Visual communication is essential to a successful business. 2020 required restaurants to pivot from promotional graphics to safety and spacing graphics. Now that restaurants are reopening, it's time to make necessary signage updates and Mactac is here to help. Before you even enter a building, there are thousands of opportunities to welcome and inform your patrons. Whether that is with window graphics, sidewalk graphics, or building wall signage. Stick with us as we walk through the endless opportunities and which Mactac products can help you achieve the goal.

Promoted Headlines

Most Popular