The Thinking Behind the Parking Sign Redesign

Nikki Sylianteng
Aug 1, 2018 · 3 min read

In 2015, I presented my parking sign redesign project at Brooklyn JS. Around that time, I felt there was too much focus on the visuals. In this talk, I clarified that how it looked was more of a result of how it worked.

Although this is a story about redesigning parking signs, it’s not that different from coding — you inherit crap, have to fix it, then commit it to code.
In 2010, I was living in LA and this is what parking looked like. You have to circle around the block waiting for a space to open up, slowing down while a line of cars forms behind you. Then once you find a spot, you park, get down, and just to make sure you can really park there…
…you have to deal with this (left): Rules stated in no apparent order, leaving you with a nagging feeling that you read it wrong. How do you know for sure? Whether or not you get hit with a $75 parking ticket. I thought this was ridiculous. I didn’t understand why signs had to be so complicated when I only had 2 questions on my mind: Can I park here? For how long? There had to be a better way. The result was the sign on the right that clearly lays out when you can and can’t park.
I prototyped the sign outside my apartment to find out if it made sense to other people. I printed it out, laminated it with packaging tape, and left a feedback box on the bottom. Then I waited.
The comments came in after three days.
Once I knew the concept made sense, I wondered about edge cases. I opened it up to the public by creating a landing page and blog and invited people to follow along.
A man named Nathaniel Borenstein emailed me about how frustrating my signs were for colorblind people like him. This was exactly the type of feedback I was looking for.
This is how the sign started to evolve.
An audience submission and its redesign.
An audience submission and its redesign.
But the parking signs are more than what they look like. What makes it so effective is how they work.
Currently, city officials assigning individual rules but the onus of interpretation is on the driver. The new signs flip that on its head by shifting that responsibility to the officials where it should be.
Current signs provide no structure and encourage thoughtless stacking each time rules change. The new signs force a full replacement ensuring the sign stays as clear through multiple rule changes.
In some cases, in order to keep the signs simple, I’ve had to simplify the rules. In the above example, I marked 8–10am on all Mondays as No Parking instead of just the 2nd and 4th.
A good point from a former NYC parking judge

So far, cities have been very receptive.

Vancouver, BC
Sydney, Australia
Brisbane, Australia
…and finally the unveiling in Los Angeles.

Let me end by with the news coverage of the unveiling.

Thank you! You can follow the project at

Nikki Sylianteng

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Working on the small things that get to the heart of big problems.