NACTO Graphics

NACTO Graphics
Posted by on December 26, 2013
Posted in: creative community, graphic design, inspiration, transportation

In recent years, the National Association of City Transportation Officials (a.k.a., NACTO) has been making its mark on urban planning with its thorough, well-organized and innovative design guides. The Urban Bikeway Design Guide was first released in 2011, and covers design considerations for bike lanes, cycle tracks, intersections, signals, signage, and bicycle boulevards. And, just a few months ago, the Urban Street Design Guide came out, delineating a coherent vision for 21st-century urban streets. Each guide has its own graphic style, but both reinforce design principles with strikingly simple and effective Sketchup-based illustrations. The graphics contain just enough detail to give a comprehensive sense of the issues at play without indulging in virtual realism or distracting visual bling. The color palettes are minimal, allowing the most important elements to stand out, and leaving the context sketchy and generic. These graphics are then supported by photographs of case study projects that lend authenticity and credibility to the principles.

The guides are freely available on NACTO’s website, which is itself an example of excellent design. The interface is straightforward, the navigation is well-organized, and images and text work together to richly communicate the information. I find the presentation very appealing, and as a whole it makes a strong case for safer, vibrant and more diverse urban transportation infrastructure. (You can also buy the guides in print.)

I highly recommend perusing the UBDG and the USDG. For now, here is a selection of choice bits:

For the Urban Street Design Guide, Frances Hsia uses a moderate level of detail and a minimal color palette to create rich diagrams that highlight key elements. Here we see a strategy for the intersection of major and minor streets that prioritizes safety and street life.

See all that goes into a safe and comfortable pedestrian crossing of a major street.

Sidewalk zones (L-R): frontage zone, through zone, street furniture zone, and an enhancement zone that could include a bike lane, parklet, stormwater or other feature.

A more process-intensive approach was used to produce the graphics for the Urban Bikeways Design Guide.

The addition of texture draws attention to the road and sidewalk surfaces. The bright street markings stand out against the grays.

While 2d people provide context, people on bikes (the subject of the guide) are 3d. Buildings are rendered as simply as possible.

About Ady

Adrienne Leverette is lead illustrator at Fat Pencil Studio. Read more