Adrienne Leverette is a principal at Fat Pencil Studio.
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: