Putting COTA on the map

By Lori Ohlmann, Senior Vice President, Account Services


If you’ve ever been asked to give directions to a wayward motorist attempting to navigate the area, you know it’s not always as simple as it seems. “Let’s see … go two blocks north (or is that west?) then make a right at the fork in the road (but isn’t that bridge still out?)”… and so it goes. Imagine, then, needing to direct the movement of tens of thousands of people … every single day.


That was the challenge faced by COTA (the Central Ohio Transit Authority), The Lakatos Group, Ltd., and P/O/N as work began on the renovation of the transit agency’s “wayfinder system.” In layspeak, that means the maps, timetables, shelters and assorted signage that assist riders in getting from point A to B within Franklin County (Columbus).


The process began with a strategic look at how similar transit authorities around the country approached the centerpiece of all collateral pieces – the system map. From Portland to Chicago to San Francisco, the COTA specialists and P/O/N design team scrutinized maps and the different design strategies employed. Using specialized map-making software and GPS-based geographic data files our artists began crafting the model for COTA’s new map design. Road by road, river by river, route by route, the map began to take shape.


The layout of the map was based around a highly intuitive palette of icons, line art and color coding to create a visual device that was both easy to read and easy to understand.  It is also employed a secondary guide to common points of interest, such as colleges, employers, shopping centers, healthcare facilities and museums. As a result the map steers COTA and its riders in the right direction – and to popular destinations.


A phase two adjunct to the process is the design of collateral and dimensional materials that tie in to the wayfinder system. Coded signage for bus stops and shelters that meets ADA standards, OSU signage and website tie-ins all fit into the strategy, each playing its role in the dissemination of information to the rider. Taken all together, each piece of the puzzle serves to increase COTA’s visibility, awareness, and ease of use for its riders.


So as COTA embarks on the second half of 2005, everyone looks forward to customer feedback on the new look. At P/O/N, we’re proud to be a part of putting a new and improved COTA on the map – and on the road – because as far as we’re concerned, there is no better job in the world than helping steer our clients to a better tomorrow.

Penny Ohlmann Neimann

The Ohlmann Group has a rich history that began in Dayton, Ohio in 1949, where the agency was founded as Penny and Penny by Bob Penny and his wife Jean. In 1964, Walter Ohlmann joined the firm. Ralph Neiman came on in 1969 and the firm became Penny/Ohlmann/Neiman. In 2011, P/O/N was renamed The Ohlmann Group to better reflect the agency's ongoing evolution and collaborative nature.

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