Residents Baffled and Worried

What's New with the Big Ugly RI Thing and Real Signs?

Updated 1 year ago David Stone

Worried that Hudson Partner David Kramer's hearty endorsement ("It's lovely" rhymes with Big Ugly) of the 8-foot tall RI Helvetica fonts his company and RIOC underwhelmed us with, just two short weeks ago, meant there was a chance they might become permanent fixtures here, residents appealed to anyone who might listen for any kind of help in banding together a resistance. 

Faux Cyrillic sign alerting new arrivals that they have arrived in Russia.
Faux Cyrillic sign alerting new arrivals that they have arrived in Russia.
Photo courtesy Roosevelt Island Historical Society

"Doesn't it look like something an Eighth Grade graphic arts student could put together in about five minutes?" one resident asked a retired public school teacher.

Okay, I admit it. It was me.

"Yeah," he answered with a laugh.

I was being gentle. It actually looked like the kind of thing I'd scrap together on a bus ride to school after I'd been too busy having teenage fun and needed to come up with homework.

My teacher friend, bless his heart, laughed at that too, and then we both agreed that it wouldn't get a passing grade because it totally lacked any evidence of creativity or originality.

I mean, come on. 8-foot tall Helvetica fonts? Genius!

Not quite. And all the pros could come up with for color is the standard Roosevelt Island red that's been around for as long as most of us have been here? 

(Even the Roosevelt Island Bridge, before the State did what imagination bereft bureaucrats do - that is, screw up - was a brilliant RI red, not a weird plum color. Note to DOT: This is not Plum Island.)

Note to David Kramer: Fire the designer. Get your money back. Also, if you've got an hour, can I take you over to MOMA and show you what "lovely" looks like?

About the Reverse Thing

Historian Judy Berdy appealed to Rebecca Seawright for support. The State Assembly Member diplomatically waded in. According to staffer Audrey Tannen, Seawright was assured that "nothing has been finalized."

Did you hear that sigh of relief?

RIOC's Erica Spencer-El explained that the reason for putting the proposed sign up was to get community feedback-which they have received and heard regarding both the placement of the sign and the design (particularly that “RI” in one direction becomes “IR” in another.)

That's troubling. RI in one direction is not IR in the other. It's IЯ, the reverse R being what Wikipedia calls Faux Cyrillic "used to invoke the Soviet Union or Russia." 

Challenging community gullibility, a RIOC specialty, Spencer-El explained to Seawright that at present,  RIOC’s primary objective is the “way finder” sign."

A primary objective that's been around for a couple of decades is no longer a primary objective. It'a flop.

Yet Another Alternative

Wayfinding Signage in Brooklyn Bridge Park. Why can't RIOC figure this out?
Wayfinding Signage in Brooklyn Bridge Park. Why can't RIOC figure this out?
Photo Courtesy of Judy Berdy

While RIOC has not responded to any of our previous helpful suggestions, Judy Berdy, also eager to help, has offered a second suggestion of her own, which you can see above.

The fingerboard direction sign she photographed in Brooklyn Bridge Park, which, it's worth noting, is twenty years younger than RIOC, is simple, direct and cheap.

We will leave you to wonder, maybe scratch your head, over why in all these years and after so many appeals, RIOC hasn't been able to do this much for the community's businesses and historic sites, yet still had time to collaborate on the Big Ugly.

We don't know.

Never having been able to figure it out, I'll just be happy if we never see the big red RI again. When I'm working, I can't even stand to use that typeface anymore. It makes me feel cheap and unimaginative.

Like the "icon."


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