Plates   Street signs  

The making of the Moscow street signs

Overview   Process  

After the first demonstration we begin careful development of the signs. Searching for proportions and the layout.

It’s difficult to see on screen. Assembling a pole mock-up right at the studio. Looking for sizes and proportions by holding sign variants to the pole. Long direction arrows don’t work either practically or aesthetically. Experts in advertising equipment join in, consulting us on wind loads on signs and peculiarities of their installation.

Defining the task more exactly. We need each sign to have the name of the object in two languages, additional object icons, walking distances and a direction arrow.

Typesetting different types of signs with names of various length.

Trying it out in the city.

Adjusting the size and proportions. Presenting.

Getting another portion of comments from the experts, increasing the height of the signs. Presenting again.

Meanwhile the task is being transformed. The city plans to start with navigation to public and tourist objects (theaters, parks, museums, stadiums, police stations, medical facilities, universities, schools, etc.) and introduce transport navigation and street location signs later. The signs also must include the address of the object. Adding the address. Aligning the text block and the arrow along the top edge of the sign. Keeping in mind transport signs which will be introduced later.

Typesetting the variants, deciding on type size for names of different length.

Our main task is to produce a universal template which would allow to easily create any sign in the future. The signs will have names of city objects and organizations, among them there are lots of government organizations with extremely long names. The common sense tells us that such names have to be abbreviated: we need to cut out forms of ownership, use well-known acronyms, remove the word “Moscow” from the names. For example, like this.

However, while it is easy to derive “Lomonosov Moscow State University” from the official name, it is quite unclear what to do with something like “State Educational Institution of the City of Moscow ’Griboyedov Gimnasium No. 1529.’” Do we keep Griboyedov in? Do we call it a school or a gymnasium? We need a fixed set of rules to cut out any doubts. Analyzing the names, finding consistent patterns and assembling the examples into a guide on abbreviating official names.


The navigation system must have a set of pictograms. Considering what icons we will need and drawing the first drafts.

All right, it seems we’ve overdone the legs on the bus.


Artistic director: The eagle looks Polish and the icons overall lack the Russian spirit. What’s that gendarme doing there?

Is it because of his shoulder belts?

Our guys definitely don’t wear belts like these. The caps they have are also different.

The eagles.

More Russian spirit. Ikarus bus and a slightly different train.

No, they all lack the familiar traits. Where is the VL locomotive? Or the Riga one, at least? And it’s been at least ten years since anyone saw an Ikarus on the street. Drawing a long-haul bus because this pictogram will most likely be used solely for intercity bus terminals.

Also, the globe in the set looks too complex, we need to calm it down.

All right, all together now.

In Moscow such monuments and memorials can only be seen in cemeteries. Maybe use a different image?

We can remove the arm and it will be a generic monument. Or we can make it in the shape of a male toilet pictogram? Would be a great monument by the way, we need to think about that :-)

We don’t have firehouse shields in Russia, it definitely came from the US. Maybe a fire truck then?

No. A helmet, fire, a fireman with a hose...

The axes are OK. Including the pictograms into the navigation system.

The last push. Putting together the guide book on the design of street name and house number plates, signs, typefaces, icons, abbreviations, colors and dozens of other details.

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