Onondaga Creekwalk: A Study In Design

By Josiah Ludovico, Art Director / Visual Designer 

I enjoy biking. 

I heard about the Creekwalk from a friend and resolved to check it out the next time I biked to work. My friend had given me a rough idea of where to find it—near Destiny USA—as I came in from Liverpool on my way to Cowley's office. 

I had only been on the Creekwalk once before. When I was a groomsman in a friend’s wedding, we took photos on it. That was down towards the Franklin Square area, and I vaguely remember a black iron railing system that ran along the path. 

It’s fun to bike to work, but there is some stress that goes along with it. You don’t want to get lost and be late, and you don’t want to get hit by a car! So, as I was was biking through the busy intersection on Hiawatha Boulevard next to Destiny USA, I was anxious to find the entrance to the Creekwalk. 

And there it was.

I felt an odd sense of relief when I saw the black iron lampposts. Somehow I knew it was what I was looking for, even though I couldn’t read the small signs from where I was across the street. There didn’t have to be a big, ostentatious sign for me to know, feel actually, the brand of the Creekwalk.

The entrance was simply decorated with an old-fashioned black iron lamp post and brown signage marked with the entrance number. Subconsciously, I remembered the black iron from my past experience. Even though where I had been before for my friend's wedding was at least a mile down, it had the same look and feel. 

 A Study In Design

Once I entered the bike path, it was a lovely ride. I felt all the stress of trying to get to the entrance dissipate as I cruised down the path. The pathway was smoothly paved and the trees were well trimmed, so my bike could glide through nicely. Interesting infographics lined the trail, telling of the history behind the water channel that the Creekwalk runs next to. I just enjoyed the pleasant experience that the design afforded me. I didn't even have to think about whether or not I was going to go back, it’s already become part of my routine.

The Creekwalk signage’s brown colors are not used in common street signage. This creates a unique visual theme and gives the Creekwalk an identity. Did the City of Syracuse need to incorporate the black rails and brown signage? Did they have to give it a special name like “The Creekwalk?" Establishing this Creekwalk “brand” most likely cost extra money and time. I’m sure that they could have saved money had they not used the black iron lamp posts. But the creators of the Creekwalk knew something. They knew that when you dress something up, design a pleasant experience, and give it a consistent visual theme, it psychologically makes the whole thing stand out as an experience. People end up assigning value to it, and it becomes “a thing.” And because it is “a thing,” people get curious, it gains more interest and becomes more successful. 

So how about you? Is it time for your brand to become more hospitable to those who visit? 

There were two aspects to my experience with the Creekwalk. The first was the signage that led me into it. If the sign was designed in such a way that it looked like the rest of the street signs, I would have missed it. Are people missing your brand because of poor or unoriginal design? Have you considered making “a thing” out of your brand, so that people assign more value to it?

The second aspect of my experience with the Creekwalk was the Creekwalk itself. Once people are clicking through your website, turning the pages of your brochure, scrolling through your social media, or watching your video, is your story being told in an interesting way? Is it consistent across all of the channels you are marketing on? Will people want to stay and keep reading, keep watching, keep clicking? Is the architecture hospitable to a pleasant and straightforward user experience? 

Most importantly, do you have a brand? Not just a logo, a brand? 

A well-constructed brand is foundational when it comes to connecting with your customers. 

It’s important to remember that the Creekwalk has no competition, there are no other bike paths out there for me to choose from. This is not the case with your brand, which makes strong design even more important. 

More questions about developing your brand? Don’t hesitate to reach out. We would love to talk with you about how we can bring your brand from a “lump of concrete” to a beautiful, unique, and memorable experience for your customers. 

Happy cycling!

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