Creation: “You Are Here” Stickers For Transit Maps (Guerrilla Public Service)

Those transit maps pissed me off for the last time. So I decided to secretly fix them. They’re the maps used on the St. Louis Metrolink (lightrail). I’ve only done one station so far, and want to get permission before I go on to add the fix to all the others.

▼ This is Sunnen Station.

▼ There’s 5 maps like these on the platform.

▼ So looking at this… Where are you?

Map Design Rule #1: Always put a “You Are Here” red arrow on your map.

If you’re familiar with the system you won’t think it’s a big deal, but believe me I’ve ridden Metrolink MANY times especially during Cardinals games and so many people, especially county folks at the Shrewsberry station ask “are you going to the Stadium?” and “Which line do I take?” or need help understanding where they are. These are potential re-occuring customers, why make it easy for them?

Why the stickers are needed: The stickers themselves are not exactly vital but user experience is priority #1 in public transit and the stickers help towards that. You’ve GOT to make it as simple as possible. Stop going for the Aluminum and go for the Gold, remember you’re competing with cars, the ultimate convenience. Public transit needs to match this convenience using very creative methods if it wants to increase ridership, expand lines, and take cars off the road.

Think of yourself at a mall. Whenever you walk into a mall and look at the map, the first thing you do is look for a “you are here” sticker to orient yourself. The janitor, the security guys, store owners, they know the place like the back of their hand but you, the paying potential customer, don’t so no matter how simple a map is people need help orienting themselves.

So I ordered 500 (smallest quantity available) UV coated, 2×2 inch, transparent, weather proof, “You Are Here” Red Arrow stickers that I designed real quick in Illustrator. They cost about $27.85 from my favorite printer (don’t forget the www, their domain registrar sucks).

As a commenter pointed out. I should have just written the text sideways instead of writing it twice. See this is why I need you guys.

The stickers can be oriented to point up and down and still be readable, they stand out, and can last outdoors in sunlight and rain (for only 1 year it turns out). Just for fun I stress tested them by sticking a few on the smooth top of our black plastic garbage can, which gets burning HOT in the sun, for weeks as well as submerging them underwater. I can say with confidence that those stickers can get rained on, hailed on, fried up by the sun, and will still look like new. As long as you put them on right without any air bubbles. After all that abuse the glue still held up and you can peel them off without leaving any residue.

I’ll install them at a station for a trial period, then ask for permission to do the rest of the stations. I picked the least used Metrolink station, Sunnen Station, and put them up on the maps on July 17th. I’ll leave them on for a month and see how they hold up, just in case, you never know. After the trial period I’m going to ask Metro if I can put them up on all the stations.

Much, much better I think. Since they can be oriented in any direction and still be readable it won’t be a problem making them point towards any of the stations on the map. If Metro has other plans, I can just peel them right off.

So I’ll keep you readers updated when I find out if I have permission to put up the rest or not.

UPDATE: After 1 year the red ink gets sun bleached and the sticker is no longer readable :(. The good news is I was able to easily peel them off. The bad news is, I’ve got 495 “You Are Here” stickers and no where to stick them.


  1. Mark says:

    Thats awesome Chris! Keep me updated I want to hear more.

  2. moxiwize says:

    Could you not have just reoriented the writing by 90 degrees and hence had the words written only once ?

  3. Melissa says:

    Erm,I have no idea how I ended up on your page but I think ‘guerrilla public service’ sucked me into this article…like your idea – fancy coming over to London to do the tube :D

  4. Kosai says:

    If you do re-do these incorporating moxiwise’s idea I’d also suggest using a heavier weight for the top “YOU ARE” line so the whole “YOU ARE HERE” has a more consistent look. Or alternatively, using a few weights lighter on “YOU ARE” and go heavier on the “HERE” line in order to show that was an intentional design decision. Currently they are so close that it’s as if you simply resized the YOU ARE line in the same typeface weight as the HERE line to fit which makes it look as though it doesn’t match. Most likely sticking to Gill Sans as your typeface would go a long way into incorporating it into the existing signage as well since I don’t see them straying from it.

  5. Kosai says:

    I think this makes it a bit more obvious (see comment below).. and please for the love of all things Helvetica… don’t use Arial!