Viva Las Vegas

What comes to mind when you think about signage in Las Vegas? Do you think of something big, bright, and flashy? Do you imagine it telling you about an upcoming show at a nearby hotel or a special deal at a club or casino down the street? Do you think of it as advertising entertainment for out of town visitors? Do you think of it serving as a tool that helps build a more livable community?

By now you’ve likely envisioned a picture of gaudy neon signs along the Las Vegas strip, which is understandable. For so long many of us have seen, experienced, or thought about Las Vegas as an escape from reality for a few days, a world of make-believe and over-indulgence, and these types of signs are representative of that world. But for an ever increasing number of people, Las Vegas is a place they call home and accordingly the way they are communicated to outdoors needs to change.

Thanks in large part to the vision and efforts of numerous stakeholders and community builders, Las Vegas is transforming its image and its level of livability. Business leaders like Tony Hsieh of Zappos have invested hundreds of millions of dollars into the historic, old downtown. Partnerships between the public and private sector continue to grow and diversify, enhancing neighborhoods like the Arts District. Real estate developers and landowners are repurposing and redeveloping buildings and parcels into mixed use residential spaces that cater to the needs of residents desiring to live, work, and play in them. City officials, led by the innovative vision of Mayor Goodman, are driving forward-thinking policies like creating an innovation district and interweaving smart city technologies throughout Old Downtown. The story of Las Vegas as a home, a community, and a livable town, has been widely reported.

 Soofa's CEO, Sandra Richter, Las Vegas' Director of IT, Michael Lee Sherwood and Las Vegas Mayor Carolyn Goodman.

Soofa's CEO, Sandra Richter, Las Vegas' Director of IT, Michael Lee Sherwood and Las Vegas Mayor Carolyn Goodman.

Soofa partnered with the City of Las Vegas in January 2018 to help amplify this major cultural shift. Soofa Signs have been installed across old downtown, from the Fremont Street Experience to the Container Park and in the Arts District. The Signs, located at stops along the Downtown Loop, inform people what’s going on nearby, from sharing the latest community events and happenings to displaying the arrival time of the next bus.

As the transformation continues for downtown Las Vegas from being unsafe and nearly forgotten, to a vibrant community where people want to raise families, an important question about the future of the built environment arises: how do you reconcile the design and image of the physical landscape and the experience of the Las Vegas strip that for so long has defined the city - outlandish and over stimulating, where every business is in an endless competition with its neighbor to win the next passerby’s attention - with the needs of residents who wake up every morning in their homes ready to kick off their 9-5 workday? How do you ensure that the old downtown doesn’t simply become another extension of the strip?

The answer to this question starts by looking at the often overlooked aspects of urban living: the sidewalks, the signage, the planting, the design of the storefronts. All of these elements must be designed carefully and purposefully to work in concert with each other to create the feeling of a welcoming community - a home.

 The Soofa Sign along Fremont Street in Downtown Las Vegas.

The Soofa Sign along Fremont Street in Downtown Las Vegas.

The Soofa Sign is a departure from the perception of Las Vegas signage as big, bright, and flashy. The Sign is a beautiful solar powered, electronic paper display unlike anything in the world. It shares important community information in 16 shades of grey, as opposed to blinding full color, light polluting LCD screens and neon. The Soofa Sign is sleek and elegantly designed, it is something that both serves as an icon in the neighborhood and a place to get information you trust and a place to meet up with friends and neighbors before hopping on the next bus.

The content created for and posted on the Sign uses a design language that connects with a pedestrian walking down the sidewalk on their way to work, looking for a place to eat lunch, or meeting friends for a drink in the evening. The way the Sign engages people is not by being louder than what it is next to in terms of color and design or more provocative, rather it does so by sharing what people care about, healthy community content.

We define healthy community content as something you want to see when you’re walking home from work or going for an early morning stroll on the weekend; it’s a digitized version of the flyer you see when you’re waiting for you coffee telling you about an upcoming food truck festival or art walk. For downtown Las Vegas and communities across the country, the Soofa Sign is the bulletin board you want to read and the place you go for information about the coolest thing happening near you in the moment you’re there.

Our early adopter partner installations will continue through June of 2018. We are looking for more communities like Las Vegas who are seeking to create a new identity or evolve the current one to successfully attract new residents and bring in new businesses. We believe that good signage is a very important element of building a neighborhood people call home. It tells people what’s going on, engages and challenges them to get involved, and ultimately it is a tool that brings people together.


This story continues! Read more in Las Vegas: City of the Future.