Commentary: We need a warm welcome sign, not wayfinding

The existing welcome sign. (Photo by Larry Vogel)

I wanted to share with My Edmonds News readers my “input” in preparation for the “Welcome” sign Nov. 29 open house meeting, given the meeting announcement was given on short notice, and during our holiday season.

I feel like I have some messages to pass along to the Wayfinding Sign Committee and our leadership. I want the committee to recognize that the seal of City of Edmonds is a shining example of a sign that has artistic value and represents our community well. The city’s Wayfinding Sign Program had some great results. The signage at Westgate has character and uniqueness to Edmonds. I think the committee and leadership got it right regarding the directional signage and for the most part, I appreciate all their hard work, despite my harsh emails. Edmonds does appreciate our volunteers.

That being said, I believe the public never thought the directional signage program encompassed much of our town’s signage. Replacement of our “Welcome” sign of more than 40 years and replacement of key community marquee signage, with little to no public inclusion — especially among our local artist community? I know for a fact many local artists would love a chance to participate and submit their proposed creative signs.

It’s pretty prestigious to have the honor of having designed the Edmonds marquee Welcome sign and/or the Cultural Center of Edmonds sign. No disrespect to Clayton Moss; any artist would take these many opportunities presented to them.

I think it’s time we end the Wayfinding Sign Program. It accomplished its mission, and I see all the directional signage has been installed around town. Our community does not need the same group of people and one respected artist getting this much opportunity. We need to open this up to the creative spirit of the Edmonds community and allow our local artists to compete like they do in our mural program. That allows for inclusion and opportunity for artists, and gives the Edmonds community the ability to clearly achieve the best results.

Below is the planned new Frances Anderson sign showcasing the center of our Parks, Recreation and Cultural Services.

If the design was won in an open competition and our community chose this sign, I could live with it — I am reasonable person. If the committee is not going to allow the public to share in its designs, and invite and encourage our local artists to submit their own designs, I am going to make observations and comments that may be considered harsh and extreme.

My family and I suspect the great people of Edmonds don’t want our Frances Anderson marquee sign, matching local apartment complex signs found on Edmonds Way (see image below).

The wayfinding planned design of the replacement of the Frances Anderson sign in my humble opinion has no representative quality of our town and character, and certainly does not echo and showcase our parks and cultural services. This is a perfect example of why the Wayfinding Sign Program with its conformity standards and style does not need to extend over into showcasing key community assets and “Welcome” signage.

No disrespect to people of the apartment community, it’s a fitting sign for your apartments.

I should not have to find this planned design deep within the confines of the city’s website, in order for a local artist to offer alternatives and the public to have opinions, but I guess this is the new norm in our town: Toss them a bone — they can come to a few open houses and give input on our signs. If it were not for My Edmonds News, we would not even have known this past summer that our “Welcome Sign” was being replaced.

Mack Benek, a local creative sign artist of more than 50 years, would like to submit some alternative ideas. He’s open to adjustments; this is just one of his many alternative signs he came up with for our Frances Anderson Center.

The sign includes a Barn Owl, which represents the many that call Edmonds parks their home. The owl is such a great symbolic image of wisdom and knowledge in many cultures, paying homage to this center’s namesake Frances E. Anderson, a teacher and principal at this location for nearly half a century educating our local kids.

I could imagine my children wearing a T-shirt with this image or seeing this art on a magazine cover — can’t you, Edmonds? 

My last point — and it’s a big one. The issue regarding the Welcome sign and Department of Transportation requirements at SR 104: It’s been confirmed that those requirements are only for size and distance from road. They have nothing to do with design of the sign and how creative and representative it can be at this location.

The idea that our Welcome sign can’t be more creative and representative of our community because of vehicular distractions — among other excuses used during the Wayfinding Committee presentation to the council in July — were incorrect, and it tells the story of how motivated this committee is to get what it wants.

Most of the community thought they forgot the word “Welcome” by mistake on their second proposed new Welcome sign. The fact is, they actually really don’t want to include that verbiage, and it’s mind boggling to me. Edmonds is the most welcoming place on Earth.

The committee is now taking the stance that we have four other possible gateway locations and we need to decide where welcome is better suited and appropriate and set guidelines to identify additional gateways that would be most appropriate for a welcome sign (according to a recent press release). This Gateway at SR 104 has been our town’s Welcome sign location for more than 40 years. Our predecessors recognized this as the best location, because highway rules actually impede development so this sign has no encroaching buildings and such surrounding it, making it a focus point. Not to mentioned it’s the most traveled road in our town, and the only gateway with a spectacular Edmonds kind of view as the backdrop, and straight shot to the heart of our downtown.

If the sign committee wants to put a matching 5 Corners roundabout style sign up on 212th and Hwy 99 as they are attempting to do at Gateway SR 104 because that is the geographical entrance to our town, go for it. The backdrop of Jack in the Box will be amazing.

The Edmonds community will not allow a small group of people to re-write history under the justification of a Wayfinding Sign Program and tell us this is in fact not our town’s Welcome sign location — just so they can dilute SR 104 significance to get their plain vanilla non-welcoming sign approved by city council. Most of the members of council and community admit this has been our welcome sign at the SR 104 location, that’s the reality. Many on this wayfinding committee and one councilmember, I suspect, will not admit this because then they will have to admit we need a better and more creative sign and more public inclusion by admitting such.

I’m glad we are going to Identify where our town’s welcome signs should be newly located with a public release with a two-week notice during the busiest traveling holiday of the year! Is the January meeting going to be on New Years Day?

I recommend we email our mayor and let him know it’s time to disband the wayfinding committee/program — — and also email our city council at We need to establish an open public sign committee focused on inclusion and inviting our many local artists to compete — that’s the Edmonds thing to do. We all deserve the best! If this is too mind blowing, then just allow our community to restore/and or build a replica at this gateway location, at considerable savings to our community.

The public should be allowed to vote on their welcome sign replacement — not a hand-picked committee to decide from among choices and possible alternatives of their own creation. If we are going to in fact allow inclusion into this process ,we need fairness as well.

— By Michael McMurray

Michael McMurray lives in Edmonds with his wife Megan and his two children. The McMurray family is developing the project and the renovations at 519 Main Street. McMurray was raised in Edmonds and graduated from Edmonds-Woodway High School in 1995.




















7 Replies to “Commentary: We need a warm welcome sign, not wayfinding”

  1. I can’t believe (well growing up here actually I can…) how slow moving and terrified of change this town is. Months of outrage and 1000+ word op-eds about a welcome sign. Like seriously? People have way too much time on their hands…


  2. I, for one, believe the sign is worth the time and trouble. Edmonds has been changing rapidly the last 5 yrs and if we just let them have at it, we won’t recognize the small charming town we moved into.


  3. We don’t need every Edmonds sign post festooned with owls, ferry boats, mountains, whales, seagulls, trees, salmon, great blue herons and the Puget Sound.

    Directional signs need clarity, information you can absorb in the blink of an eye while you are driving. Yes, they should look nice, but not like a visual clown car of images from the area.

    We don’t need a committee of hundreds of people to design signs for our city; that way lies chaos. Please save your outraged emails to Mayor Earling for issues that are a bit more dire: our homeless population, affordable housing, opioid addiction, school safety, etc.


    1. I agree owls, ferry boats, mountains, whales, seagulls, trees, salmon, great blue herons and the Puget Sound have nothing to with our town of Edmonds. Who cares? And the chaos of having community input. Terrible. We should have Soviet style Totalitarian directional signs that can in the blink of an eye quickly direct visitors to the free Public housing,street camping, injection sites,etc.


  4. Very well said. In a city that doesn’t have neighborhood sidewalks and seems to be more interested in the aesthetics of it’s main downtown intersection rather than safety and navigability I do not understand all of the funds spent on the bland metal sign choices. The proposed design was ridiculously expensive and reflected not a clue as to the personality of the town. Basically, they reflect the direction of the future. Build boxes and label them, to live in, to work in, whatever needs to be crammed in.
    It doesn’t have to be a complicated process. The idea that thousands of dollars are spent on a design process is ludicrous. What a waste and a disappointment this whole issue has been.


  5. A vocal minority want to Ballardize/Seattlize Edmonds and the sign was a proxy for that discussion. I was one who was harsh on the plans, but I didn’t really care about the design so much as the inertia. I got kids. I wanna live someplace.

    Here’s an old video about municipal designs if anyone else is a designer and is interested in such things.

    Now, think about the folly of city art initiatives in general after watching that TED-talk.


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