Rolling out STM’s new signage

A family of new signage tools is gradually being deployed in the Montréal métro system. Its purpose is to make it easier for customers to find their way around while using public transit.

This updated version of our signage differs from the past thanks to a modern, structured approach, with a design inspired by best practices worldwide. It takes the specific needs of different groups of customers into account and is adapted to each station’s layout.

It results from the close collaboration between members of a cross-disciplinary team made up of industrial and graphic designers, architects, engineers, consultants in the field of universal access and specialists in métro operations.

Consult the accessibility page for more info on the external medias.

See Our signage is heading in a new direction on YouTube


STM’s team of designers and architects who worked on updating and standardizing the signage recently met with Laurent Marquart, who initially designed the métro’s signage.

Their conversation with Laurent began in 2013, during meetings with various design professionals. Recently, the team expressed its interest in meeting with him again so that he could comment on the team’s work. 

Relying on the strong skills as a generalist that led him to work on several multidisciplinary design projects during his career, Laurent Marquart agreed to share his experience and thoughts with those who are today revisiting the work done in the 1960s.

It was Marquart the communicator who spoke first. « I was against using «A» and «B» to designate exits. I knew that, elsewhere in the world, other means were used, like the cardinal points. And yet, using these letters is like using a new language. And it works, within the precise framework of the Montreal métro! You found the best solution. »

Marquart the designer went on to say « I find it remarkable that by daring to remain humble, you have succeeded in doing something different. The initial choice was to keep the typography simple. By revisiting it, you did not pretend to be better. You also chose the simplicity and effectiveness of visual communication. It could have been much more sophisticated in terms of industrial design. However, the chosen approach respects the original concept of blending signage with the architecture of the stations. »

Laurent Marquart drew these conclusions about the current renewal of signage: « Its sobriety shows cultural maturity. Some métros have become icons not because they are exceptional, but because their image weathers the passage of time. That is what will happen here. With the métro, its signage is part of the city’s brand. To respect it is to respect the heritage of this city. »

Questions and answers

Signage refers to a group of visual elements that, collectively, serve to convey one’s location or find one’s direction while on the move. In tangible terms, signage in the métro system includes all the elements identifying a station, directional signs, maps and directories.

The graphic design was completely overhauled to produce a more streamlined and contemporary treatment, consistent with the STM’s corporate brand image, while also maintaining certain vintage elements.

The information is now presented in a more logical, consistent and prioritized fashion, in order to minimize the effort required to remember it. It meets high performance standards in terms of visibility, legibility, clarity, coherence and information structure.

To achieve this result, various aspects were given much thought:

  • Using the arrow
  • Changing the typography
  • Using colour
  • Introducing lowercase letters
  • Updating pictograms
  • Restyling the metro system map
  • Refashioning station vicinity maps
  • Adding a compass rose
  • Identifying exits
  • Maintaining vintage elements

In terms of industrial design, all of the structural elements, like frames, free-standing sign posts and anchoring systems, were all redesigned. This enabled us to improve their assembly, standardize their components and create a harmonious look that is still mindful of the past. Particular attention was paid to how they can be dismantled, so that these elements could be easily recovered and moved, if needed, at a later date.

The information will be presented more clearly while being easier to understand, helping customers get their bearings more easily, whether they are regular or occasional transit users, tourists, or someone with a visual, motor or intellectual disability.

A pilot project was undertaken at Jean-Talon and Henri-Bourassa stations. Its purpose was to test a variety of signage tools in actual conditions and to collect comments and suggestions from customers. Many of you expressed their opinion during the project and these influenced our final choices.

Representatives from the disabled community were also consulted, to have a better understanding of their needs. From the degree of contrast required so a visually-impaired person can read the signs to the optimal height for a map on a wall so a wheelchair user can study it more easily, everything was taken into account.

The new signage has been rolled out in these stations: 

  • Beaubien
  • Square-Victoria – OACI
  • Atwater
  • Laurier

It will also be rolled out in these stations in 2017:

  •     Crémazie
  •     Honoré-Beaugrand
  •     Jean-Drapeau
  •     Guy-Concordi
  •     Place-d’Armes

By 2020, these stations will also feature the new signage:

  •     Henri-Bourassa
  •     Berri-UQAM
  •     McGill
  •     Angrignon
  •     Préfontaine
  •     Jolicoeur
  •     Lionel-Groulx
  •     Plamondon

Keep in mind this list is tentative and could be modified over time, according to the priority ranking given to work sites.

The new signage will be rolled out gradually. As the deployment of these new tools sometimes requires electrical or architectural work, we will proceed whenever major refurbishing work is undertaken.

A gradual roll-out was a conscious choice, a decision based on the STM’s financial situation. The step by step approach will result in an economy of scale of some 40%.

Yes, eventually, we will update all of the bus network’s signage tools, but it is still too soon to set a date for that rollout. Members of the public will have the opportunity to voice their opinion as part of another pilot project, during which an initial version of the new tools will be tested! So, be on the lookout!

The design phase is entirely funded by the STM. However, 75% of the production and installation costs for the signage tools is funded by the Ministry of Transport, Sustainable Mobility and Transportation Electrification, as deployment falls within the scope of major refurbish work, and thus included in our Réno-Infrastructures program.

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