Enjoying blind man's bluff at 40 below:
navigating Downtown Winnipeg’s interconnected interiors

Canadians in big cites have invented two ways to enjoy living in the winter. First, they go to Cuba (or other such warm destinations) for a couple of weeks. Second, they construct an intricate maze of interior hallway connections between many of their major Downtown buildings. Toronto did it.  Montreal did it. Calgary did it. And the wintriest major city of them all, Winnipeg, did it.

There’s only one slight problem: finding your way through them can make blind man’s bluff look easy. In Winnipeg’s case, there are over two miles of above ground and below ground hallways in and out of shopping malls, hotels, office buildings andpublic structures, including the main library, the convention center and the hockey arena.

How could this maze be simplified?  

The “W” of Winnipeg gave Bob Firth an idea. Winnipeggers had never quite figured out how to brand their system, officially referring to it by the mouthful “weather-protected walkway system.”  But Bob looked at the “W” and saw an upside down “M.” “M” as in “Metro.” Why not mark the entrances to the walkway system with W’s like Metro entrances worldwide are marked with M’s? 

It seemed to work at all levels. The first thing Informing Design did was design a three-dimensional “W” logo for the walkway system. What came next seemed obvious: why not sign the whole thing as though it were a subway system?

Everything fell into place. The system could be rationalized into three distinct “subway” lines, each named for the exterior roadway it paralleled: the Portage Skywalk, the Main Underground (another subway allusion) and the Graham Skywalk. The ways in and out could be identified as the “stations.” The subway line “directions” could be indicated by the major structure anchoring the end of each line — the Bay department store, the MTS Arena, the Convention Center and the like.

The result was a fresh subway-style signage system, including a system of 3-D maps (for both the outside world and the inside world) custom oriented for each installation site along the “W.”

See, blind man’s bluff can be fun . . . even at 40 below in February!