Designing signage along the Niagara Escarpment Biosphere


I’ve always had an interest in both science and the arts, so this project is really a combination of my two favourite things: learning about life around me and making visually appealing work. I’m very lucky to be able to explore both through my studies as an education student, as taking courses in biology and visuals arts is necessary to be able to teach the material. While graphic design isn’t the same as my usual illustrative process, this project has allowed me to work outside of my normal artistic comfort zone and expand my skills.

One of the unique challenges of creating signage for the Niagara Escarpment is just how large of an area it is. The Ontario portion covers almost 2,000 square kilometres and stretches 725 kilometres from the Niagara River to Tobermory, and the amount of biodiversity is vast and specific to each region. For example, the Niagara-on-the-Lake portion of the Escarpment is host to some of the most agriculturally viable soil and produce, like grapes and peaches. On the opposite end, Tobermory is host to endemic species-at-risk like the Lakeside Daisy and the Massasauga rattlesnake. A large chunk of my process has been researching these sites and our partners’ work with the land to properly represent it, due to the sheer variety across such a large swath of land.

Asides from being visually appealing enough to catch someone’s eye, the signage has the important job of teaching the audience, being whoever passes by, about the important ecosystems around them and why it’s so important to protect them.

While I’m familiar with the Niagara region segment of the Escarpment after living here all my life, the entire complex is much more than the small piece I live around. Due to the wide-ranging nature of the project, it involves getting in contact with a variety of partners and working with their specific parts of the Escarpment, like figuring out where the signage will be located and what will be emphasized to the viewer. Some of the groups we work with care for several thousand acres of land, so encapsulating important details involves deciding with them what is most necessary to show.

It is as much a matter of creating as it is communication, both to the viewer and to our partners. As much as I would love to travel the whole stretch myself, I rely on the groups we work with along the Niagara Escarpment to provide the photographs, in-depth knowledge about the terrain, and the other needs that must be met with the posters. Each location along the Escarpment path is unique, and my job is to make sure I’m able to present that information in an accessible way and draw attention to each location’s natural highlights.

—  Marley McLean