Taipei: City of Signs

Taipei at Night. Photo: SalRangThaeu-青椒豆腐滷西瓜 , used under Creative Commons License (By 2.0)

There are two distinct forms of signage. One is created for the purpose of relaying specific information to its viewers such as timetables and schedules, and the other is created for the purpose of promoting a brand, service or product. Traditionally signage was in the form of 1 dimensional billboards, posters, store signs and so forth, but as technology has evolved more elaborate and seamless forms of digital signage are being developed which create a far more engaging experience.

Before moving to Taipei I had only lived in a few medium sized Canadian cities, and visited a handful of cities across North America. I was excited and nervous to leave North America for the first time and experience life on the other side of world. I arrived in Taipei, Taiwan at quarter past four in the morning after a non-stop 15 hour direct flight from Canada. Despite being incredibly exhausted from my flight, I was curious to discover my new environment. The highway leading from the airport was virtually empty, and my attention became focused on the plethora of roadside digital signage directing drivers into Taipei. As we drove further into the city core, the highway turned into narrow streets lined with endless bright, colorful, flashing high definition signs promoting various products and services. I was immediately struck by how different Taipei’s signage is in comparison to what I’ve encountered in North America. Besides the sheer volume of digital signs and billboards in use, the biggest differences I noticed are the advanced interfaces, forms, and designs.

During my first few weeks in Taipei I dedicated a significant amount of time immersing myself in the endless wonders and benefits Taipei has to offer. One of the first things that I noticed about Taipei is that it is a remarkably convenient and advanced city, and the use of signage throughout the city makes North American signage look obsolete by comparison. The magnitude of technological development found throughout the city is astonishing. I continue to be astounded by how much the cutting-edge technological instalments impact the city. It is evident that the city is greatly enhanced by the convenience, efficiency, and effectiveness that the signage offers.

The design and format of the signage are essentially the same throughout Taipei City, but there are particular areas, districts, and streets that provide a greater stream of information, and the most advanced forms of advertisements I’ve ever encountered. Typically these are busier business and retail sections, which experience a greater volume of people, and are in higher competition with traffic and other advertising competitors. These areas are particularly unlike anything I’ve encounter in North American cities based on the magnitude of the cutting-edge technology.

Taipei’s MRT, for instance, is by far the most efficient and advanced metro system I have ever taken. When I left Halifax, Nova Scotia a year ago the most sophisticated use of technology for transportation was an automated phone service that provided a poor estimated time of arrival. Taipei’s MRT on the other hand, provides passengers with a steady stream of precise up to date information on several interfaces throughout every station, informing passengers of train arrivals and any unexpected delays. Once aboard, each car features a number of screens flashing advertisements as well as route and safety information in multiple languages. The accessibility and convenience these types of interfaces allow the foreign speaking population, such as myself, to easily partake in Taipei’s modernized environment.

Similarly, once back at street level the use of enormous LED and LCD video walls throughout the city to display advertisements presents a technologically advanced alternative, which effectively enhances Taipei’s accessibility, and convenience. The video screen above the Starbucks where HePing West road intersects with Roosevelt road, Section 2, for instance, attracts viewers’ attention as they pass through one of the busiest intersections in Taipei City. Recently, I caught myself mesmerized by a film trailer being shown on the gigantic screen. It is incredible how seamless these interfaces are throughout the city, and how much they enhance the city visually, and practically. The constant stream of information broadcasted on signage throughout the city creates a highly efficient and accessible city where everything runs smoothly.

VIA Smart Cities