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The Future is Now

Letter from the Chair

I recently finished reading a new book, Inventing Future Cities by Michael Batty, a renowned planning professor at University College London. Batty asserts, “Cities are largely unpredictable because they are complex systems that are more like organisms than machines. Neither the laws of economics nor the laws of mechanics apply; cities are the product of countless individual and collective decisions that do not conform to any grand plan. They are the product of our inventions.”[1] As I read, I could not help but think about the implication of Batty’s ideas for urban visual communication, generally, and urban signage and wayfinding, specifically. Over 80 percent of the U.S. residents live in urban areas, and that percentage is expected to continue increasing. What role can or should signage play in inventing vibrant, diverse and just urban communities that contribute to residents’ quality of life locally and beyond? Clearly, well-designed and located signage will remain essential for commercial and public communication, and will likely remain so even in a future dominated by digital information sharing and wayfinding. Even as our autonomous vehicles drop us off in front of our destinations, we will still need to navigate that last 50 feet. While the design of future signage may be very different technically and aesthetically, it will still serve to convey to potential customers the distinct character of the establishment it represents. Likewise, the private and public signage of a business district or neighborhood, and how it melds with the features of its surrounding natural and built environments, will contribute to the broader sense of place that influences how residents and visitors feel and value a community. Ultimately, I finished reading Batty’s book with a renewed sense of the importance of signage and wayfinding research and education in helping invent future cities.

As AACSRE moves through its fourth year, we have much to contemplate. We continue to enjoy the outcomes of our board committees. Dawn Jourdan deserves our special thanks and congratulations for all she has accomplished with the Interdisciplinary Journal of Signage and Wayfinding, the only academic journal dedicated to signage-related research. Under Dawn’s leadership, it is expected that IJSW articles will soon be indexed under ProQuest. This is an exciting development that serves to extend the accessibility of IJSW as a resource for researchers, signage industry leaders and public signage regulators. AACSRE’s Emerging Fellows program, under the leadership of Steve Kopp, continues to bring innovative ideas and new approaches for addressing the issues relevant to signage and wayfinding research and teaching. Our fellows’ presentations at the board of directors meeting at Texas A&M were impressive. Work continues on the development of a sustainable format for the online dissemination of our research under the leadership of Craig Berger. Our website,, like all websites, is a continual work in progress, and establishes our front door for telling the world who we are, what we do, and why it matters. Of course, all this is possible due to the ongoing generosity of our supporters and the success of our sustainability committee under the leadership of Joe Rickman.

The past year has seen transition, as founding board members Gene Hawkins, and Phil Garvey stepped down. AACSRE is grateful for the roles they played in our inaugural years. We are also fortunate and grateful to have Mathew Isaac from Seattle University, Adam Pike from Texas A&M, and Aparna Sundar from the University of Oregon join our board, and we look forward to their contributions.

Chris Auffrey

School of Planning

University of Cincinnati

[1] Batty, M. 2018. Inventing future cities. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press,

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