How the TTC used wayfinding and some cheesy puns to honour a Toronto landmark

How the TTC used wayfinding and some cheesy puns to honour a Toronto landmark

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After recently writing about the TTC's partnership with the National Ballet of Canada to promote a shift in our brand, we have another unique example in our partnership with Honest Ed’s and a complete makeover of Bathurst Station into what is now affectionately being called, Honest Ed Station.

For those not familiar with Toronto, Honest Ed’s is a discount store, but also so much more to this city than just a store. This store has become a unique icon in Toronto since its proprietor Ed Mirvish opened it in 1948 at the corner of Bloor and Bathurst Streets. The store has expanded over the years to cover this entire city block and has become known in Toronto for their gimmicky marketing stunts and cheesy puns on signage throughout the store.

Toronto is one of the world’s most multi-cultural cities, where half the population was born outside of Canada. Honest Ed’s became known as the place where many new Canadians who settled in Toronto would purchase their first household staples. This was a place where all felt welcomed and quality goods could be found at a reasonable price. Almost every Torontonian I’ve met has an Honest Ed’s story.

Recently, there was much sadness as it was announced that the building would be sold for redevelopment and the store would close forever at the end of 2016.

The TTC is another Toronto icon with a long history in this city and with Bathurst subway station as a kitty-corner neighbour to the Honest Ed’s store, the relationship between the two has been longstanding. TTC staff saw a great opportunity to commemorate the relationship our two institutions have had over the years to bring people together and make Toronto accessible for so many as they make this their new home. For the past year, the TTC secretly worked on a strategy with Honest Ed’s employees – many of whom have worked there their entire careers.

First, we knew we had to put the iconic Honest Ed’s sign and façade on our monthly Metropass design for the month of November, but that part was relatively easy. More challenging was this idea that really started as Chris Upfold (TTC's Deputy CEO/Chief Customer Officer) saying, “Wouldn’t it be really amazing if we completely made over Bathurst station with Honest Ed’s style signage?” Well, my team agreed it would be really amazing and so a small but talented group, with communications lead Alicia Fowlie, design and wayfinding led by manager Ian Dickson and designers Laura Lehming and Alex Blackwell, set out to make it a reality. Every piece of wayfinding from the exterior station signage to directional signage within the station was re-made into the Honest Ed’s style by taking the iconic hand-painted originals, scanning and then re-creating them in our own sign shop to the large format signs used in the station. But we didn’t stop there – we felt we had to pay homage to the cheesy but much-beloved puns that Ed was known for, so our own TTC versions of these adorn the windows all throughout the station.

The work was completed overnight while the station was closed and the installation was revealed on November 1, 2016 and will remain in place until the end of the year when Honest Ed's doors close for the final time. The public reaction and corresponding coverage both with mainstream media and online social sharing has been beyond what we could have expected. All this was done with internal resources, no budget or external agency involvement and is a testament to what talented and creative people can do when they get together behind a common idea and bring it to life.

This is just the most recent example that displays the new TTC. We are a big part of Toronto and the many communities and neighbourhoods that comprise it. We are a common thread that knits together so many people and experiences in this great city and we take that job to heart.