New York‘s High Line park has reopened to New Yorkers following coronavirus lockdown with 1,000 painted green dots graphic conceived by Paula Scher to help visitors safely maintain social distancing. The High Line reopened on Thursday 19 July over four months after it closed due to the pandemic with a one-way system starting at Gansevoort Street.

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Scher, a principal at Pentagram, designed the spots to cover the benches, seats and ground of the public park in repeated intervals to mark safe distances. The pattern of circles organizes the space and makes the experience of social distancing as easy as possible for visitors, showing them where to walk and stand in line as they wait to enter on Gansevoort. The dots help users judge the way forward and how they should space themselves along the path as it becomes wider and narrower. The temporary signage is made of outdoor-grade vinyl and is affixed to the ground to avoid obstructing the amazing views. Scher has also designed signage with symbols in dots that illustrate three key instructions: stay six-feet (two metres) apart, wear a mask and move one way.

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The reopening reunites the original group of collaborators who helped make the High Line a reality over the past 20 years. Scher first designed the logo, promotional campaigns and fundraising materials for Friends of the High Line, the community organization founded in 1999 by Robert Hammond and Joshua David that proposed the idea to save the elevated railway and make it a park. The identity for the group became the logo for the park itself, and Pentagram created the signage system for the High Line when it opened to the public in 2009, along with subsequent sections that were finished over the years.

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Other New York City parks remained open throughout the Covid-19 lockdown, but with its narrow paths the High Line presented a unique challenge. The new graphics are a key component for a strategy to allow visitors to safely use the park. The circles introduce a new element to the graphic identity and help unify the experience of the park at this moment. The circle also provides the basis for a series of custom icons for regulations like social distancing and mask wearing, and appears on special t-shirts for staff. 

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Visitors must also obtain free, timed tickets to enter in order to reduce the amount of people in the park – formerly an often packed tourist attraction – and also wear a mask. The updates to the park joins a number of examples of ways that outdoor spaces have been adapted to meet social distancing requirements following the pandemic. Brooklyn’s Domino Park was similarly updated with white circles to promote social distancing.

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