PROJECT: EXPERIENTIAL SIGNAGE DESIGN
Located in the coastal rainforest in Haida Gwaii, the Golden Spruce Trail is one of Canada’s most beautiful trails, deeply rooted in Haida culture. After the 1997 intentional and criminal felling of the Golden Spruce, a sacred Sitka spruce with golden needles, the trail became a place of mourning—dilapidated and neglected. The once mighty Golden Spruce became a dead snag over the river and a reminder of what was lost. BC Parks, The Haida Nation, and the Port Clements community came together with a desire to reclaim the trail, the forest, and the story of the Golden Spruce. They hired us to make it happen. Our challenge was to create an authentic, culturally-respectful, and informative trail experience that would appeal to tourists, elicit pride from locals, and celebrate the cultural significance of the trail, all while creating minimal environmental impact.
What We did:
- Cultural research
- Design and material ideation
- Sign design and execution
Our research was thorough. We flew to Haida Gwaii and hiked the trail to experience the magic first-hand. We poured through old news articles about the tree and its felling at the Port Clements museum. We spoke with Haida elders about its cultural significance and the scar its felling left.
Instead of creating typical educational trail signage, we decided to tell the stories of this forest—from the mouth of the forest itself. We told the stories of the Yakoun River, the ancestral trees, the pharmacy of plant life, the lesson of nature, and the original Golden Spruce story—Kiddk’yass—from the Haida.
We worked with Haida artist, Ben Davidson, to create custom signs from local wood sources that would age and decay naturally with the forest. They were affixed to trees with just two stainless screws to minimize natural impact. Today the trees are growing around the signs, which are not only written in the voice of the forest, but are literally a part of it.
Our work won us a 2014 RGD So Good Design Award.