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A Labor of Love: TBG EGD + TTF


It’s Austin’s most cherished outdoor destination: the 10-mile Butler Hike-and-Bike Trail loop encircling the Colorado River from Zilker Park in the west to the Longhorn Dam in the east. With more than 2.6 million annual visitors, it’s the city’s most popular recreational setting by far. Thanks to The Trail Foundation (TTF) — a local non-profit founded in 2003 to protect and enhance the Butler Trail that works tirelessly to improve Austin’s most prized pathway — the trail experience continues to evolve in an exceptional manner. TBG’s environmental graphics team recently enjoyed two successful partnerships with TTF — first on a donor ring integrated into the new viewing platform underneath the Congress Avenue bridge and then on the creation of seven new trail maps located throughout the 10-mile loop.

The viewing platform under Congress Avenue, perfect for the nightly bat viewing, was part of a meandering, 172-foot passage of elevated trail — the northern shore’s first boardwalk segment — that opened in late May and replaced a narrow, decaying, wooden expanse that existed for more than 40 years. TTF’s great efforts are made possible by generous donations, and the organization wanted to recognize some of its most prolific philanthropists who helped make this new trail segment a reality with a donor recognition feature of some variety.

Tasked with the challenge, TBG Director of Environmental Graphics Jeff Raudabaugh and colleague Ryan Sanford came up with the notion of an aluminum, oval-shaped ring, displaying the names of roughly 25 prominent donors, integrated into the new viewing platform at the ground level — a recognition that was much more than merely a plaque or signage off to the side.

“Rather than simply design a sign or monument, we showed them a sketch that integrated the donor recognition into the project form and they loved it,” Jeff recalled. “Once we explained our reasoning, they were in full agreement. It’s subtle, but in a way that becomes integral and integrated into the project.”

Originally envisioned as a 1/8” stainless steel ring with acid etching and paint fill, during the prototyping process, the team at Capital Architectural Signs (CAS) informed Jeff and Ryan that they could use aluminum instead of steel, double the thickness, deep etch and then sandblast and polish it, and thus avoid using chemicals associated with acid etching. It was a durable, more environmentally friendly solution — and ended up looking great. The ring is made up of 17, butt-joined segments, and CAS attained the perfect dimensions and fit on the first try — directly from TBG’s drawings generated from the CAD file — a testament to the contractor’s precision.

In June, the 17 aluminum pieces were attached to a base plate on the viewing platform, epoxied down, and the composition became a seamless extension of the viewing platform itself.

A month later, a second project from Jeff and Ryan debuted along the Butler Trail: a series of seven site-specific trail maps to aid orientation and distance calculations. The maps highlight points of interest along the trail loop and show the lengths of various segments to gauge mileage. The approximately 7-foot by 30-inch maps are simple but effective and visually engaging.

“We grayed out the city and the streets and brought the green spaces, trail and water up,” Jeff said. “It has a good graphic hierarchy, so your eyes can really see the different elements, which are layered in colors. We adjusted the contrast and, even using flat color and graphics, it has a lot of depth.”

Formed as a resin-embedded graphic to withstand direct sunlight, the maps are displayed simply in a galvanized steel frame with tamper-resistant hardware — and they have been so well received, there’s already plans for six more.

So next time you’re on the trail, keep an eye out for Jeff and Ryan’s slick handiwork!