Whose Park Is It Anyway?


Harry West, 42, director of research and innovation at Design Continuum Inc., a West Newton, Massachusetts – based strategy, design, and development consultancy.

What’s Your Problem?

Design Continuum was commissioned to redesign the pass for entry to America’s national-park system. “People needed to feel an increased sense of ownership in America’s parks. The credit card-sized pass had to increase brand awareness, have an attractive design, and appeal to pass holders on a personal level” — without also making them feel as though they were being tracked.

Tell Me About It.

“The pass was originally referred to as a ‘passport,’ which we knew would irk some park users who felt as though the National Park Service was regulating admittance and charging for something that American taxpayers already pay for.”

What’s Your Solution?

“The pass had to appeal to tree huggers and duck hunters alike. So we sent our designers to the Shenandoah and Rocky Mountain National Parks, among others, to do some fieldwork. A few of them even donned park-ranger uniforms and sat in the entry booths collecting money (sometimes dealing with a line of cars a mile long). They discovered that people feel a deep connection to the parks — and that all different kinds of people feel that bond. We decided to use an image of Yellowstone because it was the first national park. It’s a stark and beautiful image of a buffalo walking through snow. The image is easily recognizable, which is important for moving those fee-booth lines along. And we put pass holders’ names on the passes to give them a sense of involvement and pride in helping to support the parks they love. A membership date is also on the card, so that people can have the satisfaction that comes with supporting a good cause over time.”FCS