Aesthetic Perception of Urban Streetscapes and the Impact of Form-Based Codes and Traditional Zoning Codes on Commercial Signage


The use of form-based codes for commercial signage regulation, as an alternative to conventional zoning codes, is a growing conversation with planners, designers, lawyers and the sign industry. The purpose of this study is to address a knowledge gap in the conversation—how different signage code applications impact users’ aesthetic perceptions of urban streetscapes. This study evaluates aesthetic perceptions of alternative streetscapes depicting form-based codes, traditional zoning codes, and no codes in terms of sense of beauty, interest, and order. One hundred and sixty six respondents rated their perceptions of alternative streetscape signage designs and their responses were compared across the four study nodes in the study. The findings revealed significant differences in respondents’ aesthetic perceptions of beauty, interest, and order among streetscape alternatives with form-based codes, traditional zoning codes, and no code applications. The streetscape with form-based codes was perceived as the most beautiful and interesting followed by the ones with zoning codes. Findings indicate that development of a model form-based code may enhance positive perceptions of beauty and interest across different downtown street signs. Respondents’ perception of order varied by landscape type, showing lower sense of order for formbased code applications in the corporate area, while higher sense of order in the downtown business area. Findings can inform interdisciplinary discussions on planning code development, signage design and urban streetscape design.

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Crawford, P., Lee, E., & Beatty, M. (2015) Aesthetic Perception of Urban Streetscapes and the Impact of Form-Based Codes and Traditional Zoning Codes on Commercial Signage. Current Urban Studies, 3, 199-215. doi: 10.4236/cus.2015.33017.

Conflicts of Interest

The authors declare no conflicts of interest.


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