Think back to the last time you were in a park – maybe you were on a trail or searching for a visitor center. You see a sign – aha! You’ve found your way. All our national parks contain signs of some sort, and the National Park Service Sign Program, with employees like Visual Information Specialist Laura Thomas, ensures that they are consistent and clear in both style and messaging. “My job is to establish and maintain what signs should look like in national parks,” says Thomas. “Parks bring their wayfinding and communication problems to the NPS Sign Program and we work with them on creative, professional solutions that help visitors have a safer and more enjoyable experience. It’s critical thinking, plus collaboration, plus design.”
Thomas began her career with NPS as a volunteer at Theodore Roosevelt National Park nine years ago– after eight months, she was hired as a seasonal Interpretive Ranger, and a couple years later she became the park’s Visual Information Specialist. “I had the privilege of guiding hikes and interpretative programs, photographing special events like bison roundups and prescribed fires, and doing design work, including writing and designing publications and exhibits, and providing content for social media.”
Thomas' hands-on experience in the park led her to NPS’ Sign Program, based at Harpers Ferry Center for Interpretative Design. Now working to create signs for parks, Thomas’ unique, creative, and challenging job helps visitors across the country navigate and enjoy all that our parks have to offer. Thomas admits that there’s no “typical day” in her job - “one day it’s a sign survey at a park, the next it’s designing signs to warn visitors about alligators, then it’s looking at samples and comparing paint colors for entrance signs, then working with a park on an innovative sign construction method for backcountry use...it’s always signs but it’s always something new.”
Behind every national park is a team of ordinary people dedicated to maintaining the extraordinary. They maintain habitats, educate visitors, and preserve history. They’re volunteers, rangers, museum curators, engineers, architects, and more. They’re our Park Ambassadors – linking us to these treasured places and all the stories they hold. Send thanks to an NPS employee or volunteer today.
The “National Park Ambassadors” video series is produced by the National Park Foundation and its Find Your Park premier partners Budweiser, HanesBrands, L.L.Bean, Nature Valley, Subaru of America and Union Pacific Railroad, with additional support from The Coca-Cola Company and Winnebago Industries.