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Will We Be Lost Without Signs on Buildings?

Do people agree with the Beijing government's sweeping campaign to remove most signs and billboards from buildings, or should the plan be more nuanced?

By Zhang Qingchen Updated Dec.11

If you were to walk along New York City’s avenues, would you feel that billboards or signs on buildings are blocking the horizon or affecting its urban image? Recently, Beijing authorities issued an order to limit the number and placement of signs on buildings in order to “create an urban skyline that is visually clear and bright.” But the campaign was not without controversy.

The campaign was launched as a part of the capital’s urban plan for 2016 to 2035. According to a notice from the Beijing Commission of City Management, all signs and billboards attached to roofs must be removed, and there can be only one sign with the building’s name on the third or a higher story. The name should be the same as that registered with planning authorities.  

The main complaints stemmed from residents believing that such large-scale removal of signs would make it difficult for people to find their way. Some also expressed regret if signs of time-honored brands also disappeared.   

In response to those concerns, an unnamed official from the Beijing Commission of City Management quoted by Qianlong, a website operated by the city government, said the campaign is not aimed at stifling the city's character, but to encourage property owners to design their signage within a "prescribed framework." The same person also reiterated that new regulations would not lead to “monotony” or affect the signage of time-honored brands.

People understand the purpose of the regulation, but they are disgusted with the method – one size fits all – used to implement the regulations, commented State-run newspaper the Global Times. In other words, there should be customized measures to manage citywide billboards or signs.