Idea #8: Map your Community Toilet Scheme

February 14, 2011 at 5:13 pm 1 comment

Cut Out and Keep! © OpenStreetMap contributors, CC-BY-SA

So you’ve decided to close your public toilets (approximate saving £18000).


But it’s OK because along with the public library, you’ve found 2 pubs and a café who don’t mind the general public using their loos instead, in exchange for hard cash (approximate expense 3 x £600 =  £1800).

What’s not to love?

One problem is communication. Everyone who’s visited the town knows that the big ugly block in the main square is the public toilet, not least from the smell.

How will they know that they can use these businesses instead? And where they are?

As mentioned in Idea#7: What Community Toilet Scheme? there are 3 solutions: signs, maps and open data (the open data is so that others can make their own maps).

Idea#7 looked at signs.

Idea #8 looks at maps.

It’s a bit… flawed.

Firstly, and without leaving my desk, I can show you examples of existing Community Toilet Scheme maps; some real, some virtual.

Richmond-upon-Thames have one of the most well-established (and famous) schemes. Their maps are befitting.

Pretty nifty, no?

The fold-out paper map has glossy cardboard front and back panels to make it more hard-wearing. When folded-up it’s about twice the size of a credit card. The back of the map lists all the businesses by number with addresses and available facilities.

I’ve come across others that can be downloaded as pdfs: Hillingdon Borough Council‘s is here, and East Hertfordshire District Council’s are here for Bishop’s Stortford and here for Ware. All look like they’re provided in hard copy as well.

(other Community Toilet Schemes are available…)

I’ve attempted to do my own.

The logic behind it wasn’t that I could make a better map. Though I have proved that I can’t.

It was to suggest that such a map could be printed in a council magazine or newspaper to save on printing costs, yet get it out to everyone who may need it.

This is a council magazine:

In essence what’s shown is an article on ‘we’ve got this Community Toilet Scheme’.

However, present it as maps, and those that wish to can:

a) cut out the whole thing and stick it on their kitchen noticeboard, or

b) cut out the relevant area map for them, glue a bit of cereal-box to the back and put it in their purse (I made each one the size of a £10 note for that purpose).


  • The map gets into every home, raising awareness of the scheme
  • Those that want a map, have a map
  • 100s of leaflets aren’t printed then left in a box in the council offices


  • I should have chosen a scheme with fewer toilets, such as one focused on a village or high street.

The one that I used has far too many toilets to list on a £10 note, so I left some off, made some up, and basically cheated. You certainly can’t fit a whole district or council on one map, or opening hours, which would have been nice.

And some shopping areas have a frustrating reluctance to be rectangular in shape.

  • It’s really cheap

Too cheap – the council can’t seriously suggest cutting a map out and sticking it on a cereal box. The country’s not that broke.

  • It may reach everyone in the borough (…that reads the council newsletter. That’s everyone, right?) but it won’t reach visitors.

This is the great flaw with every pocket map.

Those that are visiting and don’t know what the local businesses are, what council district they’re in, or that there is a Community Toilet Scheme, don’t stand a chance.

I don’t wish to end on a negative (“nothing works!”), so one solution is to have both signs in the urban environment and pocket maps for local residents. That way you’ve pretty much covered your bases, if blown your budget.

Another is to combine them.

Pocket maps of toilets have a limited audience; you’d have to be pretty organised or have health problems to carry a toilet map around with you.

A large, physical ‘Town Centre Map’ noticeboard provides the in-situ information that you get with signs but you only need one.

It also provides information on lots of things, not just community toilets.

And where do you put this new town centre map?

How about in the Main Square, on that empty patch of ground.

You know… where the public toilets used to be.


Entry filed under: Ideas!, Information Design, Urban Design. Tags: , , , .

Idea #7: What Community Toilet Scheme? … the Big Society

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