Final Project: Information Design

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Final Project: Information Design

  1. 1. Hinds Hall Static Wayfinding Sign System Intervention RESTROOMS ELEVATOR Project: Final Project: Intervention School: School of Information Studies Syracuse University Spring Semester 2012 Class: IST 600 Information Design Professor: Jaime Snyder By: Damian Rakowsky drakowsk@syr.edu
  2. 2. The main objective of this field study was to identify an in- formation system; to observe it, study it, intervene and re- cord the experience throughout. The hope once finished is that I would have a better understanding of information design in general and have a better appreciation of the specific information phenomenon studied and the way human users interact with it. “ An interconnected set of elements that isSystem coherently organized in a way that achieves The domain for this field study is Hinds Hall on the Syra- something.” cuse University campus. It is home to the School of Infor- mation Studies (iSchool). The information system studied Donella Meadowsis its static wayfinding sign system. A system is describedby Meadows (2008) as groups of elements that worktogether in a way that bears an outcome. Additionallyit must have three essential pieces: elements, intercon-nection, and a function or purpose. Information mustflow into the system, having either a positive or negativeeffect on the elements of the system that can be mea-sured. In doing so, elements will interact with each otherto yield the purpose of the system. The following will de-scribe the static wayfinding sign system using these terms. “ Must consist of three kinds of things: elements, interconnections, and a function or purpose.”
  3. 3. Contextually, this system lives within the physical walls Elements: of the building but the same system is used in all build- Primary Human Users: Guest to building & new staff/ ings campus wide. The system was implemented dur- employees and students. ing remodeling prior to iSchool’s move into the building. The iSchool had no creative control over the language, Secondary Human Users: Existing staff/employees and appearance or materials of the system. It is governed students who are familiar with the building. by Syracuse University’s Physical Plant operations, who control the uniform appearance. In doing so, it attempts Static Wall Mounted & Flag Mounted Signs: Colors, to keep costs down, ease the upkeep and help maintain typography, syntax, symbols, locations and sizes. all the buildings up to government, state and local sign codes. The Building Itself: Architecture: The buildings physical spaces and This study focused on a static information sign system, corridors and paths they create in the building. where the signs are stationary, inert and not plugged in either to the Internet or a wall socket. The signs do not Interior Design: Patterns, wall colors, art, furniture. broadcast any digitally dynamic information (such as In- ternet based or mobile website content). Although some web based information systems do exist in the building, the scope centers exclusively on static signs. The purpose of this system is to identify primary areas and rooms, secondary rooms, closets, egress, elevators, restrooms and to direct human users to these To identify primaryPurpose: places. The elements of this system are human users, signs, architecture, physical space and interior design. The human user can be broken down to two groups: areas, permanent primary and secondary users. The primary users are described as guests to the building -- new staff, faculty, and new students. The secondary users are com- rooms, egress prised of existing staff, faculty and students who are familiar with the building. The signs contain several sub-elements: typography (fonts and symbols), visual graph- routes and to ic language (including colors, patterns and materials), and the actual syntax of the information itself. The physical space made up by the architecture drives the direct human users messages of the signs and dictates not only their location but the visual graphics and information. Finally the interior design may play a role in what materials and to these places. colors are used on the signs themselves. The interconnections between the ele- ments are apparent, one directly dictates what the next element will either look like, say or do.
  4. 4. The static wayfinding sign system in Hinds Hall meets all The system can be engaged at multiple locations in the building, but the primary the criteria of a system as described by Meadows, the boundary of the system lies with the physical structure of the building. Inflow into elements are interconnected and serve a purpose. the system is represented by the human user entering the building and interacting Humans use the signs to find their way around the build- with the other elements of the system. The user can reengage the system once ing and the signs messages and appearance are dic- in the building multiple times to find other rooms or areas even though they might tated by the architecture and interior design. have found their first destination. The system can be engaged over and over until the user exits the building representing the outflow.Information Flow & Boundries.
  5. 5. More than an information system, this sign system can Wayfinding Signs further be described as a “Wayfinding” system. Passini (2000) describes wayfinding as people’s ability to ab- 101 Identification: sorb, digest, understand and use information to find a Directional: specific place. Sless (1994) further classifies wayfinding as a specific practice of Information Design that focuses not so much on form but the content of the message maximizing the user’s ability to proficiently find the de- sired location. Signs that appear in a wayfinding system Signs that identify a Direct users within a can be classified in one of four categories: Identification, permanent room or space and usually Regulatory, Directional and Informational as per industry areas. includes arrows. standards found in wayfinding design and fabrication firms. Identification signs are used to identify perma- M R nent rooms or area; regulatory signs provide warnings or FLORIDA AVE MARY ST $ Informational: GRAND AVE $ 2 FU LL important safety information. Signs that fall in both these CO ER M M ST OD M OR cF 6 Y AR E HW PL LA N DR A AIN RE ZA E RD HO M YS BA Regulatory: S categories are required to follow national guidelines. 4 3 CHARLES AVE 5 Directional signs direct users within a space or area and $ usually include arrows; informational signs provide gen- N eral information about an area or building, such as a map or directory. Signs in these categories do not have Provide a warning Provide information to follow any laws and are completely at the discretion of or important safety about an building like the building owners or managers. information. maps and directories.Passini: Describes wayfinding as people’s ability to Since this study is about a wayfinding system, I used these descriptions and stan- dards as base criteria for my observations and evaluations. I observed primary absorb, digest, under- users engaging the system, interviewed secondary human users and building staff that are familiar with the existing sign system and regulations. I analyzed sign stand and use informa- syntax, quantity and location of signs throughout the building. I also considered tion to find a s specific three concepts described by Passini (2000): could I figure out how to get to the spot I wanted? Could I determine a route to take? Was there enough there for place. me to implement this plan?
  6. 6. Results of the evaluation demonstrate several problems • The existing system is strict and is dictated by the campus wide system. It does related to the design and flow of information within the not take into account the interior design or architecture. The dark colors match system. Furthermore, they have created a clear direction almost too well with the wall colors, which make them difficult to notice. for me to follow in temporarily altering or changing the system. • The directional signs are difficult to locate due their location near the ceiling. Ty- HINDS HALL pography is not consistent form sign to sign – the fonts are too small to read from a distance. • It is difficult for visitors to find destinations, meeting rooms and elevators. Identification:Wayfinding Signs 337 009 • The building lacks sufficient directional or trailblazer signs to lead humans to the DATA restrooms, which are difficult to find. Due to architectural restrictions, male and female restrooms do not exist on every floor together and the signs do a poor job RESTROOM to indicate so. • Once in the building the architecture is very similar floor to floor making it hard Directional: Regulatory: to remember which floor your on. The lack of signs or identification makes it dif- ficult to help you locate yourself. RESTROOMS ELEVATOR EXIT • Identification signs are adequate but unattractive; they identify rooms as expected and there is a suitable contrast between the typography and back- ground. Informational: NONE • Regulatory signs are suitable and appear to meet local and national codes. • Overall the system lacked sufficient signs. The ones that • NO informational signs or maps exist anywhere in the building, nor are the floors do exist have poor impact. identified in any manner, specifically in the stairway landings. • The signs consist of several different sign sizes, where all • There are no identifying signs or markers that help human users at the primary are brown and/or black in color. Lesser important rooms entrances on the main floor to initiate the system. have signs that are considerably smaller than signs for offices, restrooms and meeting rooms. The fonts are dif- • A request for uniform and stylistic graphics was made. ferent from sign to sign, and in some cases the graphic symbols are not consistent or accurate.
  7. 7. The strategy of the intervention was to design and imple- • Create graphically compelling graphics that identify the floors and destination ment a few new sign types that would help the existing using principles describes by Visocky O’Grady (2008): Clarify appropriate infor- static wayfinding sign system in a positive way by ad- mation, utilize basic visual communication principles, consider the surrounding dressing the problems uncovered during my investigation. architecture and create dominant and recessive content. The following information design principles were the most salient when designing intervening signs. New Plan Design • First and foremost, I have the cooperation of the iSchool administration. Hence, I was able to get feed- back and direction in the use of the existing graphic standards.Colors: Font: Intervention of the existing system took place with three new sign types: A, B and C. All three types use an overall graphic language that includes a standard color palate, graphic symbols and typographic hierarchy that meets the iSchool’s • The design was directed to the primary users group, criteria. Floor plans are used on sign types A and B that only emphasize the des- guests and new students. tinations that are difficult to locate (such as restrooms, elevators and stairs). The majority of classrooms, offices and meeting rooms maintain an even gray tone. • It addresses big gaps in the wayfinding system: no infor- Conversely, the mens restrooms are branded with a blue hue and the womens mation signs, few directional signs and poor floor identifi- with a pink hue, which accentuates the fact that one or the other always appear cation. on each floor. Egress stairs, elevators, handicap accessible restrooms and “You Are Here” tags are identified with hues that pop out of the gray background. The • Important destination graphics should make use of a map itself is drawn from a perspective that emphasizes the building architecture pop-out effect as described by Ware (2008), by grabbing and aids users to orient themselves in the space faster. Also, the maps are always attention using channels such as color, texture or orienta- positioned correctly in alignment with the human user. tion.
  8. 8. The Sign TYpes:Sign type A is a major addition to the system and ad-dresses the lack of information signs. It is the primary di-rectory sign measuring three feet in diameter, containingdynamic floor plans in varying perspectives that displays Aall four floors at once. Locating a desired destination,creating a plan and implementing it, as described byPassini (2000), becomes a simpler undertaking with thecomplete building in view. There are two of these signslocated on the main floor within eyeshot of the main en-trances. They address the lack of a real starting point toengage the sign system.Sign Type B is an addition to the system that helps identifyfloors in the stair landings and acts as a secondary directorywith the specific floor plan exhibited. This sign type makesfor quick acknowledgment of the floor number and featuresthe primary destination and most importantly which restroomis located there. Men and women symbols in blue and pinkcolors are also shown on this sign and indicate which occurson the next floor up or down. A great deal of information isnow obtained at the stair landing that was not there before,reinforcing floor location and restroom designation.Signs Type C is an addition to the directional sign categoryand they are located in the corridors on all four floors anddirect exclusively to restrooms, elevators and egress stairs.Several signs were installed on each floor, for a total of 15 inthe entire building, a stark contrast to the four existing signsthat were meant to do the same job. These signs reinforce Cthe other two sign types using the same graphic languageand act as a reminder to the human users moving about inthe corridors of most often asked question during my obser-vations and interviews; “Where is the restroom?” B
  9. 9. A grand total of 25 paper mock signs were installed in Hinds Hall. All the design decisions made with the new sign types were directly in response to the informa-Floor One tion flow problems identified in the existing system. The colors, graphics, fonts, sizes of the signs, the specific locations of intervening signs all were a deliberate attempt to impact the system in a positive way. My theory was that the salient elements that I deemed necessary to change and add would have a favorable impact for humans using the system. A A B Locations B C
  10. 10. The response to the intervention was instantaneous and Sign Type A tremendous. I was getting encouraging feedback from people before I could completely install all the signs. An experiment was performed involving human users to determine the complete response and to thoroughly evaluate the intervention. To test the primary human users group, guests to the building and new staff, faculty and students, I requested humans who had never been in the building to attempt to find various destinations and to get their overall impres- sions of the intervening signs. I had them enter the first floor entrances and proceed to find a men’s restroom. It can only be found on the ground level, one floor below or all the way up on the third level.Intervention
  11. 11. Overall, the results were positive. Out of 16 users, only Sign Type C two had trouble clearly understanding the graphics and symbols used to direct them to the restrooms. The other 14 users had no problems quickly determining where they were on the plan, creating a plan to find the restroom and implementing it. The two users who had trouble both found the graphics striking but had trouble understanding the stacked restroom symbols on Sign Type B, but other- wise understood the maps themselves. The results are very promising and show a positive impact on the system.Sign Type B I received additional input from people who I interviewed prior to the interven- tion to get their post-intervention thoughts on the system. The three significant comments were that the information graphics and maps worked; they liked the blue and pink branding of the restrooms; and the overall graphic style was very dynamic and pleasing. The salient design principles used during this process have yielded a considerably To test the secondary human users of existing staff, faculty positive intervention. In the end, the existing sign system was lacking vital informa- and students who are familiar with the building, I had a tion to efficiently accomplish its purpose. The addition of two new sign types and mass email sent to iSchool associates requesting feed- adding more of a third made a significant difference in enhancing the system. back. Once again the response was overwhelmingly positive. Many people thought the signs were done by Tackling this information design problem taught me to better understand how to the administration and building management in response really evaluate an existing system for what it’s worth. I was able to spend more to an upcoming event and encouraged them to keep time critically examining the information flow problems beyond the superficial the signs up and replace them with a more permanent graphics. Additionally, I realized that information systems are a big part of our medium. Again, a small minority had trouble understand- daily routine. The ones that are designed well blend seamlessly into our lives and ing the stacked restroom symbols on Sign Type B, but still the ones that are not can cause us grief, especially if you, really need to find a understood and appreciated the floor maps. bathroom.
  12. 12. References Meadows, D. 2008. Thinking in Systems: A Primer, pp. 11-25. Chelsea Green Publishing. Passini, R. 2000. Information Design Sign Posting Information Design, pp. 88-89. First MIT Press paperback edition. Sless, D. 1994. What is information design? In Designing Information for People, pp. 1-16. Canberra: Communication Research Press. Visocky O’Grady, J. & Visocky O’Grady, K. 2008. The Information Design Handbook, pp. 64-65, 72-73, 97-125. HOW Books, an impriont of F+W Media, Inc. Ware, C. 2008. Visual Thinking for Design What Can We Easily See, pp. 23-33. Morgan Kaufmann Publishers

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