Why are some cities easier to navigate than others? Aside from having considerate citizens willing to provide directions, the answer is a branch of design we take for granted unless it's poorly designed or absent.
A post in The Atlantic Cities highlights the overlooked art and value of wayfinding. Wayfinding, or environmental graphic design, is made up of more than just attractive signs. Visual cues such as street banners, sidewalk materials, maps, kiosks, and lighting create systems that communicate how to navigate through a city.
Sue Labouvie, urban wayfinding expert and president of Studio L’Image, explains
“When we have big cities, they become so complex we have to then impose something like signage and wayfinding to help people move through these cities and feel comfortable doing that because of the way that the city was designed.”
Successful wayfinding systems, according to Labouvie, do the following:
- Consider who the users are, how people use information, how they travel, and where they are going
- Comprehensively cover an entire city and not just its cultural (museum) campus
- Strike a balance between "intuitive navigation and individual discovery"
Labouvie points to effective examples in Philadelphia, New Orleans, and IKEA:
“It’s like [in] IKEAs. Part of it is they want you to get lost, because then you can find out what you want, or what you don’t want, but then they always give you cues to getting back to the main path."
The Surprisingly Complex Art of Urban Wayfinding [The Atlantic Cities]
Image: Oran Viriyincy
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