This may sound crazy, so please bear with me. I went to Sarasota Memorial Hospital for my class assignment in signage and wayfinding. I decided to stop by the Administration Department to get approval for photographing their signage. A woman stated I should talk to someone in their Operations Signage Department. Before we parted she remarked that if they were closed that she did not see why I couldn’t take a few pictures of the Hospitals wayfinding signs for my school project. The office was closed. And so I did…sneaking around, clicking when no-one was looking, yet knowing that I was on camera. I felt it was important to explain the photographs you are about to see just in case the Hospital contacts me.
I want to begin this signage/wayfinding assignment with a little background regarding Sarasota Memorial Hospital. I have a long history with this facility as my mother spent way too much time there between, diabetic issues, three heart attacks, a quad by pass (which I stayed with her the entire week sleeping in a chair in her room) and several other physical ailments leading to her stays in the hospital. This in and out went on for twelve years. Mom died four years ago. I worked in the accounting department in 2009 at SMH and was involved in the monthly meetings with the CEO which revolved around the new construction of the building and additional facilities.
Ok, so let’s begin. Signage and wayfinding are visual communications. It is through signage that united wayfinding and identity systems occur. This includes information design for exterior and interior signage through directory maps and signs that are color coded resulting in the user navigating easily through the medical facility.
Requirements for Interactive Indoor Wayfinding System:
1) The signs are easy to see
2) The message is clear
3) Shows “you are here” to the user
4) Allows choices to a destination
5) Depicts a route
6) The process is simple and understandable for various users
The construction has been going on for two years now and this trip was my first time back. Because of the chaos (building and reconstructing) the signage system needed to be clear and simple for all users.
As I pulled up I saw signs everywhere directing visitors. The colors of the signs are symbolic of patriotism red, white and blue. Immediately a user can see clear hierarchies by the use of different fields of color containing different types of content as well as easy to follow directional arrows. (para Chen Design, 91).
I had to park in the parking garage and there was the old signage that I was accustomed to:
As I walked out of the elevator a large yellow number one let me know I was on the first floor. The arrow pointed in the direction to guide me, the user to the main lobby.
The signage and wayfinding system can be seen as it helps the user quickly make the next decision of where to go and how to get there. “Maps and user guides. Fewer than half of all hospitals currently provide basic user guides and maps to aid in wayfinding. However, they can provide valuable assistance to patients and visitors and are fast becoming a necessity…”
A directory and other information maps are available and visible as the user walks through the lobby.
A sitemap is located within the first floor hallway as Baer describes, “…should give a visual outline of all components and informational elements of the project” (64).
The photograph below is the final version of the design in blueprint format that maps out the user experience. It reveals a detailed view of how the content is organized as it incorporates interactivity by being simple and easy to read. The visual information used in wayfinding is seen through maps, symbols and diagrams to guide the user. According to Romedi Passini, “… people need information to make and execute decisions. Therefore, the wayfinding decisions they make determine the content of the required information” (89).
Wayfinding provides direction for people in motion. The principles of wayfinding design are described by the Michigan street wayfinding signs conceptual approach:
1) Design for the first time user.
2) Design to simplify the visual environment (legibility, coherence).
3) Give only the information needed at a given decision point.
4) Integrate design elements.
5) Contribute to a sense of place.
6) Create synergy between destinations.
7) Respond to diverse stakeholders.
8) Design for flexibility and to minimize maintenance costs.
9) Design for adaptability to other media. (2)
The information based exhibits depict quality by organizing the data, showing clarity of the directional data and reducing visual disorder. The displays are clean with plain language. They are detailed to ensure a consistent quality in the sign information design as signage and interactive imagery are intertwined. The quality experience supports the goals of the exhibits and displays by meeting the priority of the target audiences through the mixed media that utilizes and meets the interests of all age groups and cultural backgrounds. The overall purpose includes the objectives relating to the quality and coherence. The quality of contextual information is in simple language regarding its background information. It also reveals continued changes due to the construction.
The new signage at SMH uses an approach known as Progressive Disclosure to engage the audience and make the information meaningful. Progressive Disclosure presents only the information needed to move from one decision point to the next. (para Phil Murphy). Effective stories are told from the moment the user arrives for example, does the user need the lobby to find an elevator or the emergency room to find a loved one? This information engages the audience in the decision process.
The hospital signage is clear and effective as it provides a design framework that establishes consistent aesthetics and quality. The integration of different components begins with the maps, naming, numbering, colors utilized such as the word “Emergency” in red, typography and general organization of the parts of a building which are important organizational aspects of the signage system. Wayfinding is unified as each sign is interrelated to the next and the clarity of purpose is clear in its plain language succeeding in showing complex data in a format which is understandable by various users.
The information is effectively designed for the variety in the audience between the various ages, genders and social status. In 2013 the Courtyard Tower will officially open.
What new signage will convey their final message? We will just have to wait and leave it up to the creative designers of the hospital signage department.
Baer, Kim. Information Design Workbook: graphic approaches, solutions, and inspiration + 30 case studies. Beverly: Rockport Publishers, Inc., 2008.
Did you know that change and Sense-Making seem to go hand in hand?
Brenda Devin remarked that it is through sense-making that we combine elements of time, space, and movement that results in a gap (para. 45). Notice the movement of the user as the author commented, “The Sense-Making assumptions are implemented through a core methodological metaphor that pictures the person as moving through time-space, bridging gaps, and moving on” (45).
Sense-making is a tool used to make something sensible. We see designs everyday on cereal boxes,
The designers have researched the audience and their needs and are passing on specific information to the user. According to Brenda Devin, “Information, no matter what it is called – data, knowledge, or fact, song, story or metaphor – has always been designed” (36).
2) …describes and ordered reality but can be “found” only be those with proper observing skills and technologies.
3) …describes an ordered reality that varies across time and space.
4) …describes an ordered reality that varies from culture to culture.
5) …describes an ordered reality that varies from person to person.
6) …is an instrument of power imposed in discourse on those without power.
7) …imposes order on a chaotic reality (37).
It is because of the vast amount of information given and received on a daily basis that there is a need to prevent information overload. This is where sense-making comes into play. By extracting pieces of information that seem relevant according to the context, organization and structure is created. Omitola et al. stated, “Information is being generated at such a prodigious rate that the challenge now is sense-making, how do we curate information, version it, maintain it, index it, search it, query it, retrieve it, and re-use it, thereby helping people discover relevant content.” If you really think about it, sense-making is based on our expectations about people, and what is important to society.
I have visited blogs that tried to deliver too much information in one glance. It can be confusing to experience information overload when trying to gather data of your own.
I have incorporated elements of Concept Mapping into my blog to guide the user. Really I have, and to prove it let’s put it to the test. For the next five minutes you will test my theory. You will decide if my design is a result of Concept Mapping. Ready, set, but wait a minute. What is Concept Mapping anyway? That’s an easy one.
Concept mapping is a pictorial way of constructing, gathering, sharing and organizing information through a graphical tool. It is a strategy that consists of nodes that represent concepts, cross links that are labeled and directional arrows. This type of mapping is an explanation about concepts with nodes, crosslinks and labels. A concept map is structured, simple-to-read and graphically displays a message.
Get the picture? Simple right? Dan Roam commented, “The heart of any system connects to all the main components…” (184). One characteristic of Concept Mapping is that the concepts are represented in a hierarchical fashion. OK. Let’s go with that.
So, in reviewing my blog, context is the first step towards the Focus Question? “Does My Blog Contain Concept Mapping?” Now you can identify and list key concepts:
The next step is to rank the order of the concepts:
Are you ready? You can now construct an initial Concept Mapping of my blog….drum roll please:
All of the concepts are in some way related to one another. The Concept Mapping now has links to concepts and additional concepts have been added. Cross links are described by Joseph D. Novak & Alberto J. Cañas, “These are links between concepts in different segments or domains of knowledge on the map that help to illustrate how these domains are related to one another. Cross-links are key to show that the learner understands the relationships between the sub-domains in the map.”
As you can see I have incorporated one tool into my blog called Concept Mapping. It is depicted in the design by illustrating key aspects that inform the user through highlighting links, labels and crosslinks that are connected and seen by arrows to bring the context into a clearer view making it easier to understand. In my blog the links, categories, images, videos, etc. all connect to one another. In a sense it avoids information overload by its presentation.
The readings for “The process of Information Design” have suggested the process is broken down into stages. This is my explanation of the process.
So, word around town is that you want to know about the complicated, intricate and the complexities of the overwhelming process of Information Design. How a designer welcomes a user into their world and vice-versa, right? Ok, this is very important and don’t forget these words of wisdom, “You can’t judge a book by its cover.” Yes, there are several crucial steps that need to be completed in order to be successful, yet it’s easier than you think. Emily Cohen who serves on the board of advisors of InSource and on the AIGA In-House task force commented, “Great information design invites the reader to join in the process of interpretation, and will thus go a long way in improving how the requester and designer values and interprets the content.”
It all begins with inquiries, stage one. First you need to define the problems and goals through questions leading to the progression of knowing your target audience. Why is it needed? You need to analyze the problem and goal while researching your target audience leading to defining how success will be measured. If this step is positive a designer will be able to answer such questions such as, “Who? What? When? Where? Why? And How?” What do you want to achieve? Who will use it? How will they use it? Where will they use it? When will they use it?
Stage two is when a strategy is developed through brainstorming ideas. This is the fun part depending on your point of view. Start with gathering information through research and organizing your data into a creative brief. Mark Boulton described the processes in his online book, A Practical Guide to Designing for the Web, “The creative brief is a document produced by a designer in response to the client brief. Sometimes, it is an oral brief given at the start of the project by a senior creative, meaning someone on the design team, such as an art director, creative director or designer. It outlines the creative elements of the project.” Look for any data patterns while learning more about your target audience and look for potential narrative hot spots too. Because in a sense you are the storyteller and this is your inspirational stage. Select the content and plan the layout.
Now for the third stage, you will create a persona with different scenarios in presenting the information to the user. All of your data now comes into play as described by Kim Baer, “A persona is a brief profile of a typical user that outline attributes, desires, needs, habits, and capabilities of a typical user” (58). By identifying your main audience you will receive further ideas and data about a user and how to categorize them. This is where a designer may see more patterns to focus on.
The final stage incorporates drafting and testing two different prototypes or structural overviews of the information design product: a sitemap and a blueprint or what’s called a wireframe. If you are working with a client then ask to receive copies of current marketing materials. This gives you an idea of where they have been and what you see for their future designs. In Website Information Design or in an interactive design, a site map is developed consisting of all the main topic areas of the site, as well as sub-topics. It organizes the information to create an outline. According to Kim Baer, “Sitemaps are foundational tools of information architecture, related to the master planning documents…A well-organized sitemap gives you an at-a-glance view of the entire site, with all its main sections, pages, and sublevel pages” (66). Another tool used is a wireframe which is a detailed sketch of how the content will be prepared. It is the architecture that depicts a sketch integrating a detailed view of the content using one or two colors. Once a prototype is created of the design, testing will begin. Different types of testing techniques are utilized such as concept tests, participatory design, focus groups, usability testing, and beta testing. A successful experiment is not only a time saver but also can solve problems which were not forecasted.
I would add a step of documenting the guidelines, patterns and specifications of the design. Another step would be to incorporate a review of metaphors and essential concepts in words, images, sounds and touch. In my opinion, the Information Design process can be improved by incorporating a new the last stage continuing the process by gathering feedback and updating the design based on new information. I believe the most important step of the process is stage two where the creative juices flow and a brief is created along with a layout and the content based on pertinent questions used as guidelines.
What must be kept in mind is that each industry and field will require specific Information Design tools and therefore no two designs will entail the same process. Different problems, different solutions.
Boulton, Mark. A Practical Guide to Designing for the Web. Pernath: Mark Boulton Design, LTD., 2009.
Let’s talk about Wayfinding. What is the objective for Wayfinding? According to Romedi Passini, “…the objective of information design for wayfinding is not to design signs but to help people move efficiently to their chosen destinations” (87). For example, a sign to a men’s room will use an iconic image or a symbol to represent the destination of the user. In this case either the language could be read or a known convention is held by the individual in order to follow the signs.
This pro of wayfinding is considered a way to, “devise a logical system that quickly, understandably and easily guides visitors through a space” (Flinchpaugh, 9). When done correctly an interior signage system will inform the user where they are, where they want to go, the best route to get there, an understanding that they have arrived, and even how to get back. It sounds simple enough, or is it? First there is a blue print or a decision plan.
At each type of decision point, the wayfinding system is reviewed for the best practices such as visibility, readable, flexibility, ease of use, proper amount of information, appropriateness to location, consistency, reliability and continued updates. (para. Jennifer M. Mclaughlin, Brendan B. McNeil, Sarah E. Sebald). One of the major cons of wayfinding is the possibility of the any one of the requirements mentioned will not be successful. Wayfinding then fails. If there is lack of information to guide routes or updates, it will fail and cause frustration and confusion among the users. Passini commented that the additional decisions are called higher order decisions where a hierarchy is created.
From the hierarchy, a decision can be made based on schematic designs which involve a family of signs. This includes the following sign types: parking directional sign, parking garage identification and entry/exit sign, building-mounted format, lot identification, parking garage/lot “You Are Here” pedestrian informational sign, transit stop sign, highway sign cluster and sign system pole for traffic signs. Romedi Passini remarked that one downside to this is it will not propose a structured way to actually solve a problem. (para. 94).
What it comes down to is weighing the pros and cons. The pros of wayfinding can be simple to use, easily modified, could have a mapping system on display, can deal with multi-lingual issues, have dynamic information like scrolling data and display large signs from highways for user easy interaction. Whereas, the cons of wayfinding might be that it cannot be easily modified, some multi-lingual limitations like it only has two languages that can be displayed, there might be technical requirements for operation and if these fail to operate, the whole system can be ineffectual and last, sometimes cost could be a factor.
Wayfinding, the theory is being used in practice on all four of my blogs. Wayfinding is more than signage; it uses visual clues as it documents locations and makes my messages easier to understand. Möser Sebastian, Patrick Degener, Roland Wahl and Reinhard Klein stated, “The two main constraints for the design of more general perspectives are simplicity for the designer and comprehensibility for the user” (1855). It is about the intertwining of interpretation and wayfinding to get to a destination. It could be implemented in the blog environment by providing, links, legible font and color, and navigation using graphics and images.
Navigation is about wayfinding, you can’t treat it as separate because many other things run parallel with it. If you look at studies in wayfinding, everything from exhibit design to building the cathedrals, it’s about creating a complete system. It’s about looking at the whole. ~ Clement Mok
Mclaughlin, Jennifer M., Brendan B. McNeil and Sarah E. Sebald. Addressing wayfinding at Bumrungrad Hospital. 2005. 13 Feb. 2012 http://www.wpi.edu/Pubs/E- project/Available/E-project-031105- 234749/unrestricted/Addressing_Wayfinding_at_Bumrungrad_Hospital.pdf
Möser Sebastian, Patrick Degener, Roland Wahl and Reinhard Klein. “Context Aware Terrain Visualization for Wayfinding and Navigation.” Pacific Graphics 27.7 (2008): 1853-1860.
Passini, Romedi. Information Design. Cambridge: The MIT Press, 2000.
There are many definitions of information design as there are uses for it in various fields according to Baer (208) such as, “Interaction designer, information architect, plain language expert, human factor’s specialist, graphic designer, user experience designer, and human computer interaction specialist. (para 14). Information design is not limited to only enhance these fields, but all fields like business, marketing etc., and all people. For example De Rossi (2001) commented, “Information Design is the detailed planning of specific information that is to be provided to a particular audience to meet specific objectives. The output of information design consists of visually delivered information which is highly designed for the benefit of the user….Information Design is all about the psychology and physiology of how users access, learn, and remember information; the impact of colors, shapes, and patterns, learning styles.” De Rossi categorizes the benefits and effectiveness by utilizing diagrams, charts, information maps and flowcharts in technical or business related information. (para 5-6).
Kasperek (2001) refers to the long term outlook of information design as, “Going beyond the butterfly ballot, information design extends to and can improve all types of media: print, editorial, ads, Web sites, CD ROMs, signs, any type of public communication.”
Baer (2008) describes the definition from the Society for Technical Communication’s (STC) as, “…the translating [of] complex, unorganized, or unstructured data into valuable, meaningful information” (p. 12). Horn remarked, “Information design is defined as the art and science of preparing information so that it can be used by human beings with efficiency and effectiveness. (Jacobson, 2000).
Another area of information design is the approach used for web development as noted by Knemeyer (2003), “Information Design is dedicated to making information as effective as possible. Effective is a carefully chosen word here. In order to be as effective as possible, information must carefully balance a variety of factors, including, but not limited to clarity, relevance, timeliness, amplitude, volume, and differentiation…Information Design grounds that consultation and planning process. By approaching the Web project as an information solution, among the galaxy of information solutions and organizational realities that face clients, developers are equipped to design a Web site or application that best contributes to their business success.”
These definitions though related to specific fields have one thing in common. Information design is a tool that simplifies and communicates ideas, complex problems, issues or solutions to an audience visually, in a manner that is easier to comprehend through colors, symbols, words, and pictures. Where would we be without wayfinding designs such as:
or websites that guide us to the next page? In my opinion, it would be a trip back sixty years. Today, we teeter on information overload on a daily basis and as Horn stated, “What we need is not more information but the ability to present the right information to the right people at the right time, in the most effective and efficient form” (p.20).
Baer, Kim. Information Design Workbook: graphic approaches, solutions, and inspiration + 30 case studies. Beverly: Rockport Publishers, Inc., 2008.