Which way is up?

A sign post with one sign saying this way and the other saying that way.Signalling the right way to go has to account for cognitive abilities, visual acuity, and spatial awareness. As people age some of these abilities decline. Consequently, considering the needs of this group in wayfinding design will make wayfinding easier for everyone.  Mishler and Neider have identified five key points and explain them in detail in their article. They are: 

  1. Distinctiveness: the information should have cues that are informative to the route and can be distinguished from the surroundings.
  2. Consistency and standardisation: information overload can be avoided with the consistent placement, size, colour and shape of signage.
  3. Simplicity: limiting each sign to three or four units of information, because people tend to glance rather than read, and avoid visual clutter.
  4. Isolation: keep the signs away from other visual clutter to help focus attention in the right place.
  5. Reassurance: letting people know they are still on the correct route especially if the destination is a long way from the directional sign.

The title of the article is, “Improving Wayfinding for Older Users with Selective Attention Deficits”, in Ergonomics in Design.  Here is part of their conclusion:

“Because maps and other layout information may not be easy for older adults to use, providing environmental support through wayfinding signage might be the best way to mitigate these difficulties. However, visual selective attention, which is needed to find and read a sign, declines in old age, which makes it particularly important to adhere strictly to certain guidelines for signage design.

Adhering closely to the principles of distinctiveness, consistency and standardization, simplicity, isolation, and reassurance should help not only to improve wayfinding performance for all users but also to reduce the performance gap between older and younger users.

Providing age-inclusive signage could help to maintain high mobility in older adults, prevent them from becoming isolated from their communities, and therefore help to avoid the mental and physical health issues that tend to be comorbid with age-related isolation. Age-inclusive signage design is therefore an increasingly important topic in an aging population.”   

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Secret language of signs

A bright pink sign saying Wynyard and directions to the station.Placement and design of signs are things we don’t notice until we can’t find them or find them misleading or indecipherable. In some cases they can cause serious accidents, let alone wasted time or just plain confusion and inconvenience. One problem seems to be that the people who erect signs actually know where they are and have no thought for newcomers to the area or building. They just know they have to put certain signs on particular things, for example toilets. But putting them on the door alone only tells you that you have found them, not how to find them. Fortunately wayfinding and signage design has become a skill in its own right and specialist consultants are being used more frequently. The Slate Website link  to The Secret Language of Signs tells the story of how a bus was misdirected and the result was seven people killed. It also links to the other articles on signs and signage, including Legible London, and the Japanese designer who is responsible for beginning the trend to icons that can be understood regardless of language. 

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