8/25/2009

Final Solution to my Map Wayfinding Project

Background & Context

Interim progress parts 1 and part 2

The final product is a double-sided 11x17 map.
Side 1:
Photobucket

Side 2:
Photobucket

Some interesting issues and random observations from this process:

It became clear that a disclaimer was necessary to indicate that this was not to be used in a fire - people will sue over the dumbest stuff so I'd probably do the same.

Most people don't have the slightest idea what 'design' is or why it matters - even after you show them the results of good design they can't seem to make the connection. It's just not something our society consciously values or teaches. Even if people don't consciously understand the value of design, when you show them something much better than what they're used to they jump on it instantly. I lost count of the number of people from different departments who immediately asked when they could get a copy of the map upon seeing draft versions. Everyone in this firm needs better wayfinding tools, but no one else actually went to the effort to solve the problem to date. People from every-imaginable department keep trying to high-jack this map for their own uses and piggyback off of the efforts and budget of the people who hired me (the activities and events coordinators).

What they really need is to hire a professional wayfinding firm - the best I can hope to offer them is student-level work because I simply don't have the experience to do any better yet. Hopefully this first tiny little step won't be the end of this, but I'm not holding my breath - bureaucracies rarely appreciate the value of design and I'm honestly amazed that my simple maps have gotten as much traction as they have.

Getting back to the joke I overheard an employee make about needing a GPS to get around the building: it would actually be quite feasible to give every resident of this facility a personal navigation device - the place is complex enough to warrant it. I'm guessing GPS would be precise enough? They could always add some sort of RFID or Wifi triangulation system to more precisely pinpoint the user, and these devices are certainly affordable for a company of this size. I had to make some very serious compromises to the maps to translate the building into 2D. Left and right aren't even consistent on the cross section map because some of the elevators open on different sides on different floors. (It's all these little flaws with my map that worry me - how well will it hold up in regular use when this building is so poorly designed that no amount of wayfinding will ever be more than a band-aid??)

This building is currently tied with the Morrill science building at UMass and Chandler Ullman building at Lehigh for the most confusing and poorly-designed buildings I have been in. Each of these started off as reasonably-decent buildings that were poorly expanded and became more and more unintelligible over time. I think this points to the importance of designing structures for future expansion and adaptation - a building that is great is one that stands the test of time successfully.

Regardless, I learned a lot and had a fun time - this is by far the most challenging project I have ever worked on! I learned more as an architecture student from this project than in any of my design studios.

1 comment:

  1. Nice job Derek. I think you did the best job you could considering the...uh...questionable nature of the place. That's where wayfinding fails is when the space is poorly designed and executed in the first place. At least it was a learning experience, that's the important thing!

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