Wayfinding: The Shopping Mall experience (Part 2)

Continuing and concluding the series ‘Wayfinding: The Shopping Mall experience’, in which I analyse the wayfinding strategies implemented in several Abu Dhabi shopping malls, in this final instalment I will be focusing on the user experience at Al Wahda Mall, Abu Dhabi Mall and Al Zahiyah Shopping Center in relation to my previous analyse of the World Trade Center Mall.

Comparing Al Wahda Mall’s online wayfinding experience, a critical aspect in promoting an efficient experience through yielding an awareness of the space for the user before one’s physical visit, by accessing its website (www.alwahda-mall.com) with that of World Trade Center Mall previously, Al Wahda Mall also has a full and updated list of stores with their location only being informed by a written location. However, Al Wahda’s website slightly elevates above that of World Trade Center’s limitations. This is because on top of  the floor the store is found, each specific store is provided with a reference code. This reference code can be used alongside the floor plans provided on the website which identities each unit and its respective reference code. However, the user has to manually align the reference code of the specific store site to the separate floor map. This can be time consuming and frustrating due to the volume of shops and as such the amount of accompanying reference codes. On the other hand, Abu Dhabi Mall’s online wayfinding experience (www.abudhabi-mall.com), builds on the limitations of the World Trade Center Mall and Al Wahda Mall websites as it provides an interactive map which conjoins store location to a visual representation of the mall space in the form of a map which previous cases failed to do. Despite the online map being basic, plain, and out-dated in design compared to the detailed digital wayfinding maps discussed below, the user can effectively find the exact location of stores and other mall services without knowing the space beforehand. If done correctly the user can be entirely independent of the wayfinding strategies implemented in the physical space during the actual visit based on the knowledge and spatial understanding gained through such online tool. In Al Zahiyah Shopping Center’s case this opportunity of helping the user to gain a head start in the wayfinding process is missed through not having a website to communicate such vital strategies.

Analysing the physical wayfinding strategies of Al Wahda Mall effectively uses a range of signage in the form overhead signage communicating the direction of the mall’s services and facilities as well as stands which inform the user of the direction of specific shops. Images of these strategies are found below. However, it is important to highlight that the design of these signs are different in different sections of the mall and as such are not uniform. More importantly, some overhead signs of the same style/design are inconsistent in the aspect that one overhead sign guides the user to the nearest toilets, a critical and popular mall facility, yet the other overhead sign does not include toilets in their directions (image below). As such these signs should be enhanced in order to provide a uniform system to communicate the same facilities throughout the mall. This is because the current overhead signage system assumes that if the user passes by the toilets then signage can instead communicate a different facility in the place of toilets. It is also important to highlight that on top on these inconsistencies of communication, certain overhead signage boards are misleading and missed informed. For example, one overhead sign guides the user right across a bridge to reach the toilets, however the user is confronted with a wall. Instead the toilets, which presuming the signage is trying to indicate, are indeed on the right but much further ahead and as such this signage should have been installed further along the hallway (images below). Another limitation to the signage at Al Wanda Mall is that due to the complexity of its layout, several confusing corridor separations are yield midway (image of example below). At these key junctions there should be signage indicating which shops are located in the conjoining passage way.

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Analysing the signage at Abu Dhabi Mall, it very effectively integrates the use of pictograms to communicate to the user which escalators to take by providing warning signs that the escalator is rotating in the wrong way in relation to the user’s intended route (images below). This as such can prevent any misfortunately accidents through effectively informing the user of the correct escalator whilst eliminating the language barrier through using universally understand symbols to represent these issues and solutions. However, the main entrance of the mall is poorly signed in the sense that once the user enters, it is only by presumption to take the escalators up that the user can access the main shopping levels (image below). As such there should be a big sign at the bottom of the escalators directing the unfamiliar user upstairs for shops and at the top of the staircase to direct the user back down to the main exit in order to reduce any confusion in the mall’s main entry points.

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I have concluded based on observations that due to the small scale and simpler layout of Al Zahiyah Shopping Center, signage is minimal which is beneficial and negative as its alienates the new user, while eliminates confusion for the regular user. However, recently the main front of the shopping mall has been covered due to renovations (image below). As such there is currently no indication that this building is still an active mall, compared to that of the other malls studied which place a great emphasis on their exterior look, and as such it would be very unlikely for a new user to find the mall in the first place, let alone experience the poor and nonexistent wayfinding strategies inside.

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Parallel to the World Trade Center Mall, interestingly both the other 2 major malls Al Wahda Mall and Abu Dhabi Mall also utilise digital wayfinding strategies in the form of an interactive interface (images below) and yield a very similar enhanced experienced in relation to my assessment at WTC Mall. Yet unique to Al Wahda Mall is that the digital wayfinding uses a 3D model of the mall in recreating the experience of getting to the desired location for the user (images below). This is very beneficial as the user can use the aspect of landmarks in following the route provide in real life. Also unique to Al Wahda’s digital interface is that whilst requesting the option for an accessible route, the system still directs the user through the escalators which is problematic (images below).

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In all cases, the malls in Abu Dhabi from the examples studied fail to fully utilise the usefulness of the digital wayfinding strategies through also providing and integrating such tools online. Having these strategies, which embody maps, signage, symbols, and route following, available and accessible online before the experience, will ultimately yield an effective and convenient user experience through eliminating the complications of unfamiliarity. Having theses digital wayfinding strategies, as argued above to be the most useful in the mall experience, online will help the user to gain a solid geo-spatial awareness of these unfamiliar complex spaces which many shopping malls by default embody. With such orientation comes the ease of navigability. Simply for this to happen, malls have to conjoin online and digital strategies into one wayfinding experience.

Class Trip to Dubai

First of all, I really enjoyed the class trip we had. It was a great bonding time with both the professor and the classmates. As for the trip, we first went to the Etihad Museum, and it was absolutely beautiful. I have noticed that there was a smooth and clear/clean kind of theme to the building. Everything looked connected, they used the same color scheme for the entire building.

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The building is designed to look like a folded paper, and it had 7 giant pens in gold to represent the 7different emirates. That idea seemed brilliant to me, where a designer creates a building with a story that connects with the art in the building. There were a lot of huge windows which, in my opinion, resembled the hope and the bright future of this beautiful country.
Across the building, you can see different quotes of the UAE leaders as well as parts of the constitution. It was beautifully designed and placed at the right places for the visitors to clearly see. The calligraphy was truly breathtaking and forced every one of us to stare at it.

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As we were deciding on where should we take the group picture, the professor pointed out that we could actually recreate the picture of the leaders of the 7 emirates. And surprisingly, we were seven people in total which made the picture even more “believable”.

And at the end, we enjoyed our food at an Italian restaurant called Taste of Italy, the food was very tasty and delicious.

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Different Wayfinding Topics

Global Village:

Global Village is one of the largest tourism, leisure, and entertainment project in the world that is located in Dubai. It claims to be the region’s first cultural, entertainment, family and shopping destination. It has over 5 million visitors per year in an area of 17,200,000 sq. ft. The global village started out in a form of a number of kiosks back in 1996 located o the Creek Side opposite to Dubai Municipality. Then it moved to the Oud Metha Area for 5 years in a row. Now, Global Village is located in Dubai Land. People tend to go there to either shop for unique products, enjoy playing games, or simply taste the delicious food there that comes from all around the world.
Being a person that goes there at least once a month made me realize all the “Desire Paths” that were created in the entire village. A desire path is a path that is created and usually represents the most sufficient and easy short cut route from one point to another. The path’s width can be determined according to how much traffic a path can receive. It can also be referred to as desire line, game trail, and social trail. Half of the Global Village’s land is green areas and it’s mostly covered with grass. This means that no matter how hard the workers try to maintain the area and keep it green, they will end up failing.
In order to make an area look appealing to the visitor’s eyes, a designer would automatically include huge green areas and flowers to the land. But this would mean that in a few months, the grass would eventually disappear and become all sandy and dull again. My suggestion would be to eliminate 50% of the green areas and keep it only on the areas where people don’t tend to walk or pass by the most, or include fences around the corners.


Bathroom Signage at Park Hayat:

This would be a smaller section of the blog, but I just wanted to include this because the design of the bathroom sign looked interesting to me. I went out to have dinner with my friends at the hotel in Saadiyat Island and as I was walking to the bathroom, I saw the signs and they caught my attention. They looked very sleek, clean and elegant, and that’s how the designer of the place wanted the customers to feel like.

Wayfinding: The Shopping Mall experience (Part 1)

From the personal experience of being an integrated member of the city, as Willam Shintani rightfully states in Gulf News’s article Mall culture puts UAE consumers above Americans for brand intimacy, it is evident that there is a “growing mall culture” in the UAE especially in the city of Abu Dhabi. As Shintani explains “malls here offer a complete retail, leisure and entertainment experience, and ever-increasing numbers of people spend a great deal of time visiting them”. Yet according to The National’s article Time for Retail changes in the UAE there is a current need in UAE shopping malls for “improving sales and improving experience”. One way to yield such improvements is through providing effective wayfinding systems to “drive traffic to a store”. As such it of crucial importance for these malls to embody a navigable experience, one which allows the user in this case the public to maximize an awareness of the space around them, taking into the account the complexity of these built environments and the amount of people visiting these premises which might inhabit this.

As part of this series, I have analysed the shopping mall experience in terms of wayfinding from the user’s prospective in several Abu Dhabi malls; World Trade Centre Mall, Al Wahda Mall, Abu Dhabi Mall and Al Zahiyah Shopping Center; in order to assess the wayfinding strategies which, accompany the user’s shopping experience. In this part I will be highlighting the wayfinding at the World Trade Center Mall.

In today’s era, wayfinding often starts before the user’s physical experience through the availability of resources found on the internet, especially with each mall having a distinct web agenda and website to inform potential customers. Accessing the World Trade Center Mall website online (www.wtcad.ae), it was apparent that despite the website having an extensive database of the listed shops present, the location of each shop was only informed by the floor level. As such despite the user gaining knowledge about the shops available, the user must rely on the physical wayfinding implementations installed and established in the mall during the visit in order to find the shop unit. Wayfinding online in this case is extremely limited due to the absence of an adequate map to help the user gain an awareness of the shop’s location in the building. This hinders the shopping experiences especially for a user new or unfamiliar with the layout of the shopping mall. This is because more time has to be spent during the visit to gain a geospatial awareness and orientation of the space to reach the desired place in this case the intended shop. Such time and confusion could be saved with a more effective online wayfinding strategy before the visit such as sufficient floor plans to map the general layout in order to pinpoint the precise locations of specific shops.

Upon visiting the actual mall, it is noticeable the mall defers from the usual layout, in the sense that the mall fosters several entrances to the mall form all sides at very small internals. Initially this is not a problem as each entrance is visibly labelled as the entrance to the mall (as seen in the image below) and as such the external user is aware of the access points to gain entry inside. However, such system creates confusion for the internal user once instead the mall. This is because understanding of these entrances/exits relies on the awareness and knowledge of the streets surrounding the mall. As such due to number of entrance/exit points at each side of the mall, the mall uses signage directing users to the street which aligns with those exits/entrances. This is problematic as the entrances/exit points are not specifically named and as such it is lively for the user to exit at a different the entrance point than they have entered. This might be an inconvenience for the user as it can create confusion and additional walking taking into account circumstances such as accessing external street parking and bus stops; especially for users who do not poses the knowledge of the adjacent street names. A solution to this would be a design which incorporates a main mall entrance which the World Trade Center Mall lacks. This acts as a memorable and visible point of entrance and exit for the user to use a point of geospatial orientation.

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The mall also extensively uses signage and pictograms to inform the user of general direction and actions. It is clear that signage is often focused on the main and most popular department stores located in the mall (image seen below with the case of H&M). This is arguably effective as these are the most common desired places in the mall, and as such signage is orientated towards the user’s needs in order to accesses these desired shops. However, signage of emergency exits points is problematic. Many signs for emergency exits point straight ahead despite this direction being intercepted by a shop or a wall ahead (image below). It is also interesting to note that the emergency pictograms on signs to indicate to push the door open is misleading (image blow). This is because the pictogram clearly shows a hand grabbing the handle, an action associated with a pulling motion. This can inhabit the evacuation process. Instead the pictogram should illustrate a hand touching the panel. This problem with emergency signage also extends to some of the general mall signs. For example, there is a sign for restaurant lifts which points straight ahead despite there being a wall (image below). As also in the case with the emergency exits, this signs should instead be corrected and modified showing a change of direction at the wall following the L-shaped corridors, which the signs currently don’t take into account this aspect of the mall’s layout and design.

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The most successful and useful wayfinding strategy implemented in the World Trade Center Mall is the use of digital interfaces. This is can be conceptualised as a digital wayfinding strategy. The use of interactive touch screens throughout the mall especially at key user path interchanges such as at escalator and lift points provides effective means for the user in gaining a route to a desired shop or point at the mall quickly if lost or confused. Testing these digital screens, the user can manually observe the layout of the mall and find a desired point or shop, as well as have the option to look up for shops and other services. The interface provides several categories of different types of shop outlets, which is an effective and quick way to find a shop. Once a shop is selected, the interface will provide a moving route in which the user is directed from the current highlighted position to the desired position. As such this uses route following as wayfinding strategies based on a 2D map illustrating the light and divisions of the mall. This also expands to find services and facilities such as exit points and toilets. Images of the interface functions are found below. Despite this system being sufficing, other shopping malls in Abu Dhabi, as evident in further along this series, provide a more effective digital wayfinding strategies with similar interface points.

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Final Verdict: It seems even the wayfinding strategies are confused by the complex layout of World Trade Mall. It is only by the means of digital interfaces that make the mall barely navigable.

References:

Duncan, Gillian. Time for retail changes in the UAE. The National, April 19 2016. http://www.thenational.ae/business/the-life/time-for-retail-changes-in-the-uae

Shintani, William. Mall culture puts UAE consumers above Americans for brand intimacy. Gulf News, October 23 2015. http://gulfnews.com/business/sectors/retail/mall-culture-puts-uae-consumers-above-americans-for-brand-intimacy-1.1605687

A Semester Without Wayfinding

For my last blog entry of the semester, I wanted to write something a little more creative. I thought I would talk some of the emotional side of wayfinding. We have spoken a lot about wayfinding on the scale of buildings and campuses, and perhaps less about wayfinding in an urban environment as it impacts the individual (besides the case of Venice, of course). There is a Gene Tracy essay published on Aeon in 2015 called “Sky readers” that talks about what happens when humans lose the sky. For most of our history, Tracy says, navigation by stars was non-negotiable. Knowing where we are in the world (and later, where Earth is in the universe) is integral to the human experience. Tracy even pinpoints navigation as key to the development of the self:

“The development of our sense of spatial relationships – the ongoing discovery of where I am – is deeply entwined with memory formation. Neuroscience studies reveal that this is because forming the knowledge of place, and building that sense of our relation to other parts of the world, requires the brain to combine several different sense modalities. Hence information must be stored and then retrieved from memory, sifted and examined, and the brain’s theory of where we are in the world constructed. Combine this with the fact that it is through memory that the I endures, that memories are most effectively formed when there is some emotional charge attached, and we can see why our sense of place can be so entangled with our sense of who we are, why to be at no place is akin to being no one.”

For the past five years of my life, the formation of who I am as a person has been able to develop through my spatial experience in the world. I didn’t know my home city until I started driving and had to figure out how to get myself around. This was the first time I learned how to read a map. Later, when I moved to Valencia, Spain, I had my first real encounter with a city on foot. I got lost after my bus stop and was an hour late to my first day of class. That evening I got lost a second time trying to find my apartment. Finding my way through the city, paying attention to colored awnings or outdoor furniture or street names, was the first time I ever felt like I knew a city — or at least a part of one. I had routes programmed into my mind and legs, could list metro and bus stops in order, and felt like I had achieved something by gaining enough knowledge to live and move comfortably in the city.

When I moved to Shanghai for college, I started the same process. Like the LED-covered Dubai building Goffredo described, Shanghai defies permanence. Because so much of life takes place on the street — cooking, clothes washing, majiang — the landscape changes constantly. City blocks are razed and rebuilt within weeks. And as a foreigner with no Mandarin background, signage on buildings that would otherwise be helpful in creating a memory map become, in Chinese characters, a rainbow of unknowable information. Neighborhoods are impossible to define, and landmarks  In exchange for feeling somewhat mixed-up almost all the time, the foreigner’s mind in Shanghai is constantly stimulated and challenged without ever seeking it out.

Despite possessing some of the most appallingly unhelpful subway signage I have ever encountered (but hey, New Yorkers are proud that their public transportation is confusing for outsiders to navigate), New York was a combination of the two. There is enough life embedded in its gridded streets to allow for a degree of serendipity in the wayNew York is explored. In all of these places, the process of finding my way has been exhilarating and fulfilling.

It has taken me some time to unpack what it is that makes the wayfinding experience in Abu Dhabi and on the Saadiyat campus so different from other cities.  On campus, the lack of proper signage and oriented maps amplifies the fishbowl effect; the feeling of being an outsider overwhelms any sense of pleasure in feeling lost. After a day or two, it’s easy to find one’s way around the whole campus, and maybe even get tired of its predictability. In the city, the prominence of cars from place to place makes it difficult to have the organic wayfinding experience that is provided by pedestrian travel. For someone here for a short time and traveling primarily by cab, it is difficult to string together a map of the city from various highways. In my mind, Abu Dhabi exists as a collection of disjointed microspots to which visitors drive, enjoy, and leave. The in-between — the navigation — melts away, and part of the city is lost.

The Final Wayfinding Miscellany

Overview

For my last post, I will resume the usual format: I will discuss a variety of different design and wayfinding-related topics, however this time they will be more about personal experiences than about class discussions. The topics are:

  1. Dubai Trip Observations
  2. Struggles with Bureaucracy
  3. Two Funny Signs
  4. Why Wayfinding Isn’t About “Getting Used to It”
  5. A Personal Reflection On Design

(1) Dubai Trip Observations

The trip to Dubai and to the Etihad Museum was absolutely wonderful (and not just because of the amazing Italian food). Every part of the museum was so carefully designed and put together; everything was shiny, clean, and simply stunning. In this post, I wanted to comment on eight specific things I (or sometimes, we) noticed during the trip.

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(2) Struggles With Bureaucracy

Planning a night to test my individual project by projecting a sign onto a residence hall has been a bit of a nightmare. However, I know what the problem was: I should have known that there would be a lot of bureaucracy, and I should have contacted Professor Puccetti for help earlier. I naively thought I could just gather the materials myself and hold the projection night without contacting school departments; then, when I discovered that I could not do so, I entered into an enormous maze of bureaucracy. Just in the past two days, I have given or received over 40 emails about the projection night, and will certainly receive more between now and tomorrow evening. However, with Professor Puccetti’s help, everything will go as planned, and hopefully — if all goes well — I will be holding the “event” tomorrow night (April 27th) from 7:30 – 8:30 PM. All are welcome to come check it out (it won’t be too exciting, my apologies).

The image below briefly details the process of getting the power source, and it actually (believe it or not) portrays the process as much easier than it truly was:

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Update: It actually turned out that I will need a generator, and I am currently settling all the details to hold the event at A6A with the generator on the evening of April 27th. The departments have actually been very fast and helpful, to which I owe Professor Puccetti for making the requirements of my project so clear to the officials involved.

[Last thoughts: throughout this process, I have very clearly seen what Professor Puccetti refers to as a “policy over outcome” approach. Meaning, that the university is slowly starting to value policy (specific processes, steps, requirements, etc.), over the actual outcome and actuality of certain actions/events. For example, even though there is a plug indoors about twenty feet from the place I need to use the projector, I was not permitted to use an extension cord and go ahead with the project because of strict policies/rules. As Professor Puccetti has said, policies are only supposed to help people and make things easier; if they are making things harder they are not fulfilling their job, and become arbitrary and harmful.]


(3) Two Funny (?) Signs

Just for fun, I wanted to write about two interesting signs I have seen around campus.

a. The first is a hand-made sign — a post-it note — I saw stuck to the elevator buttons at the elevator next to the cafeteria. Clearly, the fact that this woman had to go to the lengths of creating her own “signage” to help people find her office indicates that there is a major wayfinding problem on campus.

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b. The second sign is one that Professor Puccetti pointed out to me. It is located behind the bushes on a wall of the lifts next to the campus center on the second floor. Personally, I believe it is the most helpful sign on campus: I mean, at least if people never see it they can’t be confused by it, right?

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(4) Why Wayfinding Isn’t About “Getting Used to It”

It is always nice to find out that you were right about something, and while doing research/interviews for my individual project it has been confirmed that I am not a crazy individual for thinking that the lack of clear signage on the residence halls is incredibly detrimental. However, I discovered something else that is strange: many NYUAD students, having lived on campus for several years, take a while to remember how bad the signage is. They often say something like this: “Well, it was difficult in the beginning — I remember always being confused at first trying to find my dorm/my friend’s dorms — but I guess now I’m used to it.” Since they have “gotten used to it” they are not that concerned about it anymore. However, whenever I hear something like this, I cannot help but think: wayfinding is not about “getting used to something,” it is about how easy it should be to find something the first time. Of course, once you know where something is, it feels obvious, but the fact is that it is not obvious, and wayfinding issues will never improve unless people stop being so complacent in their thinking.


(5) A Personal Reflection on Design

While taking this class, I have gone back and forth about design. Sometimes I am so excited about it, and feel like this is what I should be doing. Other times I feel like I am terrible at it: I think, I am not a good artist, do I really want to spend my whole life on Photoshop, is this an intellectual enough field for me, etc. While these (largely unfounded) fears/questions do not haunt me anymore, I have been thinking a bit about what I really like to do/am really good at.

In general, I have started to realize that what I really like doing, more than designing beautiful, artistic things, is organizing information. I like breaking it up, editing it, formatting it, organizing it into a visually-pleasing arrangement, and making it easy for people to understand. I have always felt that there are so many things that are made unnecessarily complex, or are simply confusing because they are not presented in a coherent, attractive manner. How this tendency/knack of mine fits into design is something that I am still learning, and on the way it has also shown me that I need to work harder on my weaker areas — creativity, artistic skills, etc. Regardless, I am so incredibly happy that I switched into this class, and even if I do not know what the future holds for me design-wise, I believe that the skills I have learned are going to help me in the future in all types of ways.

Personal Project: An Update

I personally believe that having a plan of action when starting the major segments of a project is a crucial part of maintaining a work ethic.

Below is my plan of action for my Desire line Personal Project

 Apr 25, 2017, 4:00 PM to 7:30 PM

  • Search and Save price of solar LED lighting on souq.com (Completed) 
  • Borrow measuring tape from Design & Engineering Lab and measure the length of the D2 grass area Desire line (Completed) 
  • Make a CAD Design of Stepping stones and print out the design sketch with measurements ready for the wood-shop to cut. (Completed & Updated)
  • Ask wood-shop if they have water proof varnish/ wax for the wood (Completed) 

FTW personal project

Scheduled: Apr 27, 2017, 11:00 AM to 12:52 PM

  • With a printed copy of stepping stone CAD design, go to wood-shop and ask if they can cut  my stepping-stones.(Completed)
  • Ask D&E lab about pins for holding down stepping-stones (Completed)
  • Create an environment on CAD for client reference(Completed)
  • Ask I.M if they have solar LED lights (Completed)
  • Search and Save price of pins, like those used for holding down tents (Completed)
  • Buy all the necessary things off souq.com (Completed)

May 2, 2017, 3:54 PM to 7:45 PM

  • Locate all the areas with desire path problems on high-line (stairway) (Completed)
  • Create Blueprint desire path assessment for all stairway desire path. (Completed)
  • Photoshop a render of one stairway desire path (focus render) (Completed)
  • Create 3D architectural Changes  (Completed)
  • Create drawing from the CAD (Completed)
  • Photoshop a render of Architectural changes  (Completed)

Scheduled: May 3, 2017, 9:00 AM to 1:15 PM

  • Cut Wooden Stepping stones and varnish them(Completed)

May 5, 2017, 12:00 PM to 4:45 PM

  • Varnish/wax wood and implement everything.(Completed)
  • Borrow HDLR Camera(Completed)
  • Take HD photos night/sunset/day(Completed)

May 9, 2017, 3:56 PM to 9:00 PM

  • Edit Photos(Completed)
  • Blow up photos CAD renders and Sketches to A1 (Completed)
  • Place them against Foam for pin-up.
    • write-up summary of project(Completed)
      • What I have addressed(Completed)
      • research(Completed)
        • What I have done(Completed)
      • What I have implemented(Completed)
      • Future recommendations.(Completed)
    • Maybe a 3D printed model of the D2 Courtyard.
    • Design student style pin-up.(Completed)

May 10, 2017, 7:30 PM to 11:00 PM

  • Set up Pin Ups against the walls.(Completed)

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Moving Forward: Apr 25, 2017, 4:00 PM to 7:30 PM

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  • Search and Save price of solar LED lighting on souq.com
    • I managed to find a Lamp that is 48 DHS. For 5 Pieces, I personally like them as they made of aluminum and look quite elegant.
  • Borrow measuring tape from Design & Engineering Lab and measure the length of the D2 grass area Desire line
    • I went ahead and measured the length of the Desire path in front of D2, the result is as follows
      • 388cm
    • This means if my Stepping stones are about 79 X 38cm (changed to 66 X 35cm after discussing with the associate instructor of sculpture) i would need about 9 Stepping stones 35cm plus a 7cm gap between each one would leave 42cm for about one stepping stone, 388 / 42 = 9.2
  • Make a CAD Design of Stepping stones and print out the design sketch with measurements ready for the wood-shop to cut.
    • At are the results of my CAD design and the Drawing created by the software with the measure
    • Mid-Res Render

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Drawings with measurement (PDF)

      • Ask wood-shop if they have water proof varnish/ wax for the wood 
        • I asked the wood shop and they mentioned that:
          • The measurement I currently have a slightly large he suggested I change the size to about.
            • 66 X 35cm with a 7cm (3″) gap between each stepping stone.
          • He also mentioned that even with veneer the wood would not last very long in this weather which is why…
            • I should use concrete instead of wood (but make sure I talk to the correct departments) However, this would take up to 5 days of work to create the frames to pour concrete into and letting them settle
            • If I really need to use wood, I should use plywood
      • Ask I.M Lab if they have solar LED lights
        • I went to go and ask the I.M Lab if they have solar LED lights but it was closed so I will visit them next work session.
        • Visited them and the dont have Solar garden lights.

       

Signage and Pictograms in Practice

With two of my classes focused on design, I’ve found myself paying a lot more attention to the things in my environment that I used to take for granted. Signage and pictograms have come to the top of that list. Before learning about the practice of wayfinding, I think that if someone had asked me about how all those little bits of information get put up around a space, I would have told them there was some sort of national or international standard. Architects and developers could buy icons and signs from one monopolized company, maybe customize them a bit with colors or logos, and then install them.

I don’t think it’s a unique revelation that I’ve had through this class, but it has made me appreciate what’s unique in my surroundings. I’ve been trying to unpack the potential decision-making and design processes in wayfinding systems that jump out at me. If there is enough monotony to make me (and many others) think the whole show was run by one distributor, those systems that so adamantly depart from the standard are less common, and may have interesting stories to tell. Over the past week my top two systems, for better or worse, were at the Sharjah Museum of Islamic Civilization and Manarat al Saadiyat. IMG_3269 2

Upon entering the Sharjah Museum of Islamic Civilization, one of the first things visitors see is a glaring panel of pictograms. They fill an entire A4 sheet, which sits in a clear frame on the entry desk. They’re weird for several reasons. The bright green color, which does not match the interior of the museum, is not repeated in the rest of the signage. There are no directional symbols to indicate where any of the things the pictograms represent actually are. After I took the photo, it dawned on me that it was perhaps a tool for visitors who speak neither English nor Arabic (never mind the fact that they won’t be able to get much out of the museum) to point to the amenities they seek, and then be directed towards them by a staffer stationed at the desk. I’m surprised not to have seen a similar system in other international cultural venues: it’s a straightforward, low-cost solution that provides simple infrastructure to support the gestures that resourceful people already gravitate towards naturally.IMG_3268 2

But the fact that it exists means the main wayfinding system – the one that was much more expensive to design and implement – failed. If signage directing visitors towards the same places featured on the pictogram sheet actually achieved its purpose, such an improvised solution would never have appeared. The building was split into two wings at the center, and each wing had only one sign pointing users forwards towards each location. IMG_3271 2

Another small observation from the Sharjah Museum was the bathroom pictogram. While they were inconsistent, there were some pictograms that featured a woman icon wearing a longer dress than standard. I know that these “modest” pictograms are set to be implemented by Tarek Atrissi in the Qatar National Library, but had not seen them before apart from these two instances. IMG_3284 2

The signage at Manarat al Saadiyat also struck my eye, as it was another answer to my question about how to make “creative” signs. The triangular shape incorporates a second layer of information, an arrow, into the design. The whole thing is printed flat and pasted to a central wall, mimicking the wall-mounted pieces inside of the gallery. The triangle/arrow design is clever, but it’s also fairly obvious that someone was looking to make something artistic and unique for a place that declares itself exactly that. From a wayfinding perspective, there doesn’t seem to be any rhyme or reason to the sizing of the triangles in relation to the places they represent. A marketing approach might place the cafe on a large triangle, and a visitor experience approach might make the restroom triangles – likely the most frequently referenced – larger than the rest. But this layout seems to randomize both the size and information of the arrows, prioritizing the aesthetic over its function.

Wayfinding Reflections

This week, I decided to do something I have only done once before: make a video (well, a slideshow with me talking over it) about the things we have been learning in class. Since, however, we have covered so much material these past two weeks, I decided to actually make three videos. The topics of the videos are: 1) the pictogram project, 2) the Arts Center project, and 3) the recent creativity lecture given by Professor Puccetti. For each topic, I include both the video (which is the slideshow with my voiceover), as well as the plain slideshow in case anyone would like to refer to it.

In regards to the videos, a few things to note: (a) I did my best to speak in a direct way, but I was not reading from a written script and so my speech is much more casual/imperfect than it was in the first video I did about the emergency exit. I wanted it to be more personal, and less robotic. (b) Similar to the first time, however, the quality of the sound is still subpar – this is the result of recording via the microphone on my laptop. The sound issues led me to make awkward, unnatural cuts at the beginning of the first and second video, which is why they start off sounding as if I am speaking mid-sentence. If I decide to make another video in the future I will surely use better sound equipment. (c) In unrelated note, I am unable to choose the initial photo/thumbnail of the Youtube videos – which is frustrating and not visually-pleasing. Please ignore them. 🙂


1) The Pictogram Project

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2) The Arts Center Project

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3) Creativity

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Impossible pictograms: A journey to the outcome

To summarise, impossible pictograms plays on the notion of providing an outrageous comical solution to simple yet important problems in the sphere of wayfinding on campus. As an exercise it is intended to raise awareness of some of the poor wayfinding strategies in order to stimulate a discussion on the importance of accessibility and mobility.

In implementing my initial idea of a tunnel between the Campus Center in C2 and the Arts Center in C3, as a solution to combat the restricted doors which prevent the user from pursuing the most direct route between the 2 buildings and instead forcing one on inefficient undesired route outside (as detailed in a previous post), there were a few changes and additions to the concept. Initially, the pictograms signified the use of a shovel in order for the user to dig the tunnel. However due to difficulties finding and obtaining such shovel, I decided to replace this with a pickaxe in the designs. This was not only based on the professor’s recommendations, it can be concluded that a pickaxe is a more traditional tool for digging and symbolises greater motion in the pictograms, but also due to being able to obtain a tool which replicates the look of a pickaxe.

Parallel to my individual project of using floor sings, I decided to implement floor lines as part of the installation and in the designs of the pictograms as an indicator of the suitability of floor signage as a wayfinding strategy on campus. These floor lines would act as a guide to where to start digging, through providing a square with a central X, and the route of the tunnel, through following the lines. Based on a brief verbal survey, it was concluded that the best colour for such floor lines would be blue. This is because the colour provides sufficient visibility (it can be easily seen and distinguished on the floor in relation its dark grey colour) and the colour is not too intrusive to the surroundings of the location of the installation. As such I replicated the blue lines on the pictograms through incorporating them in the process of digging the tunnel.

Due to the complex nature of the task of digging a tunnel, I decided that a set of simple in instructions would help guide the user and as such should be implemented into the final design. The set of instructions alongside the final altered pictogram designs mentioned above can be found below:

In order to make this exercise more professional, I created the ‘Office of Campus Navigation’ a fictional department with its very own purple ‘map pin’ logo. The logo and brand was finalised in the same place on each of the pictograms. I tried to replicate the Arts Center’s logo through using the dual shade of red in referencing the Arts Center. In this way I able to successfully use the identity of the Arts Center without directly inflicting the institution with the responsibilities of this installation. I further provided props in the form of a yellow tool box containing a working head lamp and safety goggles to fulfil the health and safety component typical to similar manual tasks. This aspect was also incorporated into the instructions as seen above.

Below are pictures of the installation located in the Campus Center (level 0) at the East side exit:

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Based on feedback of those passing by, there was an all positive reaction. People highly liked the idea and the professional implementation of the pictograms and the associated components, and agreed with the problem it highlights of access between the campus Center and Arts Center. However, embodying the more critical comments of the class, it was suggested that to make the instructions simpler and restrict them to only a word or a few words. In this way there can be greater emphases placed on user the effective pictograms provided as the main guiding tool for the user. Below are the altered designs based on these recommendations: