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.

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

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:

Acting on a Design Brief: Signage for the Arts Center

On one the main issues currently facing the Arts Center in terms of wayfinding, is the complex design and layout of the building and the lack of an efficient signage system to overcome this. As such the Arts Center is a particular area of campus of increased confusion. The layout decreases navigational and orientation awareness in relation to how a person especially a visitor perceives the space. This is of concern especially for the Arts Center’s off-campus visitors who fall into this trap of a false geospatial awareness in relation to this complex space. Often visitors, and even some students and faculty unfamiliar with the Arts Center, have reported serve disorientation, miss guidance and the experience of getting endlessly lost in its extensive corridors.

In order to combat this issue, the Arts Center has approached the class to provide a solution alongside a design brief highlighting the areas of concern and need for specific signage. The design brief gives the opportunity to create signage that represents the Arts Center in a creative way, and help further propel the identify and recognition of the Arts Center through implementation of these new signs. Yet the need for a professional interface which is accessible to all audience members, easy to follow and incorporates the Arts Center logo also needs to be considered in the designs. Just using horizontal arrows instead of using vertical arrows for the signs seems to be the best approach in yielding a solution as often horizontal arrows harbor confusion of in which direction is the sign actually pointing too. These signs can give the illusion of pointing straight ahead, behind, up above or down below and as such are a bad choice for an already complex space. With horizontal arrows as signs, it is more clear that the sign points in the right or left direction and as such would be easier to follow. Due to the extensive design brief, 36 designs (presented systematically below) have been yielded to fully combat the issues and needs highlighted in the design brief.

Analysing the Arts Center logo, a component which needs to be incorporated in the signage, it asthetically and creatively integrates the iconic dual shades of red symbolic of the Red Theater, the main center auditorium, of the Arts Center. As such it is of great significance to integrate this aspect of the Arts Center’s image and identity further in the signage. Yet a simple red arrow is not enough. Going with the geometric shape design and patterns of campus and the Arts Center, such geometric aspect can be incorporated to the red arrow to yield a creative, striking and unique design that complements the Arts Center’s logo very effectively, whilst representing this dual shade of Arts Center’s red. Arts Center logo and Designs found below:

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The Arts Center Logo

 

Developing on these ideas, the incorporation of geometric lines in the form of two shades of grey, a prominent colour associated both with Arts Center and the whole of campus, further contributes to the notion of a professional interface which can effectively portray the Arts Center in a creative way. In this sense by simply looking at the signs for the Arts Center, the visitor can perceive the Arts Center as an creative institution of progression in the region even before one has stepped inside or witness the collection of impressive exhibitions and productions the Arts Center has to offer. Designs found below:

One issue highlighted both in the design brief, personal experience and comments of fellow peers, is that there is no signage to direct the visitors to and highlight the location of the main theater toilets intended to be used for the Red Theater and Blue Hall on level B1 as well as no signs on B1 to direct the visitors back to the main floors of the Arts Center. Also, the balcony of the Red Theater on level 1 which houses more seating is poorly indicated on the main level and as such visitors are not informed of its location and existence. Thus, the Arts Center has requested for signs to direct visitors to the balcony, whilst taking into account additional signs on level 1 to direct the visitors back to the main level and further to the toilets assigned for the Red Theater on level B1. There is also need to direct guests to the auditoriums (the Red Theater, Blue Hall and Black Box) and certain performances that would be performed outside the Arts Centre such as the East Plaza, whilst providing instructional signage in these auditoriums/spaces of performances on certain rules and expectations of visitors. Using the arrow sign designs above as a template, I further incorporated minimal text and pictograms to transfer and communicate this information effectively in the geometric style of the original arrow. As such the text is alined parallel to that of the grey lines, with words of significance being highlighted in bold and enlarged. Some words are further coloured due to them having a particular association with a colour which can aid wayfinding, for example green for ‘Exit’ and blue for the ‘Blue Hall’. I decided for all text to be presented in uppercase as a means to generate greater visibility, awareness and attention. I made sure there is additional space on each sign to incorporate arabic if later requested by the Arts Center. The use pictograms of toilets, stairs and lifts, for those whose English might not be there first language ensuring that the signs are suitable for all audience members, which exploit the dual red shade in their designs have also been incorporated on a side panel. The sign has a geometric panel of shades of grey and red on the side which provides space for pictograms. for signs that do not have pictograms associated with them, I decided to retain this panel design to up hold constistancy and provide the Arts Centre opportunity to add on extra information in that space is needed. In this sense the user can gather visual information about the purpose of the sign without even reading the text, whilst maintaining consistency in style and professionalism. It is important to mention that all signs have be designed to be used in either direction. Designs found below:

Going beyond the design brief, I felt it is of great significance to provide additional signage inside the lifts and just outside the lists, as well near staircases in order to help effectively direct visitors to the correct floors. These designs (found below), highlight what facilities are present and accessible to the visitor on each floor of the Arts Center.  The design incorporates the element of colour association and pictograms as explained above as well as clearly distinct symbols in the form of a small human figure and a pinpoint adjacent to the level to help make the visitor aware on which level the visitor is present in relation to the other levels.

Impossible Pictograms: Do It Yourself Secret Tunnel

Riding the wave of “pointing out” poor design and poor wayfinding systems on campus, impossible pictograms play on this notion of mocking these errors in design by using impossible solutions to overcome them, ones which in principle would be acceptable in an alternative world. The use of pictograms is used as a medium to transfer this comical aspect of poor wayfinding design in order to start the needed conversation about effective ways to promote accessibility and mobility.

The route between the Campus Center in C2 and the Arts Center in C3 is an example of poor wayfinding. The reality that one has to has to travel greater distance and go outside, which in some cases hot or raining weather conditions do not promote, to reach these building despite there being a more direct route which is restricted goes against the main principle of wayfinding to promote user efficiency. The most efficient transfer between the two buildings is to use the connecting side exit/entrance points on the Eastside of C2 and Westside of C3. Despite being able to exit from the Eastside door of the Campus Center, the user is then faced with block. This is because the door to the Arts Center, as seen in the image below, is ironically “NOT AN ENTRANCE”, and as such one cannot use the most direct route to pass from the Campus Center to the Arts Center and vice versa.

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Adopting the principle of impossible pictogram, an absurd solution to accommodate an absurd wayfinding problem is for the user to dig a secret tunnel in order to bypass the locked doors and be able to exploit the most direct route between C2 and C3. In order to implement this idea, several pictograms, as seen below, have to be yielded to illustrate the binary process, one beginning in C2 and ending in C3, and one starting in C3 and arriving in C2.

The main primary pair of pictograms (found above), which would be placed on the inside of the side exit points in C3 and C2 depending on the sign’s orientation, instruct the user that in order to pass to the other building an underground tunnel needs to be dug out with the use of a shovel.

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The secondary pair of pictograms (found above), which would have implemented on the floor from the inside just before the doors, complement the main primary pair of pictograms by instructing the user where to start digging into the designated area of the floor in order to reach the desired building.

It is important to note that the side entrances are hidden and as such are not commonly known or used due to the previous notion of blocked access. As such general signs could be needed in order to direct users to these side entrances. Examples of such designs are found below:

Floor Hubs: Proposal For A New Wayfinding Tool On Campus

Context and Problem:

Maps and signs, as a visual element of orientation, are an integral primary component to wayfinding. These illustrations allow the user to efficiently analyze information in order to identity one’s location in relation to the surrounding built environment, whilst navigating through it from point A to point B.

However, the current campus map and the signage system that accompanies it fail to enhance one’s geosocial awareness especially when transmigrating along ‘Broadway’, the main outdoor passage on the main ground floor stemming from the West side to the East side of campus. Despite its simplicity in design, the continuous flow of external visitors to campus find it difficult to use Broadway as an effective means of navigating across campus due to their poor prior knowledge of the campus layout which ones need in order to not to get lost and disorientated by the complexity of the shapes of the buildings.

As such it is important to enhance the campus map and the signage system which accompanies it based on the concept of geospatial awareness.

Proposal and ideas:

Floor Hubs as a new wayfinding tool on campus, specifically to be implemented on ‘Broadway’, the place of first encounter for all visitors on campus, can provide a solution to the initial and continual disorientation caused by the campus layout, poor mapping, and failing signage. An inspiration for the idea came from the desire to exploit the almost artistic patterns the geometric shapes of the pavement (image below) stimulates in one’s imagination.

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Pavement pattern on campus

The use of floor signage instead of the conventional wall sings is not a new concept. One successful implementation of floor signage is the floor lines present in London Victoria station, UK, a form of route following from point A to Point B, crossing the station which allows the user to intercept the route all mid-way from Point C (image below). However, unlike the idea a propose below, there is a lack of interactive component of this system.

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Floor Lines in London Victoria Station, UK
Source: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Cmglee_London_Victoria_station_floor_lines.jpg

The integral component of Floor Hubs is replicating the idea of a sign post in which several directions are given in relations to one’s current geospatial position in the built environment. The floor hubs would operationalize the shapes and patterns of the pavement whilst providing information in the form of arrows, place names, and distances. This is similar to the use of geometric shapes to formulate arrows (image below) but this signage fails to translate other integral information such as distance and the location in which the arrow guides to.

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Design incorporating floor patterns and signage
Source: https://www.pinterest.com/explore/directional-signage/

Like the floor lines implemented in London Victoria Station, UK it is easier to flow a hypothetical line on a 2 dimensional flat surface instead of relying on an ambiguous three-dimension orientation in which the current wall signage generates. Floor hubs provide the interactive opportunity for the user to orient themselves in relation to their current location, use of the floor hub, due to the circular dynamics of the signage which allows the user to gain direction from a 360 degree prospective. The initial shapes that feasible for the floor hubs to provide an interactive aspect are below:

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It is important to highlight that one problem the current camps maps exhibit is the overload of information. As mentioned in Gibson’s The Wayfinding Handbook: Information Design for Public Places in an era of ‘Information Architecture’ it is of heightened importance, in the context of implanting floor hubs to effectively balance the available information. As such it can be argued that too much information can distract the user’s geospatial awareness in relation to the built environment and this needs to be taken into account with floor hubs which also illustrate information. Taking this into account, these are the initial ideas of the visual design of the floor hubs:

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The idea of using the floor as a medium for signage can be also stemmed to building names, often absent throughout campus. This would complement the places the floor hubs direct the users to, through later reinstating one’s location. An initial example of this is found below:

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Problems and Solutions: Wayfinding Inside The NYUAD Campus

It is important to highlight that recently there has been evidence of changes to the campus design. Implementations and alterations which arguably contribute in enhancing the wayfinding experience on campus especially in the context of accessibility are being currently assembled. Based on the recommendation of the previous wayfinding class, automotive doors are systematically being installed throughout campus at major points of entry. Notable examples include the main ground-level entry point to the Campus Centre, the A2C Residential Block on the Highline, the D2 Dining Hall, and the East and West Highline entry points to the Campus Centre; one through the Market Place and one through the Baraha. When fully functional these entry points will enhance the accessibility to efficiently use and open doors for members of the community with impaired abilities through the instalment of well distinguished and visible operating buttons at a height appropriate for wheel chair users.

However, the implementation of such automotive doors actually decreases accessibility at these entry points. Due to the nature of entry points on campus, the pull motion is required to open doors to enter buildings from the outside, whereas the push motion is required to open doors to exit buildings from the inside. As such from the prospective of a person with impaired abilities requiring assistance it is naturally harder to open doors from the outside to enter buildings. However, the contradiction of securing the entry points from the outside due to safety concerns meant that the buttons to activate the opening of the automotive doors have been only installed from the inside. Speaking to a friend, a fellow NYUAD student with impaired abilities and a wheel chair user, this is a major problem. Based on the student’s comments, it was easy to generate the push motion with the wheel chair to open doors from the inside and as such the installation of the automotive doors is useless if the buttons are only from the inside. The student’s main needs are opening the doors from the outside with the pull motion. As such the absence of buttons to control the automotive doors from the outside still endures the student additional hardship in using the doors and does not enhance her accessibility. It can be argued that the installation of automotive doors even impairs the accessibility of the regular user.  This is because the additional mechanisms installed at the doors make these entry points heavier and as such harder to open from the outside using the pull motion. As such greater transparency in the form of communication is needed between the members of the community and administration in charge of implementing wayfinding inactivates on campus. A platform such surveys and meetings on the current and future projects could open the dialogue needed for such initiatives to be ultimately effective.

Once altered is important for these automotive doors as well as main entrances to be identified on the campus map outlets, as a point of reference for the entry points suitable for members of the community and visitors with impaired mobility. However, the campus map can be further altered and improved. Maps, as a visual element of orientation, are an integral component to wayfinding. These illustrations allow the user to efficiently analyse information in order to identity one’s location in relation to the surrounding built environment. As such it is important to enhance the campus map based on the concept of geospatial awareness.  One problem the map exhibits is the overload of information. As mentioned in Gibson’s The Wayfinding Handbook: Information Design for Public Places in an era of ‘Information Architecture’ it is of heightened importance to effectively balance the avaliable information. As such it can be argued that too much information can distract the user’s geospatial awareness in relation to the built environment.  It is therefore important to modify the map by simplifying the design and the content especially the building index. As signage is also problem on campus, I propose that there should be a greater focus on landmarks. Notable examples on campus include the palms in the Central Plaza, the #myNYUAD sign in the East Plaza, and the fountains lining Broadway and the main entrance onto campus on the ground-level. It has been noted by Gibson that landmarks are integral in geospatial orientation as they are easily recognisable and visible and as such the inclusion of these landmarks onto the map can enhance the sense of direction and location in relation to them. Signs, a component which is directly connected to the efficiency of maps, can be enhanced on campus by implementing floor signs, ones which encapsulate general directions with arrows and exploit the artistic geometric patterns of the pavement tiles.

The concept of wayfinding also stems to transportation. Maps are often integrated with complex transportation systems in order to ease flows through the city by enhancing one’s orientation in relation to one’s location. This relational perspective of maps helps the user to identity the optimal route to reach a certain destination, locations which often extend beyond the transportation system. This idea of implementing maps to transportation systems could be also applied to the campus shuttle services provided for members of the community. These shuttle services, an integral form of transportation to and from campus, currently only compose of a timetable as a guide to the locations serviced in the city. As such it is hard for the members of the community to orient themselves in relation to Abu Dhabi and the routes of the shuttle services. As such I advocate for the shuttle services to be visualised by creating a map exhibiting these routes highlighting the specific spatial locations of the bus stops in relation to Abu Dhabi as a city.

Emergency Exits on Campus: a Curse or a Blessing?

The purpose of emergency exits is to enhance the possibility of survival through providing a direct route to safety, usually from indoors to outdoors, during situations of heightened risk and danger. In the context of the NYUAD campus, indoor fires seem the most likely use for emergency exits. In this regard design, in the context of wayfinding, matters in terms of life and death. These emergency exits are meant to be efficient, easy and quick to use as well as visible and easily distinguishable in order to yield higher chances of survival. As such these are the aspects in which the emergency exits on campus need to be evaluated against.

Focusing on the emergency exit at the back of the Arts Center in C3, as a class we debated the sustainability of the design. It is important to highlight that the emergency exit is composed of two doors, separated by a space, which open differently. Such implementation of additional barriers in escape could potentially cause delay in reaching safety. However, testing the accessibility of the emergency doors revealed that they are easy to open with a push movement, a natural motion that a force of a crowd could generate if there was confusion on how to open the door. Crucially, the opening of the first door from the right-side directs people to space under the descending stars. During mass flow, in which confusion and panic prevails, it is inevitable for some people to be pushed under the stairs and be trapped due to the incoming inflow of people outside. As such instead of yielding access to safety to escape death, the exit increases risk and danger to the extent that it can cause death. Despite the emergency exits being well signed with a standardised illuminated green ‘exit’, visibility is an issue. This is because there was a delay in the turning on of the automotive light in the space in-between the two doors. This yielded very dark conditions and as such the light sensors need to be adjusted. Additionally, the last emergency door, unlike the first emergency door, does not have a window which further contributes to the issue of visibility in the closed inter-space between the two doors. The idea of a window could enhance wayfinding in this space through providing natural light and a visual of the outdoors which is associated with safety. This could potentially improve the flow of people during an emergency through eliminating the confusion of following the quickest way outside. The location of the emergency exit is also questioned in regards to its positioning in the building. This is because there was an earlier emergency exit and as such it can be inferred that people would take the first opportunity for exit, however, it is assumed that the emergency exit studied was included due to standardised regulations and due to it connecting with the emergency exit staircase from the first level. Yet the single door design of the emergency exit could cause congestion and delay the process of escape especially if taking into account that the exit needs to accommodate two separate flows of people, one from the ground floor and one from the first floor. It is also important to highlight the indoor location of the firehoses. As such during an emergency there will be a two-way movement, one from the outside to the inside by fire emergency services to access these firehoses, and one from the inside to the outside by the general public to reach safety. This contradicting flow is a major problem as it would stimulate a delay in both escape and emergency efforts, especially when taking into account the narrowness of the door and corridor. This problem could be eradicated if the emergency exit was replaced with double doors and the firehose access point was moved outside.

Comparing the C3 emergency exit to other exits on campus, the design of the emergency exits in the residential building of A2 can be also debated. The main emergency exit on the main floor (level 2) has a double door which can accommodate the volume of people. This would ensure an efficient flow of people outside the building without any delay or congestion. However, it is important to highlight that main emergency door, which similarly to the exit in C3 also does not have a window, is adjacent to main entrance glass doors. As such people might be compelled to use the main entrance doors instead due to the perception that lead straight outdoors despite being obstructed with barriers which could delay the escape process. This issue is eliminated with the design of the emergency exits on the sides of A2. This is because these are glass doors and as such people would be compelled to use these emergency exits to reach outside due to natural light.

From the cases studied, it is clear that despite the different areas of the campus having the same need for an efficient escape route during emergency situations, the designs of the emergency exits inhibit this as these exits are not standardised across campus to the extent that some areas of campus, C3 in particularly, are more cursed than blessed.