Saturday, 15 February 2014

The National Trust 

The National Trust is a large organisation that has created numerous trails around the country.

On their website, they say:

Wayfinding signs play a vital part in making every visit as enjoyable as possible. With good signs, people can find their way around with the minimum of fuss, and feel happily at home. Without them, visitors feel disorientated, frustrated or unwelcome.

They sum up:

Signs at National Trust places should be:
Inviting, welcoming, guiding visitors — never bossy or negative.
Unobtrusive — the fewest signs needed to do the job.

They go on to say that signs should only be placed in a needed location. They do not need lots of signs cluttering the area, when one would have sufficed. You have to think: Is this sign necessary? Will this aid someone who otherwise might have been confused without this signs presence? Or it just an extra frilling? Information design, especially wayfinding, is functional. Signs should only be there if they are helpful and communicative.

The National Trust also have a section dedicated how to design wayfinding signs, which was incredibly helpful for my research.

Make signs unobtrusive but legible
They explain that signs should be as small as possible, so not to be in the way. This, however, might mean that they overlooked. A good balance is obviously necessary. The National Trust also says to create posts and signs from natural material when possible. After undergoing a Green Design module, I agree with this wholeheartedly that it is important to be sustainable when you are given the option. No matter how small, this leads to a better future.
They also press to keep a consistent branding throughout the signs: a dark green and the National Trust Bold typeface should appear.

Don’t overbrand
This was an interesting thought, which I hadn't considered before. And yet it is sensible. The National Trust say: "Signs at main points of entry and visitor centres should show the Trust logo (oak leaf and logotype). But beyond that point, it’s best not to over brand.” They press, however, that every sign should use the National Trust Bold typeface, while most should also include the logo. This will make the signs identifiable to this brand without pushing it onto the viewer.

Recognise partner organisations
They mention that when other organisations are involved on your property, this must be taken into account, perhaps by displaying their logo next to yours.

Look informal
They write: "Write in sentence case, not capitals. Make the text left-justified, not centred. No extra letterspacing (kerning)." This will make their signs look inviting while giving their brand a friendly impression.

Use symbols sensibly
They write: "When it helps, use symbols for things like toilets, disabled access or car park. In most cases, the symbol says enough on its own: in a few cases, you may need to add text alongside it. Use only internationally recognised symbols, and keep them to a minimum."

Writing Signs
They say that language should be informal, positive and simple. They say that information signs should be: "As straightforward as possible. Don’t try to say everything, or the sign becomes confusing. Stick to short phrases, avoiding if you can the need for full stops."

Monday, 10 February 2014

Top Ten Findings

  1. Characters are often involved in successful children's information design, as children can engage more with them than with written text.
  2. Constant markers showing that you are on the right track are important when designing for a trail. Otherwise, people could drift onto the wrong track. It is also exciting for children when they see these signs.
  3. Colour is crucial in wayfinding. Bright, contrasting colours make the signs stand out from a distance, so that hikers don't get lost. Greens and browns would blend in too well with the surroundings of forest, so this should be taken into consideration when designing.
  4. It should also be noted that if colours have been used for another trail or wayfinding signage in the area. These designs should not cross over to avoid confusion.
  5. Interactive elements keep children occupied and stop them from growing bored.
  6. I discovered by researching about Copenhagen's central library that children like obvious, understandable shapes. Simplified maps are also important.
  7. Lance Wyman said of information design: "Don't overlook the obvious. Designers too often neglect exploring ideas because they seem too obvious, trite, corny, etc. when the obvious is transformed into a new image it can be powerful and easily understood." Sometimes obvious works, especially in this area of design, which aim for cohesion.
  8. From viewing Wyman's brainstorming of designs I also realised that idea generation is the key to creating a successful design.
  9. The height of maps and information boards should also be taken into consideration. For example, they have to be at a height where children could still be able to view it clearly.
  10. If using pictograms they should be universally recognisable. This is usually helpful for the people who can't read the text. Arrows can also be used to make the required destination more obvious.

Research Overview

My Negotiated Production study has been focused on information design, more specifically wayfinding design for children. I would like to take my project forward by designing graphics for a children's trail.

During the first semester, I focused on gathering researched. I looked at various areas, such as adult wayfinding, children's wayfinding, wayfinding for buildings and for the outdoors. After undergoing this research, I found definite patterns emerging. Bright colours and the inclusion of characters being some of the recurring imagery for children's wayfinding.

For, at the start of the semester, I looked at wayfinding in children's hospitals. In the Royal Children's Hospital and Great Ormond Street Hospital (see more here) characters were painted across walls to provide a calming, welcome distraction, while they also appeared on directional signs. This was because children are more likely to interact with images rather than words and they therefore notice characters first. Characters were also integrated into outdoor wayfinding for children, such as trails. During research, I noticed that there seemed to be a “main” character, which was used to direct the children around certain areas, while also popping up to explain certain facts. Hoveton Hall Garden's used a dragonfly, Harry Hover, an “instant success”, Bridgend'sHeritage used a colourful owl character, while Whinlatter Forest used a squirrel and took the Stick Man character from a popular children's book. My research shows that children interact well with characters, so this is something that I would consider in the production of my work.

During primary research at Whinlatter forest, the cohesion of information design was realised to be crucial. The Stick Man trail had signs marking its start and finish to avoid confusion. During this trail, there was also constant markers for encouragement and to avoid the hiker from getting lost. The Squirrel Scurry meanwhile did not have this and therefore confusion arose (see more here). The importance of use of colour for signs was also highlighted. A trail should use their own unique colours, making sure that they differentiate from any other surrounding signs to avoid confusion. This was again where the Squirrel Scurry trail became problematic, as it used red, as did an adult trail. If the colour and brand of these signs were unique then they could have also been easily spotted from a distance. Bright colours stand out amongst the green and brown of the surrounding wood, so contrasting primary colours proved to be the most successful. Dark greens and browns could have become lost, blending into their surroundings, and an information board or sign should be easily recognisable.

I found that activities and interactive elements were also important in keeping the attention of young children. The London Transport Museum used stamps, children where given activity sheets for numerous forest trails etc. This helped to keep their attention throughout the day.

Simplified maps were also important so that children would be more likely to understand them, while most designers also used obvious, understandable shapes.

To see more of my research please look through my blog.