Week 14: Readings and Comments

by Zach Tomaszewski

for LIS 699-2, Fall 2001, supervised by Dr. Luz Quiroga

This week I read the last chapter--Chapter 5--of Wayfinding in Architecture.

Wayfinding is an important aspect of environmental quality. There are both functional [usable] and evaluative [aesthetic] aspects. Wayfinding involves a deep immersion and engagement with an environment; it is not a passive activity. As such, the environment must be complex, rich, and interesting. Joy in wayfinding comes from problem-solving, exploring, and entertainment. However, if the environment becomes too complex, the labyrinth fear can arise--people can panic, or at least become frustrated by the environment. So how complex should an environment be?

Well, it depends on the wayfinding task! There are different types of wayfinding:

Passini then discusses his notation system, where one maps a user's behavior (route). Based on this behavior, one can determine the decision points along the way, and what information is necessary that those points to make each decision.

Next, Passini gives "Ariadne's Thread," which is a system analysis design guide to determining wayfaring paths and the signs necessary to support them. In contains 7 steps.

  1. Identify the tasks. Since it is impossible to describe all possible tasks, look at the major ones: getting to and from the exits from any zone, moving from one zone to another, and moving around within a zone.
  2. Identify the users. Come up with a few different types of users. Handicapped or elderly may have physical obstacles. Children or non-native speakers may have language issues. Novices to a building or system have no prior experience. Foreigners may lack certain inferred information. Make conscious decisions about which groups to support.
  3. Identify wayfinding conditions. They may be recreational, resolute, or emergency. Which of these is normal and which is exceptional?
  4. Formulate design requirements. Combine the 3 points above into task-user-condition situations to determine major traffic flow.
  5. Plan wayfinding solutions. Determine routes and behaviors. Do particular-to-general, determining higher-order goals from a route, as well as general-to-particular, determining a route based on goals. Start with main routes for general users and then update or modify for special cases.
  6. Identify environmental information. Provide the sensory information needed at each decision point. There is a scale: 1-No info needed. 2-Relies on remembered or inferred info. 3-Relies on sensory information from structure or architecture. 4-Needs a sign or directions.
  7. Synthesis. May be easier to combine some of the routes created above. Don't provide information for higher-order decisions when lower-order decisions are being carried out. Once everything is smoothed out, you have a plan!

Passini finishes up with a short checklist for structures, signs, and maps. He ends with a note concerning Daedalus's Challenge: to find the right, engaging mix between a simple yet boring structure and a complex yet frustrating labyrinth. Remember your users.

Overall, this was a great book.

Post-discussion Issues: