Signage, literacy and wayfinding, part 2: Indoor signage and wayfinding

By Gordon Rugg

The words were at first indistinguishable, and then–with a tremendous start–I recognized something about them which filled me with icy fear…

From The Shunned House, by H.P. Lovecraft

In a previous article, I looked at nonverbal signage and wayfinding outdoors. Today’s article looks at the same topic, but focusing on indoors wayfinding.

I’ll begin this article with a discussion of a signage issue that’s a significant problem in most hospitals. I’ll then move on to look at different wayfinding strategies that people use, and at some ways of working with those strategies in indoors wayfinding and signage.

A classic problem, and some solutions

A standard feature of hospital signage is the Wall of Doubt. Here’s how it works. The visitor (the red oval marked “V” in the diagram below) has entered the hospital via the main entrance, en route to an appointment in the Wilson Ward, and is walking along the corridor in the direction indicated by the red arrow. So far, so good.


Now the visitor meets a T junction, and sees something that for many visitors looks something like this: the dreaded Wall of Doubt. Which of these signs, if any, might be the one for Wilson Ward?

unfixed wall of doubt At this point, things start to go steadily but unnecessarily downhill. Why? That’s the topic of this article.

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Signage, literacy and wayfinding, part 1

By Gordon Rugg

Here’s what a typical piece of signage looks like to about 10% of the people visiting a public place such as a hospital or a school.

blackletter signage

About 10% of the population have significant reading difficulties. They might be able to figure out what a sign says, given enough time. They might not.

Here’s what a typical piece of signage looks like to another significant proportion of visitors.

grainy sign3

A lot of people have visual problems; this is particularly likely to be an issue in places like hospitals, which people with visual problems attend for treatment. Signage can also look like this to people with good eyesight if the lighting is poor or the weather is bad.

So what can you do about this problem? There are some simple, cheap solutions which aren’t as widely known as they should be. That’s the topic of this article.

banner Some classic types of landmark: Images from Wikimedia Commons

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Doing online searches

By Gordon Rugg

So how do you actually do an online search?

The most common approach is to type 2.4 words into Google, with 14% of those words spelled wrong, and 6% of those words being about sex. That isn’t exactly the most inspiringly professional or efficient way of operating.

A more professional and efficient way of operating is as follows:

  • Read the manual and learn how to get the most out of the software you’re using (e.g. by using the “advanced search” features)
  • Read some articles about best practice in online search
  • Ask your friendly librarian for help and advice

When online search is involved, I do all of those things myself, and very useful they are too.

Many of my previous articles have been about the unwritten craft skills involved in some aspect of research. With online search, for a change, there’s plenty of readily available information about the craft skills, so I’m not planning to re-cover ground that’s already been covered well by other people. Instead, I’ll give some examples of what those craft skills and of how they can help make your online searches easier and better. I’ve also included some keywords that should help you find useful tutorial articles quickly and easily.

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Life at Uni: Cookery concepts 101

By Gordon Rugg

If you’re cooking for yourself for the first time, you might find this article amusing. (Maybe not very helpful, but there’s a fair chance it will be amusing…)

I know someone who used to be an army cook. The principles below are based on what he told me about his cookery training in the Army.

I suspect that his stories didn’t do justice to that fine institution, and that they contain some adjustments of the truth for greater dramatic effect, so please treat the information below with due caution.

The four food groups:

There are four food groups, namely:

  • Vegetables
  • Meat
  • Pastry
  • Chocolate

Basic cookery:

  • Boil vegetables till they go soft.
  • Fry meat it till it stops bleeding in the middle.
  • Bake pastry till it goes hard.
  • Eat chocolate before anyone else can get it.

Intermediate cookery:

  • Eggs come out of chickens, which are meat, so eggs are meat, and should be fried.
  • Mushrooms are not vegetables, pastry or chocolate, so they are meat, and should be fried.
  • Onions are honorary meat, and should be fried.

Advanced cookery:

  • If meat is hard after you fry it, then treat it as an honorary vegetable, and boil it with vegetables until they all go soft. That gives you stew.
  • If you put stew in pastry, then you get pie.

Legal disclaimer: We accept no responsibility for anyone basing their food preparation on third-hand stories from former army cooks with a track record of telling tall tales, about how things may or may not have been done half a century ago.