By Gordon Rugg
Every year, students in assorted non-artistic disciplines have to produce a poster. Every year, students who don’t view themselves as artistic complain bitterly about having to do this.
In this article, I’ll look at some of the issues involved in practical poster design at taught degree level, and at how they can be tackled systematically, without needing any artistic skills. The results aren’t likely to win any design prizes, but they should look competent enough to be presentable, and should save non-artistic students from a lot of grief.
In case you’re wondering why I’ve specified taught degrees, the answer is that in research degrees, students often have to produce posters for conferences. The guidelines for these are very different from those for taught course posters, and from publicity posters in the commercial world. This article is just about taught degree posters, and even for those, it comes with the disclaimer that your department may have very different ideas about how to do things, in which case, go with what they want, since they’ll be doing the marking…
I’ll also look at some broader issues in user-centred design, such as the concept of functional distance, which takes us into the origins of the classic command: “Don’t shoot until you see the whites of their eyes”.
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?
At this point, things start to go steadily but unnecessarily downhill. Why? That’s the topic of this article.
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.
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.
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.
Some classic types of landmark: Images from Wikimedia Commons
By Gordon Rugg
Often, simple examples illustrate important principles. This article is about one of those examples. It involves a real café, near a major university in London, which did a brilliant job of designing the layout for fast, efficient and low-hassle use. The key concepts behind this apply just as much to design of huge buildings as to tiny cafés. I’ve used the café as a worked example of how simple task analysis, hassle analysis and design rationale can make produce an outcome that is good for everyone involved.
The café is tiny. It has a service counter on the right as you go in. There’s a door to the kitchen and toilets beyond the service counter, and there are a couple of small tables at the back. That’s about all there is. A lot of the trade is university staff and students who want take-away coffee and sandwiches, and who want fast service. So why is the design so good?