Designing navigation for public spaces

RGD hosted a Webinar by Wayne McCutcheon of Entro on Thursday March 24 to discuss signage and way-finding systems design to make buildings and public spaces more accessible. The following is a snapshot of the discussion.

Developing clear signage and way-finding systems for buildings and public spaces requires two critical first steps: Research and Planning.

Effective way-finding systems need to meet the needs of users of all ages and abilities because they need to:

  • Enhance the efficient functioning of a place and the positive image it conveys
  • Provide easy  guidance for those who have lost their way
  • Anticipate the needs of people with physical or sensory handicaps
  • Guide people to designated areas and exits in case of an emergency evacuation

Good way-finding design takes in or includes a place or environment’s architectural features or landmarks, verbal instruction, printed materials, electronic displays, and interactive technologies.

An effective design aims at the first-time users, delivering the right information at the right time, so that users know where to go instantly.

In addition to incorporating accessibility standards to provide clear information to people with physical disabilities, Ontario is proposing standards to meet the needs of children, the deaf, and those with cognitive impairments or limited literacy. The new standards apply to all public accommodations, including any facility open to public access, such as restaurants, schools, museums, public offices, transportation facilities, zoos, retail spaces and social service establishments.

Although the Ontario standards have yet to be finalized, it is prudent for designers to research and understand the recommendations now and learn how to implement them. As well, it pays to consult interest groups with deep understanding of accessibility issues.

For example, Wayne’s company worked on the Pearson Airport project for a number of years. The success was in large part due not only to the extensive research and testing that was done along the way, but also to the participation of the CNIB as an important part of the accessibility design process.

Plenty of strong examples can also be found in the US, with exemplary best practices for environmental graphic design as laid out in the ADA.

Creating truly accessible environments demand intelligence and discipline. The new Ontario standards will boost awareness of the issue. The onus is on designers in this province to turn accessibility into reality.

Wayne McCutcheon is a principal and a founding partner of Entro Communications. He is past president of RGD Ontario and current President of the SEGD.

Filed by Mark Nusca for Adobe Systems


About rgddesignthinkers

The Association of Registered Graphic Designers of Ontario (RGD) is the professional body for graphic designers in Ontario. RGD grants graphic designers who qualify the right to use the designations Registered Graphic Designer and R.G.D., a quality signal of standards of professional practice. RGD has approximately 2800 members. Attracting over 1,000 participants and a full line-up of fascinating speakers, DesignThinkers is Canada’s largest, most important graphic design event. It’s an occasion to listen, learn and interact with peers from across the country.
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