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Wayfinding Styles: How individuals navigate space differently

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#1
Derek Tonn

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Hey everyone!

I thought I would offer up a draft of a short conference workshop slideshow I will be giving in a few weeks to a group of higher education design professionals, related to maps and wayfinding:

http://docs.google.c...zm4m_28z8ftsdcs

I assume I might get a few cheers and a few MORE rotten tomatoes lobbed at me for a few of my assertions I am making in that presentation! :P However, that presentation is truly the foundation of our firm's business model and my own experience "in the business" for the past 16 years...and I believe with all my heart that Cartography, Inc. (what is preached in educational journals, classrooms, etc.) has been FAR too skewed towards addressing Procedural Mapping wants/needs versus Landmark Mapping, as it relates to the philosophy of cognitive mapping and, to a greater extent, wayfinding and user-centered design.

The stats assertion on Slide 10 is obviously WOEFULLY incomplete (I have 45 minutes to make a convincing argument on a topic I could speak on for 45 hours!), but that has been at the core of my own research and personal interviews with individuals, prospective clients, current clients, etc. over nearly two decades. I just haven't had the time to publish those types of results or make any type of "formal" presentation of said data/research as of yet...so that's the one leap-of-faith assertion I am making that will allow critics to cut me into ribbons. That said, we'll see what type of responses that type of presentation might provoke within mapping circles. I already know how it will be received by the people in attendance at that workshop (very positive), but that is an audience that already tends towards a "landmark" mapping priority/preference who have felt long-ignored by most of us in the cartography business who try and serve them.

Let me know what you think! The good, the bad, and the ugly comments/critiques are all welcome!
Derek Tonn
Founder and CEO
mapformation, LLC

datonn@mapformation.com
http://www.mapformation.com

#2
DaveB

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Looks like an interesting presentation. Are you going to show examples?
I think I'm a very visual person. I don't think I do very well with landmark OR precedural wayfinding! B)
I'm also somewhat of a pragmatist in that you should take your audience into account and do what works for them. Easy to do if you're your own audience! :lol: Harder if your audience thinks differently from you - for example, if you're a "procedural" wayfinder, but you are designing for "landmark" wayfinders. I think it takes more conscious thought at the very least.
Dave Barnes
Esri
Product Engineer
Map Geek

#3
Derek Tonn

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Hey Dave!

Yes, I'll be toggling between slides and examples of imagery on the Web throughout the entire presentation...to help illustrate what the different terminology means. Otherwise I think it would come off as being a little too confusing, considering the attendees will be there to learn more about wayfinding in-general (coming at it with little/no background in the topic).

What you describe (it being difficult to design maps and diagrams for people to navigate space differently than you do) is one of the key points I am trying to make in that session. About 75% of attendees in that workshop will likely be HEAVY "landmark" wayfinders. North, 1.5 miles, etc. is meaningless to them...ESPECIALLY after the sun has gone down. What they are looking for is the third stoplight, the Barnes&Noble, the parking lot next to the big brick building by a funky phone booth, etc. Most folks in that audience get a headache trying to use a typical North-on-top, planimetric, exact scale for distance and 3-4 pt. typeface to crow-bar in all the stuff that people forgot to delete or hide from their GIS data import into Illustrator. ;)

The fascinating thing to me is that, up until maybe 80-90 years ago, the exact opposite problem existing related to wayfinding. Most of the resources out there in the world served "landmark" wayfinders, and the folks with a preference for procedural information were often left out in the cold. In the past 15-20 years in particular, almost the EXACT opposite problem has occurred. All I am asking for is better BALANCE so that people who prefer to navigate either way have good resources at their disposal to do so.

Things that make me say Hmm: Even though the industry has turned 180-degrees towards procedural wayfinding the past few decades, how come it generally only is applied when navigating exterior space? How come people don't typically say "proceed North down the A-2 corridor for 75 feet until you reach corridor A-4. Turn East and travel 30 feet until you reach room 220. Turn South and enter room 220..." We all intuitively KNOW why! :) However, I just want people not to FORGET why...if that makes any sense.
Derek Tonn
Founder and CEO
mapformation, LLC

datonn@mapformation.com
http://www.mapformation.com

#4
Kartograph

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I´m a zealotous disciple of the school of thought that posutlates the overwhelming influence procedural knowledge has for Wayfinding, especially pedestrian wayfinding. I wrote about this in-depth in my Masters Thesis

Please do check out this groundbreaking work, it´s inspirational, artistic and scientific at the same time.:

http://www.paularthu.../0001cover.html

It was a big revelation when I found this book. I can give you a lot of more pointers.

Also you might want to check out:
Kitchin/Blades 2002:
http://www.amazon.co...c...0768&sr=8-1

They give a good overview f the state of the discussion.

Also Portugali wrote an overview article in 2005, maybe there´s something newer from one of them.

#5
DaveB

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I guess underground/subway system maps fall more into the "landmark" category of maps? It's mostly about the subway stops (and the relative network of subway lines).

I wonder, with landmark wayfinding/directions do different people focus on different landmarks? If so, does that make different sets of directions to the same place work better for different people?

It's easy to get focused in on your own way of thinking and looking at things. It takes extra effort to go beyond that and try to see things from another perspective. I don't know if I do a very good job at that when I'm designing software gui's (and testing them).

Interesting topic :)
Dave Barnes
Esri
Product Engineer
Map Geek

#6
Dennis McClendon

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How come people don't typically say "proceed North down the A-2 corridor for 75 feet until you reach corridor A-4. Turn East and travel 30 feet until you reach room 220. Turn South and enter room 220..."


Because the direction-giver knows the starting point (probably where we're both standing) of the path the traveler will take. That's less often true in the outside world of cities or large campuses.

In the days before Google Street View or live.com's bird's eye views, I would often call businesses to determine which side of the road they were on. "Hi, I'm making a map. Is your store on the west side of the street or the east?" If a woman answered, inevitably she would say "Well, it depends on which way you're coming from." Hmmmm, I'd say. "Is it on the side of the highway closer to the ocean or to the mountains?" "If you're coming from the ocean you don't go on the highway," she'd say. At that point I would give up and ask if it was a sunny morning, and whether the sun was coming in the front window. "No. We have a big overhang out front."
Dennis McClendon, Chicago CartoGraphics
chicagocarto.com

#7
François Goulet

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"Hi, I'm making a map. Is your store on the west side of the street or the east?" If a woman answered, inevitably she would say "Well, it depends on which way you're coming from."


Or, you could just say that West is West and East is East, no matter which way you're coming from... ;)

#8
Derek Tonn

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Because the direction-giver knows the starting point (probably where we're both standing) of the path the traveler will take. That's less often true in the outside world of cities or large campuses.

In the days before Google Street View or live.com's bird's eye views, I would often call businesses to determine which side of the road they were on. "Hi, I'm making a map. Is your store on the west side of the street or the east?" If a woman answered, inevitably she would say "Well, it depends on which way you're coming from." Hmmmm, I'd say. "Is it on the side of the highway closer to the ocean or to the mountains?" "If you're coming from the ocean you don't go on the highway," she'd say. At that point I would give up and ask if it was a sunny morning, and whether the sun was coming in the front window. "No. We have a big overhang out front."


Yes that's 100% true, Dennis! :lol:

That's kind of my point though. You stick a Google Map in my wife's or mom's hands or tell her to "turn North" (especially after dark) on Johnson Street after 0.7 miles, and you'll sometimes get that nervous, deer-in-the-headlights look in return. Similarly, you stick a bird's eye/oblique map design in the hands of someone who's been teaching GIS/cartography for the past 2-3 decades (tenured, in particular), and give them driving directions that are to the effect of "turn on University, go through the third stoplight and then look for the glass and brick building with the clock tower on the right side of the road, by the Dairy Queen..." and they'll pat you on the head, hold your hand and walk you to the nearest elementary school for enrollment (wee bit superior to thee). :)

USER-CENTERED DESIGN is the key. Not self-centric or egocentric design, as is often found in a L-O-T of classrooms and design firms out there. If the consumers or audience for our maps want "turn left at the second palm tree past the bookstore," does that mean they are navigationally-challenged or possess inferior intellects...or does it mean that we simply haven't each (myself included) been able to crawl out of our own egocentric cocoons for how we believe people should navigate through physical space? The more I talk with people, the more I know with all my heart that it is most-definitely the LATTER (and not the former).

As to my interior directions example though, you'll notice that I didn't mention left or right. Consequently, West is ALWAYS West, South is ALWAYS South, etc. The point being that when people are inside structures or are underground, many often switch to more of a "landmark mapping" cognitive model versus procedural mapping because it is much more difficult to gage N/S/E/W or some types of physical measurements without exterior reference points (without a compass or ???)...even if they prefer to navigate exterior space using resources that are more directed towards procedural mapping.

It's a big, beautiful, rainbow-colored world out there! I just wish more people would stop trying to make everyone "black" or everyone "white" when it comes to map design and wayfinding...not to mention realize (or remember) that a rainbow-colored world of mapping is the only way probably half of us reading this message will still be in business a decade or two from now... ;)
Derek Tonn
Founder and CEO
mapformation, LLC

datonn@mapformation.com
http://www.mapformation.com

#9
Dennis McClendon

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Derek, where does this chip on the shoulder come from? Why do you have the idea that there are bearded cartography professors in ivory towers somewhere sneering at your work? It's a theme that comes up again and again in your posts on CartoTalk. The majority of thinking about maps is planimetric, to be sure, because those are easier to make and more practical for small-scale work. But there's certainly no disrespect for birds-eye views or reluctance to consider them as useful for wayfinding. Any discussion about whether they can be called "maps" is a semantic one, not a dismissal of their value.

The origins of Practical Cartography Day came 15 years ago when Alex Tait and I talked with Cindy Brewer one afternoon at NACIS about having some way for professors of cartography to teach us mere working mapmakers the great secrets of mapping. But it turns out there aren't any great secrets. The few professors still left in the field do a little research that nibbles around the edges, or write things up in an academically acceptable fashion, but it's those of us who actually make maps for a living, for real clients and real places, who turn out to be the experts on what works. So whatever snippet of conversation you think you might have overheard a few years ago, please get over it. You are part of the core of the cartographic community, whatever that is, not a beggar knocking at the gates. So am I, even though I've never had a single hour of cartography or geography instruction.

Now on to the actual subject at hand. Unquestionably birds-eye views have their utility, and may be easier for some users. But there are obvious limitations as well, including buildings or landmarks that are obscured by larger ones in front. There's also the question of how useful they are to someone needing to navigate from an unforeseen point of view: back to front, or entering from one side of the view. Thus I often suggest hybrid approaches, in which planimetric representations are enhanced with photographic or axonometric wireframes of selected landmarks. When I got back from Japan in 1999, I did a talk at NACIS about the great variety of maps you find in Japanese cities to aid wayfinding. They're nearly always oriented forward-up rather than north-up, and they include a lot of innovative techniques to help people navigate through three-dimensional confusing underground complexes.
Dennis McClendon, Chicago CartoGraphics
chicagocarto.com

#10
Derek Tonn

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Dennis,

I guess the "chip on my shoulder" comes from all the little remarks I occasionally hear in/around the field. Comments like a purchasing representative at a community college doing her darnedest to describe the type of maps they want for their campus...only to have a few map designers make comments about how they butchered their project descriptions when it comes to the use of "proper" terminology. Or the occasional person who makes a comment about missing scales or North not being on the top of a design. Etc, etc.

I didn't come to the field of map design through cartography/geography...I came into it via graphic design and, in some ways, web design. Already I sometimes feel like I've got two strikes against me when it comes to the study or production of "serious" or "professional" cartography as a result (though that can often be self-imposed)...so I can get defensive and/or "easily agitated." ;) My biggest struggle being "in the business" though (as a human being) is to walk the fine line between:

A. Not becoming enraged or dismissive while listening to people who've had maybe ten minutes of classroom training in things such as typography, leading, kerning, contrast, positive/negative space, issues surrounding color-blindness, etc. using the term "design" in the same sentence as importing data and then using "brewers" to come up with their finished products, and...

B. Struggling to avoid a bit of an inferiority complex when it comes to people who have YEARS more educational training on all the history and subtle nuances of cartography than I have.

I've mentioned this quote before, but we're ALL experts and we're ALL idiots...it just depends upon what is being discussed at any given time. :) I struggle personally/professionally with feeling like an idiot when it comes to "cartography" in its most-traditional form (at least during my lifetime)...even though I've been designing maps for nearly 30 years now (16 professionally). That's on me...and something I need to work on (and get over). That said, cartographers and map-makers do not "own" maps and wayfinding...they belong to the masses. We are merely stewards of the field.

Our job as people who create maps, IMHO, is to meet the masses where they live and serve them how they want and need to be served. In at least my own personal experience in the past 8-10+ years (since I started paying attention), there seems to be a GIANT disconnect between the philosophy of user-centered design and many of the works that are produced in our field (and where our industry is at least partially heading). So I squeak and squawk. When some of those same individuals get on their high-horses about what we all do while forgetting that many of them play things such as "graphic designer" and "web designer" (or plumber, or electrician, or mechanic, or, or, or)...well, that's just about more than I can stand without getting myself in a LOT of trouble in how I respond...lol.

Anyway, I'm padding my "most words posted at CartoTalk" wind-bag lead...so I'd better wrap this message up. Some of it is psychological and is something I am struggling to overcome as a professional in the field who lacks most of the formal educational background that many enter the field with (a person who also spent 18 unsuccessful years as a child trying to measure up to my father's impossibly high standards...no matter how good I was or how well I would do at school or work). Some of it though is simply frustration in knowing that most of us (myself included) think/act like we are a lot smarter than we actually probably are in understanding the way that the OTHER 50% of the planet thinks and wants related to maps, wayfinding and directions. Different <=> more or less "smart." Different is just different. Beautiful, interesting....and DEFINITELY not inferior or less-intelligent.
Derek Tonn
Founder and CEO
mapformation, LLC

datonn@mapformation.com
http://www.mapformation.com

#11
DaveB

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Derek,
You shouldn't feel like you have "two strikes" against you or that there's anything wrong with how you came to cartography or what your background is. For one thing, your work speaks for itself! For another, as you yourself said "Different is just different. Beautiful, interesting....and DEFINITELY not inferior or less-intelligent. " I totally agree. There are many paths to this field. And who's to say which ones are "legitimate"? The proof is in the mapping.
You bring a lot of good things to the field and to these kinds of discussions, different skills and interests and knowledge, business acumen, design skills, thoughtfulness, etc. (verbiage ;) ) Dennis is right (as he so often seems to be!) "You are part of the core of the cartographic community, whatever that is, not a beggar knocking at the gates."

I think the "naysayers" are few and far between and likely not worth taking seriously.

I've had formal education in cartography, but very little practical experience making maps for clients. These days it's rare that I make a map and then it's usually to my own specifications following my own interests. I spend most of my time designing and testing GIS software (with an emphasis on the cartography side of things as much as possible), so I'm probably more on the fringe of the field than many of you practicing cartographers making a living at making maps (which is one of the reasons I love going to the NACIS meetings, checking out Cartotalk, etc.). But I think, I hope, I still have something to contribute once in a while. :)

Now, it looks like I'm trying to vy for verbiage! :lol:

Anyway, interesting discussion. Hopefully it's getting some people thinking. :)
Dave Barnes
Esri
Product Engineer
Map Geek

#12
Jean-Louis

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did'nt want to add to the verbiage...but could'nt resist weighing in
Attached File  judgement.jpg   724.04KB   52 downloads
Ps. 1. I really liked your wayfinding presentation Derek
and 2 . I am a card-carrying member of the I'll-draw-whatever-maps-I-damn-well-please school of cartography
Jean-Louis Rheault
Montreal


#13
Dennis McClendon

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I also came to mapmaking through graphic design, though I never had any formal training in that, either. And for years I worried that I didn't know the mathematics of selecting a projection, for example, until Daan Strebe pointed out to me that for an area the size of the Chicago region, differences between projections are generally less than the amount the paper stretches due to humidity differences. I don't know how to thin USGS hydrography data by stream-order classification—but that turns out to be a lot less important to mapmaking than having a sense of design that tells me when the level of detail in a watercourse is too complex or too coarse for the map scale.

I'm presumably the person you're referring to above, who called you to make sure you'd heard about a bid from Manhattan Community College but then injected a note of skepticism about the terms in the RFP. (I've forgotten what it was, but it was an oxymoron such as "two-dimensional axonometric view.") I wasn't poking fun at the purchasing department's lack of vocabulary; I was worried that it was a sign that the client didn't actually know what they wanted. I've had bad experiences with public agencies—and particularly the clueless purchasing office—wanting a firm quote on a very undefined scope of work. My fear wasn't that the client was ignorant, it was that they might make you start over a couple of times because the members of a committee all had completely different ideas that the purchasing clerk had somehow mashed together.
Dennis McClendon, Chicago CartoGraphics
chicagocarto.com

#14
Derek Tonn

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Hey Dennis!

Thanks for your thoughtful reply. Actually, I had multiple, unnamed people "in the business" forward that particular community college lead to me (we already had received it, and were eventually hired...but it is fantastic to have others looking out for us and getting our backs like that). FYI, a few others weren't as polite as you were in pointing out their request for a "two-dimensional axonometric view." ;)

That's simply the kind of stuff that sometimes gets my dander up...because I remember the 8,000,000,000 topics in our world where I would be completely and utterly useless to others if they asked my advice without Google or Wikipedia handy. Because of that, if I ever catch myself, my friends or my associates making demeaning types of remarks towards others for their lack of expertise in one of those 0.00000000001% of things in our world where I/we ARE actually smarter or more-informed than the average bear, I feel the need to respond.

I've always been like that though...sticking up for "yin" when "yang" is getting a little too full of itself. Or getting detention in junior high and high school for diving into a verbal/physical fight that was not my own when I saw some smaller/weaker kid getting picked on (even though I probably only weighed 145 pounds soaking-wet at the time, ha!). I'd stay out of a lot more trouble if I just kept my mouth shut...but I can't. Probably my greatest strength AND my greatest weakness as a person and a professional...
Derek Tonn
Founder and CEO
mapformation, LLC

datonn@mapformation.com
http://www.mapformation.com

#15
Rick Dey

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It is interesting that Dennis and Derek although both stating they have not had a formal "cartography education" are possibly two of the most respected "commercial" mapmakers we have here on the forum. Thank you for occasionally bringing us back to a basic realistic view in our discussions. Derek, I've used the ideas from your presentation in a number of discussions I've had with people recently and found them to be very grounding.
Rick Dey




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