Finding Your Way Around

When people are in relatively complicated, unfamiliar environments—like museums, botanical gardens, office buildings, shopping malls, or the world at large—how do we help them find what they’re looking for?

The classic directory consists of a painted or printed sign—or one with letters pressed into a ribbed, felt-covered board for easier editing—that often simply identifies a location by showing a name and a number (or letter-number combo):

Old Fashioned Directory image

Many large retail facilities—including the behemoth Mall of America—use back-lit, photographic transparencies that display maps, store names, and alpha-numeric codes (as well as a You Are Here indicator), and are attached to large kiosks. (These have to be replaced regularly—as stores move in and out—at significant expense).

In terms of museums, the Minneapolis Institute of Arts and Art Institute of Chicago (to name a few) use electronic systems located at stations throughout their galleries. Both can be seen online but are intended for in-museum use:

These systems are relatively easy to update and can tap into data sources like institutional calendars and collections management systems—sources whose data is already kept fresh for other reasons.

As we begin the augmented reality decade, with more and more people carrying smarter devices, it’s time for the next generation of guidance—user-location-aware, easy to use and understand, and participatory (allowing wiki-like user input).

Watch this space. As well as your local museum, office building, mall, historic site, and every last corner of the world.


~ by jockuly on December 31, 2009.

One Response to “Finding Your Way Around”

  1. […] is a significant step beyond the kiosk-based directories of yore. While Explorer only caters to Apple handhelds, it paves the way for available, rich […]

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