By Anusha M
The signboard talks to you, and you better understand
On 26, Apr 2014 | In Internal wisdom | By Anusha M
Yoshitha C / Brand Associate / Intern 2014 / IIM Indore
As a part of my work, I have been researching and working on architectural signages.
It is interesting how we take a lot of things for granted and notice them only when we start knowing more about them. It is only after I started working on my project here that I began to notice signages and the lack of these in my surroundings. A little pondering made me peek into my past from which I could relate a number of my own experiences to signages. Let me take you through a few of these many encounters I had, right from the very first one:
Age 5: My 1st signage experience:
When I returned to school after my kindergarten summer vacation, I remember walking through the stairs and corridors towards my classroom holding my mother’s hand. The happiness of growing older by an year as a kid just doubled as I noticed the first signage of my life, my classroom board “I-C”. The boards at the start of every street indicating quarter-numbers never made any sense to me until I got lost in the township I lived in, while exploring an only-talked-about-but-never-seen-by-kids swimming pool. I was surprised how my father could find the seats in a cinema hall every time we went to a movie, till the day when I first noticed the seat numbers while walking down the aisle after a movie.
Beginning to identify inefficiencies:
When I look back, I now realize that there were not sufficient signages back in school indicating the directions to the playground or the library or the music room. We as students knew the directions to every room in the school campus but a new person would never have been able to find his way without asking at least a couple of people.
This particular stage of my life is called Intermediate according to the people in my state (A.P). For the nerd I was during these two years, I never really went out a lot but from the signage point of view, things just got a little worse. The building in which my 11th standard classroom was located was decent as far as the signages go but when we were shifted to a different building in 12th, my classroom did not even have a board. Nor did the canteen or the reception or the principal’s room.
Not being able to discover things fully:
Despite having studied in a University campus spread over an area of 1600 acres, I never really toured the entire campus. As much as it may seem to be a matter of pride to boast about studying in a 1600 acre campus for 4 years, it is a pain to find your way through the campus when you want some work done, the reason being lack of proper signboards indicating directions. When I had to meet a professor of the College of Technology, when I had to go to the Examination department to apply for my degree certificate, and even when I had to go to the campus auditorium, I had to ask at least half a dozen people to find my way through, thanks to the lack of information and direction.
Lost in the hilly curves:
July 3rd, 1st day at IIM Indore – my cab journey was good till I reached the campus from the airport, but the moment I entered the campus, I was lost in the curves and bends of the rain-sloshed roads on the hillock the campus was built on. There was no one on the roads to ask where to go for the hostel registration, thanks to the rain, and there were no signposts indicating which road to take. After finding the Hostel reception center and getting my registration done, I had no idea that it would take me half an hour to find my hostel which would have taken 5 min if there were proper indications of directions. It would have been better if at least a marginal percentage of all the investment that is made to improve the infrastructure is put into signboards in the campus.
Other instances in a parallel world:
#1 Government hospital: When I accompanied my sister to a government hospital to get a medical certificate for her higher studies, we had to walk around the entire hospital for around half an hour to find the person we wanted, not to mention that we left the place without getting our work done.
#2 Bus-stands: Not many bus-stands have the list of buses which pass the place. Almost every time I went to a bus-stand in a new city or a new area of my city, I had to ask people to find exactly where my bus would stop in the vast area.
#3 Railway stations: Every time I enter a railway station, I find everything new like that was the first time I stood there to catch a train. Each of these confused times, I had to ask a person every 200 m to find out what is where, be it the platform I want to go to or the restroom or the way to the exit if I just got down from a train. One such encounter was when I had to walk back and forth, climbing staircases up and down with a 20 kg suitcase in my hand and a 5 kg backpack, in the Delhi railway station because I ended up at the 2nd exit instead of the 1st exit! It is high time that the government start putting up the right signboards in the right places to guide passengers through their way in the stations.
From my short journey of learning about signages till date, I have concluded a few points:
- Signages should appear much before the decision is to be taken
- Signage planning is a part of architectural design. So, it should be started off at the very beginning of a project and should not be ignored till the end
- Signage should reduce human intervention and bring down the questions asked to complete a certain task. A typical example of where this does not happen, is in government offices. One has to make several rounds of corridors to find where the correct office is.
- Signages should reduce pain in sensitive applications, like hospitals, where they should be clear and crisp and not make troubled and in-pain patients move more than necessary
- There should be optimum number of signages placed appropriately to result in a complete experience for the person in question
- Signages should be easily understood. They should be able to communicate to the audience accurately and as quickly as possible
- Signages are not temporary, so they should be made durable and resistant to different weather conditions in terms of both the design and the detail
- Signages should be designed to suit the environment
A day I would wait for in the architectural world would be when people will be able to find their own way through signages without having to take the trouble of asking others, when patients would not go through additional pain of searching for wards in hospitals and when signages are also considered as important an aspect of architecture as is brick and mortar.