With ten years’ experience in maps, wayfinding and graphic design, Joan likes to bring clarity to what some call our era of information obesity. His approach aims to improve the user’s experience by simplifying processes and delivering information in an effective and seamless manner. He worked for Mijksenaar Wayfinding in Amsterdam (and others) until deciding to expand his knowledge and enrolling in a Masters degree in Information Design at The University of Reading. He graduated in 2013 with a distinction.
Tuesday 8 April: Information environments
The dilemma of the straight ahead arrow:
why two different symbols can be used
In wayfinding, arrows are the most widely-understood symbols; they transform information into a directional order.
An arrow in a flat sign is limited to a plane and can clearly instruct to move left or right. However, there is no unique, accepted symbol, and there is a certain amount of controversy, as to how it should inform the user to move straight ahead. The most common direction of movement is traditionally represented by an arrow up or an arrow down. Two symbols for one direction, and both can be mistaken for a direction up or down.
The presentation will focus on several factors that can explain why both symbols can be used as a straight ahead direction. Looking at the arrow up from a metaphorical point of view, we will understand why it can be a plausible representation of forward movement, as we see the future ahead as ‘up’. On the other hand, a visual perception point of view will cast some light on why we could also choose a down pointing arrow for the same purpose.
Examples where both arrows are used on the same location will also be analysed. This will help to illustrate how the factors work in practice, and how the signs could be improved by either changing the location of the sign or adding extra information to ease comprehension.
The presentation will help us understand how the user perceives an arrow up or down through metaphor theory and perception psychology. The examples will help us to gain understanding of how both symbols should be used.