Author: Jeanne-Louise Moys

Reimagining the wayfinding project during the pandemic

In spring term, our MA Communication Design students on the Information Design and Graphic Design pathways have the opportunity to undertake a wayfinding project, as one of their project choices. We usually collaborate with partners in the Reading community (for example, last year we collaborated with The Hexagon) and arrange visits to local sites. The pandemic provided an opportunity to develop new resources for teaching this project.

Wayfinding briefs provide great opportunities for strategic and creative user-centred design. Students have to consider how visual design supports decision-making and user experience of environments, as well as consider the needs and expectations of different users and stakeholders. They also require students to explore the interplay between functional problem-solving and cultural relevance and how branding and identity systems might need to work across a range of different materials and surfaces.

Wayfinding designer, and Reading alum, Joan Zalacain (http://www.zalacain.com/) leads this project. Joan says: “The importance of user-centred design is crucial to wayfinding but we also need systems that are appealing and sit harmoniously within their environment. We strive to convey this to our students as wayfinding is a growing area of international practice and our graduates need to be ready to deliver their best.”

This year, factoring in the impact of Covid-19 restrictions on mobility, we developed a new brief to ensure students did not need to conduct any site visits to undertake the project. Joan worked with architect Maciej Kozak to develop maps and models that students could work with. In professional wayfinding practice, buildings are often at the planning or development stage, so it’s realistic for wayfinding designers to work with these kinds of resources.

This year’s brief envisaged a new community arts centre for Reading. Students worked on either an indoor or an outdoor wayfinding proposal for the centre.

Photographic mockup of outdoor wayfinding sign near a flat roofed entrance to a building, with people walking towards the entrance.
Mohammed Alhadab created this photographic mockup of his proposed design for an outdoor wayfinding system.

 

Information Design Pathway student, Fred Pena came to Reading because of his particular interest in wayfinding. He said: “The wayfinding project is a good opportunity to work on different aspects of design. Having to think about strategy, information architecture, user interaction, typography, and the development and application of physical objects in a three-dimensional environment really makes it a challenging endeavour.  It’s about more than just making signage, but developing a whole system that has to be functional and visually engaging.”
An extract from Fred’s wayfinding project showing specification of typographic elements within his indoor sign system.

Siobhan Bailey (Graphic Design Pathway and returning alum from our BA programme) said: “I really enjoyed the wayfinding project as it was a completely new area of Graphic Communication that I was not able to study at undergraduate level. Coming from an art and psychology background before graphics, it was a perfect mix of the two and required a high level of critical thinking to meet user needs and solve problems. The skills I have learned throughout this project will be essential for me in terms of wanting to head into the exhibition design, events or wayfinding sectors, and in general for careers which require strategic thinking and initiative. Joan’s passion for wayfinding and user centred design really inspired me and he pushed me to achieve my absolute best at every step of submission.”

User flow diagram showing touch points in the wayfinding system
Siobhan’s synthesis of the wayfinding strategy and user journey to explain user interaction and touchpoints within the museum. This diagram demonstrates at what moment information is presented to the user and how this effects user experience.

The project also includes a range of inspiring contributions from professional designers and agencies who are part of the Department’s professional network. Thank you to May Chiang from Applied Wayfinding (London), Hayley Branston and Elena McLoughlin from Maynard (London), Anita Meier from Moniteurs (Berlin) who shared their professional insights and Reading PhD graduate, Dr Andrew McIlwraith who shared his expertise on mapping.

Evgenia Vrentzou (Graphic Design Pathway) said:  “Through the wayfinding project I learnt to have a more inclusive thinking by considering both the needs of people and the parameters of environment, in order to make an effective, creative and functional system. All the talks during the spring term were very inspiring and we gained important knowledge on how to develop our projects. Wayfinding combines both creativity and strategic thinking and is a part of design that I would like to emphasise even more in the future.”

A diagram showing the sign family relative to a human figure
This diagram shows Evgenia Vrentzou’s proposed sign family.

Evgenia also chose to explore wayfinding for her professional practice assignment. In this self-directed project, she designed a new wayfinding system for the coastal city of Heraklion. Her project built on the findings from participant studies she conducted to understand people’s mental maps of the area – a great example of how we incorporate user research into practical projects at Reading.

In his professional practice assignment, Fred extended his experience of wayfinding to consider a journey-planning app that responded to new considerations arising during the pandemic. His wellbeing and urban mobility app – Let’s Walk – focused on supporting people, who might have anxiety about going out during the pandemic but also need to get regular exercise, to identify appropriate places and routes to achieve their goals.

The wayfinding project is open to students on the MA Communication Design Graphic Design and Information Design pathways and MA Creative Enterprise Communication Design pathway. We look forward to running this successful project again with our new cohort in spring 2022.

Our new collaboration with Lantana Publishing

Lena Gomez, of our current MA Communication Design Information Design Pathway cohort, has been involved in an exciting collaboration with Lantana Publishing this year. Lantana is an award-winning children’s book publisher that focuses on diversity, social equality and environmental sustainability.

Alice Curry, Lantana’s founder and CEO had been talking to Pathway Lead Jeanne-Louise Moys about a potential collaboration in 2019. Lantana was looking for a holistic communications strategy that would reflect how their vision and ethos are evolving and work effectively for their different audiences and stakeholders. When Lena joined our MA cohort in autumn 2019, her strengths and interests mapped well to Lantana’s communication needs so Alice presented us with a brief that Lena undertook for her professional practice assignment.

Portrait of young, dark-haired woman
Lena Gomez, MA Communication Design

Lena said: “Diversity in children’s literature was a large aspect of my undergraduate thesis research, so working with Lantana was the perfect fit for me. I was excited to take on the challenge of creating a communications strategy for a client that is in the middle of implementing exciting new changes”.

At the outset of the project, Lena visited Lantana and worked with them to understand their needs and priorities. She then conducted research to align her project with a broader understanding of current marketing and communication trends in the publishing industry and consider the specific customers, stakeholders and potential partners encompassed in the audience. Looking at user analytics on their existing website and social media and developing clear user personas to work with was an important part of her user-centred research. Lena also had to bear in mind how her design solutions needed to be easy and efficient to implement for an independent publisher and work with their existing systems.

Image showing Lena's design proposals for Lantana compliment slips
Lena has also redesigned compliment slips for Lantana using her new logo design

Lena developed a range of initial approaches for Lantana. These included both visual design proposals and strategies for their implementation. Once a direction was agreed, Lena developed her ideas further producing a comprehensive strategy supported by a new logo design and style guide for the redesigned brand, compliment slips and corporate stationery, a series of infographics and proposals for the redesign of the website.

Reflecting on the project, Lena said: “Working with the team at Lantana has been a rewarding experience. Through collaboration and exploration, I feel that we came up with feasible solutions that aligned well with the goals and values of the company. I’m also happy with the range of designs that I had the opportunity to work on, from logo design to infographic design and more.”

Following submission of her project for University assessment, Lantana has contracted her to continue the redesign of the website. Alice said: “I feel the project has been beneficial for both of us, the relationship has been easy and professional, and I’ve really enjoyed working with her these past few weeks. Lena has brought some fresh, new ideas and insights to the project, giving our branding a fun, child-friendly yet professional new look, and we’re delighted. ”

This project is the first collaboration between Lantana and the Department of Typography & Communication. Jeanne-Louise said: “Working on live briefs is always incredibly valuable for our students. Lantana’s brief is particularly good as Lena needed to consider the needs of the publisher and their systems alongside the needs of their multifaceted audience. We look forward to future collaborations.”

 

Creating flags to share identities at the Tate Exchange

In March, Typography’s ‘I am, we are … different by design’ project team designed and led a workshop to explore identity and movement as part of the Reading Assembly Tate Exchange. This year’s student team leaders Martha Macri and Seniz Husseyin look back on what made this such a successful day for all involved.

The Tate Exchange is an annual programme of events led by different educational partners hosted at the Tate Modern. Our University of Reading School of Arts & Communication Design were delighted to be invited back for the second year in a row to run our Reading Assembly in the first weekend of March. This year’s theme was Movement. Project teams in the School explored different interpretations of the theme to create fun and exciting activities for the public to get involved with.

Our ‘Different by design’ team for the day included: Camara Dick, Charlotte Prince, Labiba Haque, Liselot van Veen, Malaika Johnson, Martha and Seniz, supported by tutors Geoff Wyeth and Jeanne-Louise Moys. Our team is exploring ways to celebrate and explore diversity in creative disciplines. Our interpretation of the theme ‘movement’ was focusing on global movement and embracing everyone’s individual identities that reflect our diverse personal experiences, culture and journeys. Flags represent collective identities, so we wanted our participants to create flags that express their personal identities that we could collate to form a larger, composite and representative flag for the day.

Project management

In our weekly team meetings, we brainstormed and discussed ideas of what we could do for the workshop with the theme of ‘movement’. As a team we worked together and developed our flag idea. Martha and Seniz co-led the team, which meant we kept in regular contact with Anna Kontopoulou (the School’s Reading Assembly coordinator), identified what equipment and materials were needed and made sure all interim deadlines were met.

To ensure our activity would run smoothly on the day, our team set up a practice run of the workshop to test the process, equipment and to check for any altercations along the way. This proved a success as we perfected any aspects that needed changing and felt more confident as a whole. Overall, the planning process was spread over a few weeks.

On the day

Our workshop activity was designed to allow the public to express their identity through designing their own flag. We supplied them with paper to design on, readymade cut-outs of coloured paper and recyclable materials, as well as the option for them to create their own shapes and images. We encouraged the public to create anything personal to them and also displayed our team’s readymade bags to inspire or stimulate people’s creations.

Once the flags were created individuals handed them over to our scanning and printing section. We scanned the flags, not only to team. Our team printed these onto transfer paper and compiled all the flags into one collective flag showcasing everyone’s amazing work. The transfer paper printouts of each flag were ironed onto tote bags, enabling public partiicpants to take home a bag they designed themselves as a souvenir. Who doesn’t love taking things home after am eventful day out with friends and family…? We noticed that participants of all ages really liked this aspect of our activity and were happy to wait patiently to take home something they created, even when our ironing transfer queue was quite long!

Evaluation

The activity turned out to be a success with the table of crafting always being full and busy. We were happy that everything fell into place, ran smoothly and that our activity was popular to be a part of in the room on the day, highlighting that allowing people to express their identities is a good thing. The variety and quality of work the public created was wonderful to see and the collage of flags were inspiring to everyone.

Our team were very pleased that we received such positive feedback. We had people of all ages and backgrounds take part, from toddlers to Danish cabinet ministers, creating different interpretations of their own identity. All, however, expressed that they enjoyed their time and liked the idea of the activity – some people even stayed on the floor for hours. They especially enjoyed being able to take a tote bag home with something on it that they took their time creating. One person said: “I loved all of it. I would do it all over again”, which shows the positive impact it had on members of the public. The encouraging feedback has left our team eager to continue this workshop activity next year at the Tate Exchange and hope to be invited back.

Designing for an evolving publishing industry

The Department recently collaborated with Oxford University Press on an exciting digital publishing project. OUP’s brief gave final year students an opportunity to explore the challenges and possibilities of user-centred design for evolving digital platforms.

Read more

Join us for our May postgraduate visit opportunity

We’re delighted to let you know we have scheduled another visit opportunity for prospective MA applicants to visit us. The Department of Typography & Graphic Communication warmly invites prospective MA applicants to visit us for a postgraduate open day. The visit opportunity will be held in the Department on Thursday 2 May 2019 from 12.00–14.00. It’s a fantastic opportunity to find out more about the specialist postgraduate study routes we offer through talking to our subject experts in Book Design, Communication Design, Creative Enterprise, Information Design, and Typeface Design. We’ll also be able to see highlights from our world-renowned Collections and examples of past student projects and enjoy our current exhibition on 20th Century Persian newspaper types.

Two postgraduate students looking at historic posters in our Collections

We’ve refreshed our postgraduate taught programmes to build a stronger, integrated typographic foundation for research and practice across all programmes and specialist pathways. These changes include a new general Communication Design pathway to complement our well-known established pathways in Book Design, Information Design and Typeface Design. These four specialist pathways are all offered as part of our newly renamed MA Communication Design – the ideal degree for anyone wishing to develop their professional practice within a world-class research environment.

In addition to the practice-intensive pathways for the MA Communication Design programme, we also offer a multidisciplinary Creative Enterprise programme and two research-intensive programmes. Our MA Creative Enterprise is designed for individuals who wish to combine their study of research and practice in Communication Design with studies of management and law for the creative sector. Our MA Research Typography & Graphic Communication is the ideal route to prepare you for independent research and doctoral study and our MRes Typeface Design is a bespoke route for experienced, practicing typeface designers who want to develop a deeper understanding of the historical and theoretical aspects of their field.

For joining information and to register your interest, please email Victoria Gifford – typography@reading.ac.uk.

 

Join us for our February 2019 postgraduate open day

The Department of Typography & Graphic Communication warmly invites prospective MA applicants to visit us for a postgraduate open day. The open day will be held in the Department on Thursday 28 February 2019 from 10.15–14.00. It’s a fantastic opportunity to find out more about the specialist postgraduate study routes we offer through exploring the work of past and present students and talking to our subject experts in Book Design, Communication Design, Creative Enterprise, Information Design, and Typeface Design. We’re also planning some talks that incorporate highlights from our world-renowned Collections and give you a taste of teaching and research at Reading.

We look forward to sharing with you exciting developments about how we’ve refreshed our postgraduate taught programmes to build a stronger, integrated typographic foundation for research and practice across all programmes and specialist pathways. We’ve introduced a new general Communication Design pathway to complement our well-known established pathways in Book Design, Information Design and Typeface Design. These four specialist pathways are all offered as part of our newly renamed MA Communication Design – the ideal degree for anyone wishing to develop their professional practice within a world-class research environment.

Postgraduate student Darryl Lim looking at student displays of work including digital and printed projects

In addition to the practice-intensive pathways for the MA Communication Design programme, we also offer a multidisciplinary Creative Enterprise programme and two research-intensive programmes. Our MA Creative Enterprise is designed for individuals who wish to combine their study of research and practice in Communication Design with studies of management and law for the creative sector. Our MA Research Typography & Graphic Communication is the ideal route to prepare you for independent research and doctoral study and our MRes Typeface Design is a bespoke route for experienced, practicing typeface designers who want to develop a deeper understanding of the historical and theoretical aspects of their field.

To register your interest, please email Victoria Gifford – typography@reading.ac.uk.

Two postgraduate students looking at historic posters in our Collections

Beyond awareness: inclusive design for Graphic Communication

This week, Part 2 Graphic Communication students completed the inclusive design component of their integrated design modules. Building on the series of workshops (see BdB blog) we did earlier in the term and relevant readings, on Monday, students presented seminar papers to their peers on particular aspects of inclusive design.

 

Group photo inclusive design
On Monday, our Graphic Communication students presented inclusive design seminars to their peers (from left to right): Jordan Bellinger, Lewis Burfield, Maciej Bykowski, Fenella Astley, Rajvir Bhogal, Stephanie Boateng, Cherise Booker, June Lin and (front) Jordan Cairns.

 

Students discussed and debated, aspects such as:

  • The principles of inclusive design and how designers can make these achievable in real life projects
  • How design briefs often tend to create segregation and how designers can develop more inclusive solutions to briefs
  • The clear print debate – what the guidelines are, who they are for and how implementing these can differ for professional designers and everyday communicators
  • The challenges and key considerations of inclusive design for screen – including the use of colour, images, sound and navigation
  • Key debates and typographic research for inclusive design for children’s reading, focusing on readers who may have dyslexia or visual impairments
  • Inclusive wayfinding – including challenges and innovative proposals for solutions in contemporary design practice.

Students commented that the inclusive design workshops, readings and seminars they have done have helped them become “more consciously aware” of how important it is to consider inclusive design in their own work and how designers may have to take responsibility for designing inclusively for a range of users. The highlighted how it is important to realise that the people they are designing for are probably “not the same as you (the designer)” and that inclusive design is “not just being aware” but about embedding inclusive practices in our industry. They also noted that these seminars had made them aware that there is “not enough research” about inclusive design within our discipline.