Category: students and graduates

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.

Postgraduate research communication success

Congratulations to postgraduate researcher Bodil Mostad Olsen who has won the University’s prize for research communication in a poster competition, held as part of the University’s annual Doctoral Research Conference. Bodil’s communication of her research topic – the history of health communication on food labels – was judged top among a very competitive field of posters representing research across a wide range of arts, science and social science disciplines. Her poster illustrates her collections-based research. It shows the changing influences of scientific understanding of food hygiene and nutrition, food packaging technology, and societal change on the presentation of food to consumers from 1850–1970. This area of typographic and graphic communication practice, although influential in people’s everyday decision-making, has not been  considered previously from this wide, contextual perspective.

—brace the space: Typography degree show 2019

We’d like to thank everyone who attended the private view of our degree show on Thursday evening. Our graduating class of BA Graphic Communication and MA Book Design students hosted a fantastic event which showcased not only their outstanding design work, but also their truly exemplary sense of teamwork and studio culture. Every aspect of the show – from promotion through to signage – is led by the students, and this year’s huge attendance and impressive co-ordination is testament to their efforts.

We’ll publish photos of the standout work on our flickr site shortly, and the student-run instagram is likely to fill up with more content soon. Meanwhile, if you’d like to see some of the work right away (including projects that won our coveted annual examiners awards), please do head over to the Department and ’embrace the space’ to enjoy the public view between Monday 17 and Saturday 22 June. The show covers everything from cutting edge UX to traditional book crafts, and there is an especially strong sense of experimentation and individuality this year.

For more information, visit https://embracethe.space

Undergraduate work by June Lin and Siu Yen Lo, including the award-winning ‘Second Sight’ book, produced in collaboration with students in English Literature.

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.

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