City Wayfinding: how did we get here, and where are we going? (part 1)

Imageability: that quality in a physical object which gives it a high probability of evoking a strong image in any given observer. It is that shape, color, or arrangement which facilitates the making of vividly identified, powerfully structured, highly useful mental images of the environment – Kevin A. Lynch, “The Image of the City” (1960)

Legible London wayfinding sign

Today, Kevin A. Lynch is revered as a godfather of modern city wayfinding. An urban planner and a scholar, Lynch’s most influential work dates back to 1960 and a five-year study of the ways in which people imagine, perceive, map and recall a city landscape.

Lynch’s thrust was to underline how the legibility and character of an urban environment feeds into the creation of mental maps in somebody navigating the city terrain. He studied the experiences of people in three US cities; Boston, Jersey City and Los Angeles. Lynch asked participants to sketch out and describe in detail numerous trips through the city, and came to the conclusion that we make sense of our surroundings in predictable and consistent ways.

A legible city, Lynch argued, was one that utilised patterns of recognisable symbols, those that are at once easily identifiable and grouped logically. Lynch defined the elements that make up these symbols as paths, edges, districts, nodes and landmarks.

These same five elements still play a foundational role in the design of modern city wayfinding systems. 2017 marks the tenth anniversary of Legible London, a high profile example of a city wayfinding system with lineage in theories and best practice refined over the half-century since Lynch’s seminal work. And as we shall now see, Legible London is just one of a growing number of wayfinding schemes that continue to prove his thesis.

WalkNYC wayfinding system

Paths
A path in the Lynchian-sense is any route or channel along which somebody travels. Prominent, legible paths are those that lend character, and might include a concentration of specific activity or distinct facade along a street. They may follow an edge (see below) or other topographic feature. Paths should be easily identifiable, have continuity and a functional necessity. Good city wayfinding design uses paths as prominent features on a map, as in the above example from WalkNYC in New York City.

Toronto TO 360 wayfinding signage

Edges
Edges are boundaries between distinct areas: examples in the city landscape may include roads, parks, shopping districts and residential areas; or natural barriers such as water and green spaces. Edges are linear, though do not qualify as paths. The wayfinding design above, from TO360 in the City of Toronto, defines edges along a railway line and major road.

Interconnect Wayfinding map

Districts
A district is a relatively large city area with a common character, one which the observer can easily categorise. It has a homogenous character, taken from its use or function, texture, space, form, building types, inhabitants or typography. Wayfinding maps can define and lift districts graphically, or by using naming styles and conventions, as in this example from Interconnect West Midlands (Birmingham, UK).

Stockholm Wayfinding map

Nodes
A node is a focus point, and highly compelling to the navigator. Squares, junctions and access to transport are examples of nodes. Paths that cross can be nodes, though too many could render them undistinguishable. A node can also be a thematic concentration, such as a commercial street corner. Nodes, as well as areas of distinct public realm, are emphasised on this map for Stockholm Regional Transport by adding extra detail to these areas.

Legible London wayfinding map

Landmarks
A landmark must have an element which singles it out from a host of other possibilities. The key physical characteristic is uniqueness or memorability. To be easily identifiable, it should have a clear form, contrasting with its surroundings, and some kind of spatial prominence. Careful, sparing selection of landmarks is essential in city wayfinding, with neither too many nor too few in use to allow only true landmarks to remain. These can vividly populate a user’s mental map of the city, and aid greatly to spatial awareness. Seen here on Legible London mapping.

Skilful employment of these elements not only reinforces the usefulness of a legible city wayfinding system, but also allows a city to flaunt specific aspects of its character, personality and uniqueness. And as Lynch proscribed, a city with a high imaginability will be legible, navigable, and enticing to its users.

In our next post, we will discuss how cities are seizing this opportunity to install iconic signage and mapping that reflects their own identity while retaining the tenets of effective city wayfinding.

T-Kartor local area maps for Dublin tram system

T-Kartor are providing local area maps at all Luas tram stops across Dublin when the new Luas Cross City extension goes live in December. The passenger transport maps are being provided to Ireland’s National Transport Authority in association with our partners, creative agency Catalysto.

Our maps will help travellers to find their destination when alighting at the tram stop and improve connectivity with other forms of transport nearby, including rail, bus, cycle and taxi.

We are producing these for the NTA as part of a system designed to generate affordable maps, using open data, at rail stations across Ireland. Our online management portal will be used to order and deliver the maps, and can be extended to support asset management with a geographic product overview.

With the Cross City, Dublin is getting a sought-after extension to the hugely successful Red and Green Lines developed in 2004. This new line traverses the city centre to join the existing routes, adding 13 central stops, then continues 6 km north to the rail station at Broombridge. It also connects areas north and south of the River Liffey, acting as an interchange between Luas, Bus, Rail and Taxi modes.

The Luas network has experienced passenger levels in excess of 34 million per year, and the Cross City extension is expected to increase this figure by another 8 million. It is also projected to result in 1 million fewer journeys each year by private car.

T-Kartor creates digital maps for NYC subway displays

T-Kartor's newly installed WalkNYC digital screen

New York City MTA (Metropolitan Transportation Authority) are taking a major step towards the future of transport information design with digital screens being installed at 33 newly renovated subway stations.

T-Kartor were asked to develop a specially designed digital version of the printed local area maps we are creating for all 450 subway stations.

Optimised for low resolution
This special adaptation is necessary because digital screens, even so-called HD (high definition) screens and televisions have a very low resolution, compared to your laptop or desktop monitor. This means that smaller features and symbols, or lighter texts are rendered illegible. The images below illustrate the problem:

WalkNYC City Wayfinding maps on digital screens for New York subway maps

T-Kartor carried out a thorough study of fonts, colours and text sizes to achieve increased legibility. Finally, specially designed graphic files were tested in prototypes of the screens, including a study of the ambient conditions, which will influence colours and contrast.

The result was a fine, legible map, which a viewer will perceive as identical to the established printed brand and a wealth of expertise gained, which will form valuable input to the success of future interactive products.

In the New York press:
Brooklyn Reporter
NY Daily News
Gothamist

T-Kartor maps Stockholm

Together with the award-winning design company Familjen Pangea, T-Kartor has completed a project to create new maps for the tram line no 7 to Djurgården. The map designs are based on experience from our successful projects in London, New York, Birmingham, Houston, Toronto, Dublin and Paris.

The detailed maps show all points of interest in the neighbourhood and the best ways to find them or complete the journey to your final destination.

The project also included new maps for the commuter Ferry lines 80, 82 and 89.

“This is yet more proof of our long-term customer relationships with close cooperation and a continuous development of new projects. This project really shows the benefit of using a consistent strategy for Mapping a Connected City to support sustainable mobility strategies. We look forward to supporting Stockholm as it strives towards a Greener Capital.”
Erik Körling, Managing Director T-Kartor Content Management

Public transport and pedestrian wayfinding information updates in Birmingham

updates_birmingham

T-Kartor are delivering public transport and pedestrian wayfinding information in Birmingham. This phased delivery includes the production of new mapping and indexing for an expansion of the Interconnect pedestrian wayfinding project as well as updates to the existing totems.

In parallel to this we are working with Centro to refresh information at interchange bus stops in the city and have also created information for three brand new stops at New Street Station. The new and updated artworks communicate recent alterations to bus services and a number of projects that have changed the face of the urban environment. The new stops have helped fans navigate to the recent Rugby World Cup games held at Villa Park and in the longer term will assist passengers traveling by bus from the busiest station outside of London.

Birmingham has recently undergone many physical changes, from the opening of the extensively re-modeled New Street Station and the new Grand Central shopping centre to the Metro tram extension that is due to open shortly.

T-Kartor attend Intelligent Mobility conference in Birmingham

Intelligent_Mobility_conference

T-Kartor were recently invited to give a presentation at an event called ‘Intelligent Mobility in the West Midlands’. The conference, now in it’s second year, was organised by Centro and held in Birmingham on 6th July and saw the coming together of industry experts describing and discussing their visions for making the West Midlands a leader in developing and delivering intelligent and sustainable mobility. Our talk focussed on a Smart City solution for customer facing mapping and information and we introduced our new content management tool for tracking and managing information assets. The solution can be used as a platform for serving a variety of data sources onto a web portal – from public transport maps and wayfinding information to municipal GIS and asset data. These can be integrated into the system as dynamic layers and used to support intelligent mobility by interfacing shared information resources into a mapping background that is used across all customer facing information outputs. Moving forward we will be working closely with Centro and their partners to develop options for using this system across the West Midlands region

T-Kartor and partners deliver Toronto wayfinding pilot

to360

In Toronto, T-Kartor and project partners Steer Davies Gleave, Swerhun, Future Systems and DIALOG have delivered a wayfinding prototype in the Bay Street/Queen Street area of the Financial District. This pilot is part of phase two of the Toronto 360 Wayfinding Strategy – a multi-modal wayfinding system which is designed to encourage walking and will be a feature of the city when it hosts the 2015 Pan/ParaPan AM Games that will vastly increase the number of visitors to Toronto.

This stage of the project includes public and stakeholder consultation taking place to assist in the development of graphic design principles, mapping and industrial product design.
For more information visit Toronto 360

T-Kartor deliver mapping database and cartographic production in Birmingham

birmingham

Launched in 2012, Interconnect Birmingham is a scheme of pedestrian wayfinding and public transport information that was designed to improved the journey experience of residents and visitors in the city.

T-Kartor have recently finished a cartographic production run for this project where large quantity, rapid production was facilitated using our mapping database. The database was created around four map scales covering Birmingham city centre and was expanded to cover a wider area during the artworking phase. We also designed a series of automated production tools for street indexing and export purposes.

The cartographic production work involved updating all maps, indexes and graphic elements for the existing pedestrian scheme and delivering original artworks for 77 brand new totems for phase 2 of the system. Each side of a totem contains 2 heads-up maps at different scales and all units are double sided, in all we produced 408 maps and 204 indexes in a matter of weeks.

T-Kartor are now working on expanding the database coverage and updating the maps and indexes on the public transport part of the system.

NYC Wayfinding – Select Bus Service launch

NYC1

The second major phase of the New York City wayfinding system (also called WalkNYC) has rolled out, locating totems with real-time bus information at SBS (Select Bus Service) stations along a new route of this bus rapid transit system.

Select Bus Service is New York City Transit’s new, innovative bus service designed to reduce travel time and increase the level of comfort for customers. The new B44 route running along Nostrand, Rogers and Bedford Avenues in Brooklyn was launched November 2013 and the route will serve 40,000 passengers each day. The improved passenger information provided by the wayfinding totems will be key to providing a user-friendly customer experience and is another step in the ambition to provide a fully joined-up wayfinding solution to pedestrians, cyclists and mass transit users in New York City.

NYC2The cartographic map production was lead by T-Kartor, together with a design team including wayfinding specialists CityID and industrial designers Billings Jackson. Graphic designers Pentagram and engineers and project managers RBA Group complete this team. The map production has been trialed at two stops during the fall 2013, with the rest of the route and two further routes (M34 in Midtown Manhattan and M60 out towards the New York LaGuardia airport) to be rolled out during 2014, with graphic artwork produced by T-Kartor.

T-Kartor and partners deliver ‘WalkNYC’ pedestrian wayfinding system

NYC5 NYC4 NYC3

A new pedestrian wayfinding system known as WalkNYC has been introduced in the city of New York.

Commissioned by the New York City Department of Transportation and its partners, the system offers pedestrians a series of stylised maps, orientated to ‘heads up’ so the top of the map is always displaying the same direction that the user is facing. This is, in part a reaction to research that showed 33% of people on the streets of the city could not identify which direction was North. The same research highlighted that 13% of locals were not aware of the neighbourhood or borough they were in when questioned.

The project is as much about finding the best way around on foot and discovering points of interest as it is about orientating oneself within the city landscape.

WalkNYC was delivered by PentaCityGroup, a consortium of:

  • T-Kartor who designed the geographic database and manage cartographic production
  • Billings Jackson Design – industrial designers
  • City ID – wayfinding experts
  • Pentagram – graphic designers
  • RBA Group – engineers and urban planners

The project is also an extension of the city brand, utilising a new version of the Helvetica font which is used elsewhere in the urban realm. The design also uses a palette inspired by colours within the city, icons that are based on certain design aspects of the Helvetica typeface and an overall look and feel that is reflective of the graphics used within the subway system.

Phase 1 of the roll-out will include approximately 100 ‘totems’ of varying widths dependant on location and will feature the same mapping style already used for the CityBike cycle hire scheme which has 300 stations so far and continues to grow.

Future phases of the project will look to expand the system over a wider geographic area and to include information about other transport modes. Developing into digital and other print channels is also being discussed.