London is an organic, spiraling city of nested corners and secret nooks. It can be daunting at times to find your way through the streets, but below the din of the city is a stunning bit of design: The Underground.
I am proud to say I didn’t get lost once in London, not because I am a fantastic navigator, but because of The London Underground’s wonderful wayfinding system. Whether you are buying ticket, descending the stairs, or getting on or off the trains, your entire experience is clearly plotted; you always know where you are, where you are headed, and where all of your possible connections may be made. Systems like that seem like common sense when they are done well, but leave us wandering around filled with confused aggression when they are not.
I’ve had very little exposure to environmental design of this sort, but @media, because it was so heavy on accessibility in design, piqued my interest in color usage in wayfinding systems. The Underground signage and maps use color-coding to distinguish train lines, but how suitable are those for colorblind people? Items color-coded with red, orange, or pink can look similar enough to be confusing; is there potential for colorblind people to get lost? A viewer is usually aided by some sort of text accompaniment in these situations, but text would be directly tied to a language, potentially causing problems for foreign visitors.
Where colors and language might fail, can we provide a backup plan? A possible solution might be to pair colors with patterns, providing a visual fallback method for those folks who have difficulty distinguishing colors. For instance, red could be paired with a checkerboard, orange with slanted lines, and so on. This method could also be helpful in cases where ink might fade and distort similar shades of color, making it difficult even for those who normally can distinguish colors without problems.
Does anyone have experience with or information about designing wayfinding systems, like the kinds found in public transportation hubs, museums, zoos, or parking garages?