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Improving Design Outcomes through Public Engagement

Posted in Case Study, City Wayfinding, Civic, Civic Wayfinding, Corbin Client News, County Wayfinding, Government, Healthcare, Healthcare Wayfinding, Hospital Wayfinding, Regional Wayfinding, Wayfinding Concept on March 10th, 2016 by Mark VanderKlipp – Be the first to comment

As we develop wayfinding systems for a variety of clients, we appreciate how public engagement is critical to the design process. Here, we share two examples from recent client groups and the outcomes of those sessions:

Ochsner Medical Center, New Orleans LA

We led a prototype process on the interior of this complex medical campus to test proposed logic changes and as a “proof of concept” for wayfinding tools. The exercise was designed to:

  • OMC Administrators provide input on their hour-long tour of the wayfinding prototype.

    OMC Administrators provide input on their hour-long tour of the wayfinding prototype.

    Maximize wayfinding logic/design input from a variety of stakeholder groups;

  • Include two hard-to-find destinations: one on the ground floor, one on the third floor;
  • Place low-cost, low-impact materials in the environment for less than 24 hours, including paper signage and maps; and
  • Require a maximum 1-hour investment for participants.

Each group included approximately 10-15 people from across the spectrum: from administrators to clinical staff, managers to Patient and Family Advisory Board members. We delivered a five-minute overview of the approved wayfinding logic, and discussed how it will work in theory. Then, we put that theory into practice.

A prototype elevator landmark and wayfinding sign demonstrate scale, color, content.

A prototype elevator landmark and wayfinding sign demonstrate scale, color, content and design.

At the outset, each participant was given a clipboard and questionnaire to rate and record impressions of the proposed wayfinding tools. The tour allowed plenty of time for questions and discussion as each group found the two prescribed destinations.

Members of the Patient & Family Advisory Board finalize their input after the tour.

Members of the Patient & Family Advisory Board finalize their input after the tour.

Back at the starting point, participants added commentary to the questionnaire as they were able. We were present to answer questions and respond to continued suggestions for improvements.

The result:

  • Overwhelmingly positive feedback about being asked to participate, valuing their input and ideas;
  • Thoughtful, constructive (and blunt!) conversations regarding the content and design of signage and map tearsheets;
  • Confirmation of simplified logic, and many examples citing how this will resolve current confusion;
  • Realization of the extent of current visual and informational clutter, and;
  • Most importantly, they focused for an hour on what a typical visitor will see, hear and comprehend when the wayfinding system is finally implemented.

We used the ratings and written feedback to revise the proposed signage and mapping, and our updated solutions are much improved. As of this writing, final design is still under consideration by their Leadership Team.

Downtown Wausau, Wisconsin

A committee of local government, business and community members asked us to help them develop their entry into the 2015 America’s Best Communities competition. Wausau’s strategy was to implement an economic redevelopment plan with a major emphasis on wayfinding to highlight the area’s existing “hidden gems.” Though they were not one of the finalists, the wayfinding concepts created for the entry are still being pursued. As part of their plan to enhance visitor experiences and promote downtown, they are moving forward with their wayfinding system.

Members of the Wausau community provide input on wayfinding concepts

Members of the Wausau community provide input on wayfinding concepts

The committee has a vigorous presence in the city, both online and in-person. Through their Facebook Page, they update the community and collect feedback on a variety of issues. The Wausau Daily Herald has covered the process from the beginning. Using these media, they recruited participants for an open-house evening session at City Hall in early February, 2016 which Corbin Design attended.

Despite blizzard conditions outside, the reception was warm for the proposed signage designs. Jeff Frank and Moira O’Polka fielded questions and collected input from a number of community members as they discussed the design, content, scale and locations of these potential wayfinding elements.

Proposed designs were presented in local digital, print and social media

Proposed designs were presented in local digital, print and social media

Participants were asked to complete a printed survey which solicited their choice for design and asked for additional input. After the session, the survey launched online and was promoted in a number of local media and social media outlets.

The result:

  • Widespread awareness of the reasons for investing in the wayfinding program, which is often a challenge in small cities;
  • A public discussion of the importance and priority of selected visitor destinations, and where each might appear in the wayfinding system;
  • Understanding the potential value of wayfinding to the overall Wausau brand; and
  • Appreciation for the multiple ways in which the ABC committee encouraged input.

The votes are in, and we are waiting to move forward with the final proposed design. Wausau hopes to begin implementing the first phases of the wayfinding master plan in 2016.

Conclusion

Each of these wayfinding systems has been improved by an orchestrated effort to explain the concepts, understand the reasons behind design decisions and gather input. Whenever we do this, we are surprised at the open-minded feedback we receive and the level of passion and enthusiasm we experience.

Public engagement allows us to see things that we as consultants may never have seen, and opens our eyes to the factors that influence design and understanding. Taking these proactive steps in advance of final design and implementation saves time and money, creates awareness and builds ownership in the final solution.

And that results in better experiences for all.

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