Wayfinding and Navigation Exercise

In ... The Image of the City (1960), Kevin Lynch coined the term wayfinding to describe his concept of environmental legibility—that is, the elements of the built environment that allow us to navigate successfully through complex spaces like cities and towns. The most fundamental underlying metaphor of the World Wide Web is navigation through a space populated by places we call web “sites,” and thus the wayfinding metaphor is perfect for thinking about web navigation. 1

This exercise gives you the opportunity to become aware of how people navigate in a shopping space: how the store has placed wayfinding and other navigation devices, such as paths, edges, districts, nodes, and landmarks. You're looking at two aspects: the physical layout of the store, and the navigation aids, which are typically signs that label what's located where.

Draw on Lynch, chaps 3 and 4, especially chap 4.

Go to Target or WalMart, or L&M Fleet Farm or Home Depot, or Lueken's or Marketplace. Hobby Lobby might be interesting, too.

You can do this in pairs or solo. Take notes and when you can, take pics.

1. Walk the aisles and the store looking at the surroundings you're in, and how you are directed into and out of spaces. Look on the floor for guides or signals, on the shelving at the ends of rows, above the shelving for labels. Use of floor markings, and of carpeting. Watch for non-written signals. Watch for regularities and patterns of placement. Make notes on the following elements as they appear in the store. Some may not. As you locate these, name them in your notes.

2. Record the store's classification scheme from the general (produce > vegetables > ) to the specific (carrots). Make notes. Pay special attention to the labels: the terms used to name the groupings. These are navigation aids. Take note of some of the items that are part of each group.

3. Create a map of the store, showing wayfinding features and the store's classification scheme. You can do this from memory if you like, or by referring to your notes and pictures. Bring the map to class to hand in. If you create the map online, make it sharable.

A grocery list classification scheme

Produce < class general
Vegetables < sub-class less general, more specific
Carrots < item specific

Dairy < class

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