One of the first questions that kept popping up as I read the Wayfinding Handbook by David Gibson was why wasn’t this written earlier – like ten years ago? Not that it was Gibson’s fault at all, but almost that long ago for one of my final design projects in University I decided to redesign the entire street sign system of the city I was living in. This book would have also been invaluable and one of the first things I would have read and reread as I was working on the project. It would have put me in a great framework to build ideas off of. This book also fits in nicely for research for conference design packages where there’s a sign system component. And since almost everything is digital today this book is helpful for online navigation work.
The content is quite strong, starting with a breakdown of the design process and where each of the chapters falls into the different categories. After seeing this incorporated here I’m not sure why more books don’t do something similar by showing the content in a logical way. Talking out loud here, I think there’s a great opportunity to incorporate a table of contents in a related way… Along with the process and content, the design of the book is quite strong. I enjoyed reading it, not just because of the content but how it was laid out.
The book isn’t perfect though. I thought the typography and layout section should have been expanded. The idea of legibility could have had it’s own chapter. It didn’t go into much detail about minimum and maximum viewing sizes for words. If there’s an obvious sign that you felt you should have been able to read at a normal distance but couldn’t, the designer probably wasn’t that aware that there’s formula’s out there for attempting to figure out a minimum/maximum distance where things should be visible. More detail like that would have been helpful. I also thought the page on mobile wayfinding devices could have gone into more detail and I suspect that new editions will focus more on those type of examples.
The Planning Wayfinding Systems chapter was my favourite and the Sign Content and Locations section of that chapter is something I want to point out. I fond it incredibly helpful to see the whole planning stage. The details on the different types of signs and placement are things that are never in a book. That chapter alone is worth the price of the book. As a book on core design principals I don’t think the book is going to date itself soon. However I do think that a second edition might be warranted as more people work with digital ideas. The cost for fabrication of signs and the designers that think apply those systems can be costly – and considering the economic climate something that people will be looking to cut costs on unfortunately. One possible way to keep the designer was saving costs is to go electronic with maps and visual ques, something that I don’t think a lot of people have considered yet and possibly something to expand on in the coming years.
Title: The Wayfinding Handbook
Authour: David Gibson
Publisher: Princeton Architectural Press