Art and ‘intuitive wayfinding’

As we know well from our work on the Crossrail art Program, art plays an important role in giving stations an identity and engaging passengers. In some stations it actually attracts people to the station. In others, art helps people identify stations which otherwise might look quite similar.

One of our highlights from Clerkenwell Design Week this year was a panel discussion on the role of design and public art as a vital part of the identity of London’s Transport infrastructure.

It was refreshing to listen to the varied panel, consisting of station designers, procurement staff and artists, discuss art on transport networks in the context of celebrating spaces, places, the network and its history & culture. The discussion was on point as they explored and contrasted digital vs traditional art and how the varied art forms interact with the space and the people using it.

Though art and its relationship to wayfinding wasn’t specifically discussed at length, the buzz phrase ‘intuitive wayfinding’ unsurprisingly found it’s way into the discussion. Undoubtedly, making a space visually interesting or creating a landmark using art can help passengers to consciously or subconsciously identify their location and personalise a space. Nonetheless, the term ‘intuitive wayfinding’ shouldn’t just be used as a buzz word.

Any intervention within a space that will help passenger orientate themselves, whether it be art, lighting or architectural features, is a welcome addition to a wayfinding scheme, but should not be used as an excuse to provide poor wayfinding provision. The fundamentals of a wayfinding scheme should still work without the art. Adding art is another layer to the system and in many cases is not specifically installed with wayfinding in mind. When the application of art is carefully considered it can bring joy to a space and make navigation easier.

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