Phil Gyford


Sunday 20 February 2005

PreviousIndexNext Contextual signage

Two newish things I like, which together are worth a post: a new sign at the Barbican and one of the new Channel 4 idents. (Click the images to see larger versions.)

First, a floor sign at the Barbican. I like the huge, empty ‘3’, but it’s especially good because it shows what’s on this floor and which way to go (up or down) to reach other destinations. Unfortunately, the logic isn’t followed through elsewhere, either on other floors or in the stairwells; one must leave a stairwell to find out what floor one’s on and what’s there. Hopefully this will improve as they continue with alterations this year. (First noticed via Blech’s photo.)

Second, the new idents on Channel 4. The pre-programme logo-based idents/stings (I’m not sure if there’s a difference?), in which a huge ‘4’ coalesces out of the environment and then disperses, are wonderful, and you can see some at this TV Whirl page. But right now I’m interested in the “menus” (an example’s shown further down that page). Just like the Barbican sign these display what’s on now in the centre, with the previous show moving off the top of the screen and the next show’s title appearing beneath. When the announcer mentions the next show, these all scroll up, if I remember correctly, with the next show’s title taking a turn to bulge large in the middle, a little like a magnified Mac OS X dock.

Both the Channel 4 menu and the Barbican sign provide more context than a single line — the current show or the current location — could do. Orientation is good.


The huge 3 is great, I particularly like how the end of the 3 spurs out on the 3rd dimension. Not much help in the Barbican though where you have to navigate between floors -2 and +4 with various elevators seemingly constrained to travelling between arbitrary floors. It is hard enough to remember that cinema Screen 1 is on -2 and Screen 2 is on +4. Still, at least you'll know when you've arrived.

Posted by rg on 21 February 2005, 1:10 am | Link

Inadequate signage is a preoccupation of mine. One aspect that has always intrigued me is doors. At my Sixth Form College, early seventies buildings, there were these long corridors, with firedoors at regular intervals, all the doors had handles which should have meant, 'pull'. But no, the doors only opened one way, sometimes you had to push sometimes you had to pull, my brain could never remember which door was a pull door from this direction and which door was a push door from this direction. In America they seem to have sorted this, pressure pad means push, handle means pull. Doors in America, domestic or office seem to be better hung too, perhaps their joiners like their dentists charge more and do a better job?

Posted by Richard Hyett on 24 February 2005, 10:05 pm | Link

Barbican signage = nice. Must take a look. And look for a forthcoming quick pic of Seattle Public Library elevator for another integration of floor/level indicator into architecture.

As for the C4 idents - they're lovely. But to my mind, much closer to the (rather nice) Microsoft's various Media Center interfaces (Windows XP, Portable etc.) than Mac OS.

Posted by Dan on 4 March 2005, 11:14 pm | Link

Yeah, it was really just the bulging that reminded me of the dock, no other part of the aesthetic.

Posted by Phil Gyford on 4 March 2005, 11:38 pm | Link

Funny that you mentioned the Seattle Public Library signage. While Koolhaas has gotten deserved praise for his vision of the structure, the signage and navigation inside the library is terrible! It was so bad that a couple weeks after the library opened they had to go back and hang these laser-printed papers everywhere with arrows telling you where the stairs are, where the escalators are, where the books are, and where the bathrooms are. For instance if you park in the underground parking lot, and want to do a floor-by-floor walk-through of the library, you'd have take an elevator to the first floor, turn left, turn left again and go up the escalator to the second floor. When you get off the escalator you have to know that you have to go around all the books and displays and find the escalator on the other side of the library to continue up to floor 4. Floor 4, you ask? Yes, if you want to go to floor 3 you have to reach it by elevator - duh! Floor 4 is a large commons area where all the computers are. In order to continue up to the stacks, you can take an elevator, or you can cut diaganolly through all the computer desks, duck around a support beam, squeeze through a tiny area between a desk and the beam and resume going up the escalator to the stacks that start on floor 5. The stacks are well designed in that it's simply a spiral that goes up in elevation as the dewey decimals get larger. However, if you have a need to get to a specific floor quickly (like if you parked in the garage and want to leave before your 20 free minutes are up), you are forced to take the elevator, since the escalator stops on floor 5. There are 3 elevators, but they are nearly always packed, leaving you with few options for moving around quickly on busy days.

In short, I love the exterior, but hate most of the interior.

Posted by Daniel Genser on 21 July 2005, 5:37 pm | Link

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