Information Design Specialists Ticker Tape

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21st June 2013

Market Gates Bus Station

A happy bi-product is of course the elimination of tedious time wasted dealing with complaints, coupled with a good harmonious relationship between the authority and operators – but of course the major benefit is to the entire user base.

Further evidence that good information works is that the operators too have expressed their complete satisfaction with the new total information system and have requested discussions as to how and when to extend the project to major hubs within the city (hospital, university, airport etc) and also along principal radial corridors.

While all this has been bubbling along, Market Gates bus station in Great Yarmouth has been similarly equipped. However, as we have stated previously: no two towns or cities are truly the same and to blithely apply a solution from one place will not necessarily produce the same success at another. Again our starting point was a site visit and examination of how the bus routes operate - where and when. Only by knowing what the product actually is, can one design an information package to explain it.

In complete contrast to Norwich, Great Yarmouth has a clearly defined focal point from which pretty much everything radiates. We therefore produced a single poster depicting the boarding points within this bus station at the centre, with radial diagrammatic lines showing where the routes go. There is a strong distinction between local and long-distance services at Market Gates and diagrams can destroy this if not done thoughtfully. We therefore colour-coded them as two groups.

A local map has also been produced to include every road. For maximum usability a complete street index is appended. The map is located at all three entry/exit points to the bus station. Passengers arriving by bus are not left in an information vacuum.

Market Gates went live in May and there is more to come.

 


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30th April 2013

The New Norwich Union

Following from a highly successful partnership between FWT and Norfolk County Council, where both parties played significant roles, most street furniture has seen a huge upgrade, as have all elements of wayfinding and passenger information. This has brought together easy travel planning between Norwich city centre and all its suburbs, as well as specific initiatives to link with the major Norfolk Hospital, University, Airport and Business Park.

This is a big story, embracing the requirements of ‘special needs’ groups with a bespoke learning difficulties guide, a launch campaign, and every-day boarding and onward travel information, in the right contextual detail, in the right place, and to the right design.

We have produced a new Case Study. This gives and overview summary at the start and then tells the whole story of the process from inception to implementation.

  • Better Bus Area fund background;
  • Audit, analysis, design and production rollout;
  • Project management;
  • Special needs and operator consultation and collaboration;
  • Special needs ‘Learning Guide’ devised and produced;
  • Partnership successes.

 


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26th September 2012

TfL and FWT collaborate with the London Cycle Campaign

The London Cycle Campaign is organizing a series of promotional exhibition events for universities and colleges and we are pleased to say that all the mapping displays were devised by FWT.

Transport for London (TfL) has funded event days in the Biking Boroughs to increase cycling in outer London and the London Cycling Campaign (LCC) is delivering these events on behalf of TfL. The target audiences are sixth form colleges, further education establishments or universities. The aim is to help students and staff cycle to university or college.

The events will help students and staff develop the skills and confidence to cycle, especially those who may be new to cycling in cities. They will also help the university or college create a cycle-friendly environment. These five-hour events include:
Dr Bike health checks;
Cycling facilities mini-audits;
Cycle Safety advice;
Maintenance workshops;
Cycle confidence training;
Cycle advice;
Route planning.

FWT devised and created the existing range of TfL Cycle Guides some years ago, with innovative folding to make usability its primary objective. The seamless map of London is set up to make extracts of any area practical, without fuss. When the LCC came to us expecting their request for 16 bespoke extracts, all at different scales, to be enlarged to A0-size exhibition boards, all to be bit of a headache, they were pleasantly surprised that it wasn’t.

The programme of events has now started and the LCC were delighted with the maps we provided. Further events are planned.

 


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23rd July 2012

This might turn your world upside-down

The 23rd July 2012 marked the publication of Underground Maps Unravelled. This is arguably one of the most important books relevant to our industry. Yes, this is a powerful statement and one we do not make lightly.

From the various Case Studies and Other Published Articles on this website, we often make the point that every information solution should be carefully assessed at the outset, by a true understanding of users’ needs. Though this book uses the London Underground map as its main focus (many others worldwide are studied too) this is not a book about Underground maps – the real messages are far wider. The sub-title of the book ‘Explorations in Information Design’ is what it is really about. This exposition is just as relevant to type choice and layout (legibility and readability), signage design and configuration, and anything you can think of to do with graphic communication.

Dr. Maxwell Roberts is a psychologist of great experience, specializing in studying logic (or too often the lack of it). He penetrates deeply into questions that are seldom considered, let alone agonized over. The word ‘usability’ comes up time and time again and we champion this cause at FWT in the same way.

The author examines and challenges supposed learned wisdom of the rules that are commonly used to design communicative products, such as maps and signs; he questions how much designers truly understand these rules, or if they are just blindly following them. Rules are one thing, but the successful execution of them is quite another. This comes through the narrative text like a laser beam.

Design principles are scrutinized, from the very fundamental basics through to some unimagined levels of sophistication. His own assertions too are scrutinized, through scientific testing of designs in real situations. Demonstrably, people’s preferences (the product they may have ‘liked’ best) have no statistical worth against their performance using them. It may be meaningful when changing the flavour of a chocolate bar’s formula, to establish which flavour is preferred and therefore likely to sell better. However, information design has to test performance and not preference – if we really care about helping our customer base and also increasing take-up in our own industry.

In one comparative test the author states: “The advantages that the best designs had over the worst were considerable; improvements in journey planning speeds of around 50 per cent were frequently observed, as high as 100 per cent in one study. These are not findings to be dismissed; all that time wasted for a busy network such as Paris adds up, not just for individuals, but also for staff who have been asked for assistance because users give up.”

If money spent is to be turned into benefit, then the cognitive process of users is ignored to the benefit only of the red figures on the balance sheet.

This 224-page casebound book contains high-quality graphics throughout. Astonishingly, for someone with no graphic or cartographic training, the author has created what can only be described as master-pieces of design and beauty. He equally has created some truly vile monsters – just to illustrate, good and bad, what can be achieved but remaining within ‘the rules’. There is enough here to make your jaw drop and your eyes burst.

They say: location location location, but this book is about function function function.

The book is published by the author. For further information please visit his website.

 


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11th June 2012

New Case Study and other published articles added to our website

The previous diagram has been in use for many years and caused much confusion as the individual routes were not clearly defined. The restriction of all six having to be in the same colour made the need for decisively unambiguous geometry paramount. We knew this was the highest priority.

Many such line diagrams suffer from designers following supposed angular rules but ignoring the need to guide the user’s eye to the most appropriate choices. It is important that the most direct routes, or the most frequent, or the most convenient, are the ones with the straightest geometry – though one cannot ignore real geography too much as it can then disturb users’ mental model of where they are and where they are heading. Simply joining all stations and nodal points and sticking to the chosen geometric angles is not the answer and results in many poor diagrams that mislead users to taking longer or more inconvenient journeys than necessary.

Throughout the design process, on what seems a fairly simple network diagram, several options were tried, configuring the network with different visual and trajectorial priorities. In making the best options look the most direct, the designer is effectively doing the first part of the journey planning process for the user.

Though we were fairly clear which of the designs created would function the best, working closely with our friends at DLR, these were heavily tested, using real journey tests on a large number of people. As always, the result were revealing of the sort of mistakes passengers can and do make. We were pleased that, with a very small amount of modification, our preferred option tested the best. We had done our best with the other options and none of these came out poorly, because we used the right visual priorities on all of them.

A second version of the diagram was also produced for posters and the adaptation for the trackside wall at Bank.

 


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2nd May 2012

Docklands Light Railway - new car diagram goes live

The previous diagram has been in use for many years and caused much confusion as the individual routes were not clearly defined. The restriction of all six having to be in the same colour made the need for decisively unambiguous geometry paramount. We knew this was the highest priority.

Many such line diagrams suffer from designers following supposed angular rules but ignoring the need to guide the user’s eye to the most appropriate choices. It is important that the most direct routes, or the most frequent, or the most convenient, are the ones with the straightest geometry – though one cannot ignore real geography too much as it can then disturb users’ mental model of where they are and where they are heading. Simply joining all stations and nodal points and sticking to the chosen geometric angles is not the answer and results in many poor diagrams that mislead users to taking longer or more inconvenient journeys than necessary.

Throughout the design process, on what seems a fairly simple network diagram, several options were tried, configuring the network with different visual and trajectorial priorities. In making the best options look the most direct, the designer is effectively doing the first part of the journey planning process for the user.

Though we were fairly clear which of the designs created would function the best, working closely with our friends at DLR, these were heavily tested, using real journey tests on a large number of people. As always, the result were revealing of the sort of mistakes passengers can and do make. We were pleased that, with a very small amount of modification, our preferred option tested the best. We had done our best with the other options and none of these came out poorly, because we used the right visual priorities on all of them.

A second version of the diagram was also produced for posters and the adaptation for the trackside wall at Bank is shown at the top of the panel on the right.

 


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3rd January 2012

Stourbridge Bus Station nears completion

Having created the bus station signage plan for Centro to write their tender for the construction contract at the end of 2010, FWT was called back to devise all the internal and external signage.

The October 2010 plans detailed contents and locations of all wayfinding aspects for quantity purchasing purposes. At the end of 2011, with construction advancing, we were commissioned to provide full-size dimension drawings for sign manufacture throughout. These were accompanied by detailed fixing instructions and materials to be used. In order for it all to come together, a large scale site plan was produced, with all signs having a reference number and annotation to the plan. The manufacturers and site foreman would need this to ensure each sign went to the correct location and faced the correct way. We also liaised with the manufacturers to ensure the brand guidelines were fully adhered to.

The signage not only encompassed the bus station catchment, but also extended to a complex town centre subway, feeding in both directions. The bus station is due to open soon.

 

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18th October 2011

New Docklands Light Railway station posters commissioned

As a result of customer research, it has been decided to convert all platform posters to a style similar to those used on London Underground. We were instrumental in setting up those for LU a few years ago and are pleased to now being doing likewise for Docklands Light Railway.

Initial trials are being done on two stations, with a view to rolling out across the whole network early next year.

 

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13th October 2011:

Leicester city centre reaches outwards

After very positive client reaction, FWT has been appointed to investigate and implement the major upgrading of passenger information on two substantial suburban corridors. A Local Sustainable Transport Fund grant is being used for the first stage and is due for completion within the current financial year. (See also previous News Item 29th May 2011.)

 

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6th October 2011

Cardiff information suite expands

Following the successful implementation of the city centre and bus station wayfinding system, FWT was appointed to similarly equip the tourist Cardiff Bay area. Building on this, the city centre scheme is now being extended north.

 


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30th August 2011

TfL appoints FWT for Olympic Games consultation mapping

Talk about previous work on Tranche 4 - and explain what it means. Focus on technical liaison with CAD and GIS teams and critical importance of minutiae for legal consultation. In-house consultants, Parsnips Brinkmanship (or whatever their name is) struggling with compex central London area and recommended FWT, which TfL gladly accepted.

 

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24th July 2011

Wolverhampton’s new bus station opens

We are pleased to announce the expansive new facility opened on Sunday. FWT provided all the usual static information based on our designs for the Network West Midlands umbrella brand rolled out since 2005. This has been enhanced by electronic touch screens at the entrance to the new bus station where we designed the look and feel of the information to harmonize accordingly. Whether passengers prefer a static poster or a touch screen, the same information is available and easy to use. (photo of a screen and the logic diagram?)

 

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22nd June 2011

Docklands Light Railway commissions usability re-design

Following poor customer usability feedback, three companies were approached and asked to write a comprehensive analysis of what they believed was causing the present diagram to fail, the reasons why, how they would improve it, and to provide reasons that stood up to scrutiny. When appointed, we were told that our report showed a significant understanding of the problem and the solution, that our competitors had not. We are always gratified to receive such recognition of the importance of a sound product that helps our client and their customers alike.

 


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29th May 2011

The Where and When in Leicester City Centre

Following a pilot scheme in 2009, we have designed a comprehensive wayfinding system for the whole city centre. Every bus stop (about 80 of them) has a newly devised and more logical bus stop identity system that co- ordinates with boarding information in the shelters and makes finding the right stop much easier. Even alighting-only stops provide onward travel assistance now.

Each stop also has a stop-specific timetable and linear diagram of routes from it. The latter gives reassurance that the route about the be boarded indeed goes where the passenger wants to, and the timetables tell them when. Importantly, operators' logos are appended to the appropriate routes on the diagram, making a strong association between provider and route number – at eye level. They do not appear on the flags and so making an unambiguous location for route numbers only. Passengers get the primary information they need without distraction, and operators get their ‘sell’ better associated with their product.

 

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