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Show rather than tell

Design Thinking

June 30, 2015

Show rather than tell

Be still my beating heart! Finally, parking signs redesigned as a timetable. Yes, I know that sounds incredibly dull but they are a perfect case for a graphic representation of the data they are displaying. Of course, there are issues of real estate – text takes up less space.

Nevertheless here are two recent parking sign redesigns: one graphic, one text. Turning text into a visual language relies on the data sitting within the appropriate context for the audience. Of course, parking signs will have people from all sorts of educational, language and ethnic backgrounds having to read them - and those levels of education, language and ethnic symbology will affect the way the visual language is interpreted. Add that most people hate change and the task of getting the signs accepted becomes even harder.

However there are some elements of existing visual language that are available to the designers – red and green for stop and go can be drawn directly from traffic lights to mean the same thing: stop and go. This is an appropriate appropriation as the people using the parking spaces will be in a vehicle that will have been using the traffic signals so the meaning transfers.

Visual languages for narrower audiences can be more specific and more detailed. The road schematics we produce for use in Intelligent Transport Systems are examples of a visual language for a very narrow, specific audience.