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Tag / Dementia

Inclusive symbols: end of year update

As we move to the end of the year our #InclusiveSymbols project is progressing quickly.

We’ve now completed three concept workshops reviewing around 15 everyday symbols, and we’ve started the exciting (and daunting) challenge of redesigning them to be clear and understood by people with dementia.

In a room of creatives, and members of our wider team, each symbol was discussed in detail for 10-15 mins. This included reviewing our scoping exercise to compare variations on each symbol, comments from the focus groups we held with people with dementia, and generating sketch concept ideas for a new version.

Workshop 1 (16th November) we reviewed:

  • Exit
  • Fire exit
  • Stairs
  • Elevator
  • Escalator

Workshop 2 (30th November) we reviewed:

  • Parking
  • Ticket purchase
  • Waiting room
  • Priority Seating
  • Toilet

Workshop 3 (12th December) we reviewed:

  • Information
  • Wheelchair access
  • ‘No’ symbol (i.e. no parking)
  • Hidden disability
  • Communication difficulty

What did we learn from the workshops?

His head looks like it’s falling off!

The detached head on the current ‘symbol man and woman’ is used consistently across all variations. It’s really odd, and potentially confusing for those with dementia.

 

It’s easy enough to design a toilet symbol as it has a physical form. How could we represent ‘giving information’?

Some symbols are easier to review than others. Symbols such as information or exit are challenging to distil into a simple visual idea. It is also interesting to consider the longevity of our interpretations (particularly for symbols impacted by digital technologies such as tickets).

 

Should we design this in 3D or 2D?

3D symbols are more readily understood but needs some consideration around clarity and simplicity. We need to be careful not to include too much detail in a 3D representation, further complicated by the introduction of a person to reinforce an action.

 

Blobby-humans or human-humans

Our 2D vs 3D conversation sparked some debate around the representation of people in symbology. Understanding that more detail often leads to more questions and literal interpretation from those living with dementia, our initials sketches show a person represented in a solid ‘blobby’ gender-neutral form, enhanced with more realistic body shapes and features.

 

Will using an arrow help make this symbol clearer?

The symbols are used to trigger an action and to help with wayfinding. We discussed including arrows within the symbol (i.e. arrow for exiting a door) but decided this could be confusing for literal interpretations. An arrow within a symbol supported by a directional arrow on the same sign could really confuse people!

 

P is for parking

We’re interested to find that the blue P represents parking internationally, regardless of each country’s alphabet or language. We’re recognising how valuable the review of language and the words we use will be to supporting each of the symbols.

 

Communication difficulty

After lengthy discussion we agreed that this symbol is too challenging to design without the benefit of feedback from the focus group on current versions (this symbol came into play recently and so it wasn’t included in the research project). We decided not to attempt a redesign of this one as part of this project but perhaps in the future, if we were armed with relevant research.


What’s next?

Moving in 2018, we’ll be completing the first concept design options of the new symbols in January. These will then be evaluated by living with dementia people from across the UK, facilitated by our research partner in February.

Workshop: the first five #InclusiveSymbols

We’ve been putting our heads together for our #InclusiveSymbols project. In our first of three design concept workshops, we set up a sprint for discussing five of the 15 symbols to be redesigned. In a room with five creatives and three business professionals, we got to work on having an open conversation about each symbol and its reinterpretation, giving ourselves a strict 15 minute limit per symbol. To design symbols suitable for people living with dementia, we discussed how the instruction of the symbol could be interpreted at the simplest, clearest level. We challenged our most basic assumptions and pre-defined

Our first five symbols included:

  • Exit (for leaving a building)
  • Fire Exit (for leaving a building in case of emergency)
  • Stairs (for indicating location of stairs)
  • Elevator (for indicating location of elevator)
  • Escalator (for indicating location of escalators)

Laying in front of us was a collection of live examples of each symbol from our scoping exercise. This included symbols from well-known sources; BSI, ISO, AIGA, Bonnington and Noun Project. There was also a selection of additional unusual designs from a wider array of online sources to stimulate diverse discussion.

To give you a flavour of that discussion, here’s some of the questions we mulled over:

  • What are the most distinguishable characteristics of what the symbol is communicating? (visual and non-visual)
  • Do we need to show a person?
  • Does the symbol work better in 3D? If, so what perspective?
  • Do we need to show arrows? If we include arrows, does that confuse with directional signage?
  • How can we represent movement?
  • Do we need to show all of a thing or is it still clear if we show a key part of a thing? (i.e. the first couple steps in a stair or the buttons on a lift)
  • How can we easily visually represent less-tangible concepts such ‘outside’ or ‘leaving’?

Additionally, language/naming and colours cropped up time and time again. These are due to be considered at a later stage in the project but it was interesting to find how intertwined this is with interpretation and understanding at this stage. These factors impact meaningfully on our initial concepts.

The workshop has been recorded in audio segments and everyone was invited to jot down key points and draw initial thoughts/concepts. We’ve got many thoughts, designs and routes to investigate. Workshop two and three will be happening over the next couple of weeks and then it’s onto developing concept designs! And that’s where the real creative work begins.

It’s time to design #InclusiveSymbols

[2 minute read]

Good design can make the world a better place. Living this belief has led to our latest project to design a new set of symbols for people with dementia.

The fresh new set of symbols is part of the drive to empower and enable independence for those living with dementia. Beyond this, the new inclusive symbols will be more effective for everyone right across society, in all public places – clear, easy to understand and relevant to people’s everyday lives.

How we got here

In the knowledge that the ageing population is fast becoming one of the biggest challenges facing society, we sensed an opportunity to help empower older people and those with dementia.

The idea to explore and consider the design of symbols was inspired by participants in a workshop discussing the design of toilet signage. Henry Rankin, Chair of the Scottish Dementia Working Group, sowed the seed when he pointed out that the male and female toilet symbols often appear ambiguous and too similar.

A symbol is simply a mark or thing that stands for something else. The toilet symbol is a ‘learned’ symbol that clearly doesn’t visually represent the function of the room, and so it can be difficult to understand for people with any cognitive impairment.

So, we wondered if any other everyday symbols might be confusing or misunderstood. From signs in the train station, to information in brochures and websites, symbols appear in a variety of contexts in our day-to-day lives.

Some really interesting pointers came from our scoping exercise of existing symbols, for example the ‘P’ symbol that represents Parking is used consistently across the globe, even in countries where the word for parking doesn’t begin with ‘P’.

With the focus groups and scoping exercise complete, it’s over to the team here at StudioLR to start the concept design for each of the new symbols.

Watch this space . . . #InclusiveSymbols

Follow our progress here on our blog and on Twitter (@StudioLR_Lucy). We’d love to hear your thoughts – please comment below.


About the project

In 2016 the Life Changes Trust solely funded StudioLR to conduct a research project across Scotland with a ‘Life Changes Trust Award’, followed by additional funding in 2017 to support the re-design and evaluation of 15 everyday symbols. The project is expected to conclude with a new set of symbols made available free for all to use in August 2018. The Life Changes Trust is funded by the Big Lottery Fund. StudioLR worked with support from the University of Edinburgh.


Who the LR we?

We’re always looking for ways we can use our skills and experience to improve people’s everyday experiences and make a positive impact on the whole of society. On every project, we start by thinking about the impact our work will have on how people feel.