If you’ve walked around Hinds Hall recently, you may have noticed an exciting addition: a brand new wayfinding sign system. The new signs were designed by Damian Rakowsky, a graduate student pursuing his MFA in Collaborative Design at the School of Visual and Performing Arts.

This project is hardly Damian’s first foray into wayfinding design. He has previously worked on projects for clients like Mariott Hotels, Hyatt Hotels, Azamara Cruise Lines, Celebrity Cruise Lines, and Royal Caribbean International (RCI). He was part of a team that created the wayfinding signage for RCI’s Oasis of the Seas and Allure of the Seas ships.

I had the opportunity to talk with Damian about his work and the inspiration behind the signs.

Info Space: How did you become involved with this project?

Damian Rakowsky: It was a class assigment for the IST 600: Information Design class with Jaime Snyder at the iSchool. It was an accumulation of three other projects we did that involved identifying, analyzing, and intervening into information systems “in the wild,” or out in the world. I had done a previous intervention on a sign system at Carousel Mall, but then I decided to intervene at the iSchool for our final project.

Info Space: How did you prepare for the design process?

DR: I worked on this for approximately four weeks. I did all the graphics and wrote a paper in a four-week period. There were three other papers that I wrote in support of this topic. It took me approximately 45 to 50 hours to do all the drawings.

I got a really good response to the initial designs from the management and the dean and some of the other people that work with the building. I worked with them to get the graphic foundation that the iSchool uses, the graphic criteria packages, and colors, and fonts. I just ran with it using my background in environmental graphic design, which is signage and wayfinding design.

Info Space: What inspired the design?

DR: I wanted a very graphically strong and dynamic floor plan. In the building itself, it can be tough to find certain things, like the bathrooms, especially because there is only one specifically male or female bathroom on each floor. So I decided to accentuate the architecture of the building and do a dynamic floor plan so things could be really obvious.

Using basic digital design principles, I did a rough draft of the floors in that perspective and I showed it to everyone and it was well-received, so I proceeded to continue with that design system. There were a few tweaks, but what you see now is pretty close to the original thought process.

Info Space: Why did you choose to create circular signs instead of rectangular ones?

DR: Usually, circular signs are tough to do because it’s a waste of material when you cut a circle out of a square. But in this case I thought the circle was very appropriate, because it pulls from the circle in the letter “i” in the iSchool. It felt natural with the way the graphics were flowing, and once we put the signs up, it fit well in the space.

Info Space: Did you face any challenges during the design process?

DR: Each floor is pretty much identical in layout. When you step out into the corridor, it can be hard to know where you’re at. I interviewed a lot of current staff and instructors in the building and got a lot of feedback about that. They said that it was difficult to know what floor you’re on. So I moved in that direction with the signage.

There were no signs whatsoever in the stairway, so I decided to place a sign right at the doorway off the staircase with a map to reinforce what floor you’re on and where the bathrooms are located.

Info Space: What’s the next step for the new signs? 

DR: When the signs went up, we sent a mass email to everyone to get their feedback, take some notes, and let the graphics digest for a few weeks. I’m continuing to work with the management to implement these signs permanently. So I’ll be taking the comments and requests we’ve received and making changes.

Those floor plans will probably be used on the website, as well, and the signs will be replaced with more permanent materials over the summer. Also, additional signs will be added if we can get permission from the university. The whole system needs to be approved by the physical plant that manages the university. We want to create signs for the offices and conference rooms, and convert them into circular signs that match the system.

Info Space: What’s up next for you?

DR: My background is in wayfinding design and environmental graphics, so I’m trying to mold my new Master’s in that vein, to work with new technologies and application design and user interface.

This information design course was a really fun class for me, and it was great to get a perspective from the thought process side of the way things work instead of just the visuals.

What are your thoughts on the new wayfinding signage? Leave a comment below with your feedback!

For more information on wayfinding, check out this previous post on Information Space.