cof·fee /ˈkôfē,ˈkäfē/ a hot drink made from the roasted and ground seeds (coffee beans) of a tropical shrub.

by jlicari April 4, 2020

While many still have a job and are adjusting to working from home, not everyone is so lucky.

In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, not so obvious elements from our daily routines have us screaming "what in the actual f***!" more often than not.

From the rookie user frustrations of video conferencing apps to the complete disdain of virtual private network connections' crunch on your already limited bandwidth. Even on week three, this sucks.

For many working from home is a whole new experience devoid of the routine and social bonds that are so important.

The coffee break with co-workers, arguably an integral part of office communication, is absent from our routines. It's not that we've given up the nectar of the Gods, but we're missing out on the naturally positive social effect that sharing a hot beverage with a colleague has. Some of the most productive meetings in memory involved coffee (or tea, if that fits your fancy).

We tend to do so many things better together when we're actually together. Save the essential workers and first responder, the spaces in which we collaborate together in are mostly empty. Architects and interior space planners are already talking about the "new" that will "need" to be addressed in future workspace(s). Is that really necessary? Or is it lip service placating squeaky wheels from the business development crew?

Personally, I think we may be skipping past deep knowledge already gathered on human nature. I wholeheartedly look forward to this quarantine being a catalyst to a cultural change in hygiene. I just sincerely doubt there being a significant shift in our desire for public assembly. In fact, basic psychology tells us we're due to see a significant increase in that very desire.

The common cold, this is not. Do not mistake this whole COVID-19 pandemic for anything other than a very real and serious life safety issue. However, just like the flu, H1N1, SARS, MERS, and other viruses in general there are no safety measures which truly protect oneself except herd immunity and an effective vaccination. Our stay home, work from home "new normal" is doing what it is supposed to do; softening the curve so as not overwhelm a system that just isn't prepared for pandemics. Yet, isn't the "new normal" moniker a threat to humanity itself?

Frankly, I hope that such is completely avoidable and a semblance of rational thought settles on everyone's thinking. I'm not discounting how serious things are, but I'm also not dismissing how many people die from smoking and cancer either.

My sincere hope is nothing silly or unnecessary makes it into the building codes as a result of all this. Here in California, Proposition 65 was intended to be a positive legislative tool benefiting the public realm. Although, an annoying consequence requires a well designed or normally tacky Prop 65 Warning/Notice Sign posted at the entrance to every single business in CA. No one, I mean absolutely NO ONE, takes notice or pays attention to them. Yet, they're required by law and invariably are part of every wayfinding package in California that leaves this firm.

On that note, here's a toast to the return of the Coffee Break. Try to maintain some face to face with your friends and colleagues OUTSIDE of the group wide video conference(s) until this quarantine is over.

All best wishes to you and yours!

corporate hospitality education residential sport entertainment healthcare government retail public space

cow paths, goat tracks, horse trails, game lanes, social trails, herd path(ologies), pig tails, use fails...

by jlicari December 12, 2019

I'd be willing to wager you've had this conversation a few times, possibly even once before with yours truly. I may even find it safe to presume all too many of us share similar experiences with these sorts of similar things.

Rather, all too often, wayfinding remains an ancillary thought. Doubly so in the realm of events, yet the staple of regularly neglected areas of analytical thought is that which is finding your way in an experiential space.

Events can be very unique activation spaces. Engaging interactive spaces. Nonetheless, events are regularly regarded more dynamic, albeit temporary spaces, with an ever rapidly evolving series of adds, moves, and changes up until showtime of the event's theatrical experience.

If you account for these factors and functions every time then you've absorbed the fundamentals of event wayfinding strategy. Effective application of said strategy is dependent on important human factors, namely the patron's mood, response, and level of engagement with the event distilled with the constraints of the event's built environment. Although not really constraints, there's most assuredly foundations of wayfinding built in any space.

A smidgen past the answer to "how your patronage engages their surroundings?" is slightly better knowledge found in solving for "If they're here, where will most of the patronage naturally go next?"... These details form the larger information hierarchy and decision points become anchored to coordinates within the experience. In these locations your users path of travel can be encouraged with visual cues and directional instruction. Arguably more important is "where are the bathrooms?"...

Define the information hierarchy, specifically how it best compliments the event's theme and environment's constraints. Aesthetically balanced; not too much, just enough. Sometimes, less truly is more than words. Sometimes “wow, wtf was that” is perfect.

Lastly, cow paths... herd mentality and the probability of people. "Cow paths, goat tracks, horse trails, game lanes, social trails, herd path(ologies), pig tails, and the fails... "

Imagine a well defined, properly illuminated maze of a twisting and turning decorative concrete paths buffered with luscious green landscaped spacing between. Now see the cow's path of worn ground revealing the travel of many as the sight of compacted dirt which when damp allows tracked mud across the surface of the paved path. Design intention fail, right? The desire path, that seductive intuition of the shortest distance between two points, may have been overlooked.

wayfinding is a form of art blended with reasonable assessments of people in a defined environment. Seriously, where are the bathrooms?

wayfinding is a balance which always considers the materials or mediums, usually temporary in events and permanent in architecture, and how people connect to place. The patrons, users, audiences, and facilitators of both experiences notice when dedicatedfull time role(s) filled by persons studying, coordinating, and managing all these variable factors is missing. The cow paths.

I've one last inquiry... Where is the lavatory?

joseph licari adapted this article from recent exchange with an event coordinator here on LinkedIn. joseph provides niche design and management services to Architects, Interior Design Firms, Developers, and Private Clients

The r/DesirePath subreddit collects all sorts of naturally unintended paths

corporate hospitality education residential sport entertainment healthcare government retail public space

Experiential Systems is an environmental graphic design firm working with stellar partners in architecture, urban design, and private clientele.

Research & Planning

Cities, large campuses, and urban environments are all complex adaptive systems. Working with stellar partners in architecture and urban design, we identify thematic and formal contexts, user profiles, and circulation paths to inform a strategy which works for the agents and users of the system.

Environmental Graphic Design

Connecting people to places through the visual systems communicating identity and information. Staying tuned to the patron's/user's experience within built environments. Placemaking, EGD, Code Compliance, Life Safety,etc.


Placemaking is always a cooperative, multi-faceted approach to planning, design and management of public spaces. We work with all stakeholders like architects, interior designers, furniture & fixture designers, and owners. To bring experiential places to life we’re typically enriching the patron's and or user's interaction.


Thoughtful wayfinding information systems guide people through environments. Complex built environments, public realms, and urban centers have ever evolving systems. They’re found everywhere including City Centers & Entertainment Districts, Higher Education & Health Care Facilities, Luxury Residential & High-End Corporate Campuses, Bio-Medical & Research Facilities, and Federal & Local Government Complexes.

Architectural Signage

Complimentary architectural sign system design and planning. Historic Preservation, Overlay Districts, Master Sign Programs, and Branded Environs. Available from discovery and design development through documentation & tender management.

Signage Design

Experienced design of identity systems for a broad range of industries. Corporate Brands, Retail Storefronts, Mixed Use Developments, Higher Education, Health Care, and other Institutions all inherently require sign identification. Creating a highly visible landmark or and eye catching gem of a sign supports a location’s success.

Sign Systems

Experiential Systems is a valuable semiotic resource. Hassle free planning and programming of complex architectural signage systems. Complete hierarchical analysis covers room identification, code compliance, life safety, and wayfinding from every path of travel.

Graphic Design

Strikingly bold or subtly conservative we craft visual content to communicate your message. We provide marketing & advertising lock ups, technical illustrations, architectural renderings, and interactive & immersive solutions.

3D Modeling

Strengthening the quality of the design intent is the translation from concept to a modeled visualization anyone can easily digest. Prior to building a million-dollar solution, we can test the impact of such with rigor.

corporate hospitality education residential sport entertainment healthcare government retail public space