Thoughts

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

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.

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


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