A review: Inclusive design for wayfinding symposium

A probably not impartial review by Andrew Barker

On 18 April, the Sign Design Society and SEGD held a symposium about inclusive design for wayfinding. We had fantastic lineup of speakers and a capacity audience – it was great! The event was mainly to celebrate the launch of the new edition of the Sign Design Guide + but really it was an excuse to spend the afternoon talking about a subject that is at the top of many wayfinding designers’ agendas – inclusive design.

We took the decision to make this event in-person because we (SDS) aim to keep an element of our event programme in-person, and our hybrid events have been rather mixed (and technologically way more difficult to make happen than an online meeting). We were very glad that enthusiasm to be there in-person exceeded our expectations and staff at the St Bride Foundation (who were hosting us) had to find more chairs to accommodate our capacity audience.

The formal part of the symposium filled an afternoon – and what a packed afternoon it was! I had ambitiously squeezed in as many speakers as I could, wilfully ignoring co-organisers’ words of caution about such a tight schedule. So, it was up to me to make sure it all ran to time – it’s not something I’m normally good at, but amazingly we managed to keep exactly on schedule.

We had six speakers who covered a range of perspectives on inclusive design. This range of perspectives reminded me that there is no single solution or approach to inclusive design: one size does not fit all and there’s room for many approaches. We began with Rachel Smalley (head of inclusive design at Jacobs) who offered us a good starting point for the afternoon, introducing inclusive design as making places work for people. She was followed by Simon Kinneir (design researcher) who gave a thoughtful and conceptual perspective on leveraging environmental cues to greatest effect. Neil Smith (inclusive design lead for HS2) and Rosie Smith (senior wayfinding designer at Mima Group) gave us an insight into their work creating an inclusive experience for users of HS2. After the break, Liam Proudlock (inclusive design and access consultant) took inclusive design more closely into wayfinding information, and including stakeholders in the process. He was followed by Alexandra Verdeil (inclusion associate at Tactile Studio) who showed us the work that Tactile Studio has been undertaking recently, making tactile information that is intuitive, comprehensive, and aesthetically pleasing. To close the afternoon, Veronika Egger (design consultant, is-design) ended the presentations on a reflective note, looking at her own practice in inclusive design, particularly the benefits and challenges of involving stakeholders in the process.

The final part of the event was much more informal: we moved location to the Punch Tavern for socializing and networking. Being in-person really came into its own at this point, with people catching up with old friends, forging new connections, and picking up with conversations started in the brief moments between speakers earlier in the afternoon.

The event would have been impossible to make happen in the short time-frame that we had without the collaboration of SDS and SEGD, plus the generous sponsorship of Rivermeade and Modulex. It was good for SDS and SEGD to to work together to make the event happen. Ian Whybrow and Nicola Wordsworth from SEGD London Chapter were a pleasure to work with. From the SDS’ point of view, as ever Kate kept us organized and ensured that everything proceeded as planned. On the day, Sapna Nundloll, Talia Bingham, and Jamie Kerr were invaluable in sorting out arriving visitors, selling copies of the Sign Design Guide +, and keeping many other things happening. It was a marvelous team effort, and it was encouraging to get so much enthusiastic feedback in the Punch Tavern and afterwards.

We must do this again, maybe on a longer lead time next time. If anyone has any themes that they think we should tackle in future symposia, please let us know.