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We wait patiently here in the Pacific Northwest for the clouds to break. Our gray winter skies can be monotone at best. We don’t get any more rain than my hometown of New York City, but we have long stretches of cloud cover and we say bye-bye to the sun for many a day. Yes, we get SAD (seasonal affective disorder); we are in essence starved for light. Waiting for the sun to break through is a great Seattle winter pastime, supplemented with drinking warm beverages, reading books and watching movies.

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There are some other very useful things that help the ‘winter blahs’…

•Take short walks

•See friends

•Get out of bed and stay active

•Don’t over eat

•Change the colors of your living and work environments (we can help with that)

•Communicate with bright designs (we can help with that too)

•Looking at photos of sunnier times (we took lots of photos this summer)

So look up, and if you’re lucky enough to catch a patch of blue… smile.

It’s important not to oversimplify the act of ‘wayfinding.’

But wait, letís back up for a moment… what is ‘wayfinding?’

The strict definition of the term historically means to orient someone for the purpose of determining their location in relation to a desired destination or objects that may be nearby. But in a broader sense, wayfinding encompasses all of the ways we utilize to orient ourselves in any physical space as we navigate from place to place. Wayfinding functions to inform people of their surroundings in the (unfamiliar) built or natural environment, offering information at strategic points to guide people in the right direction.

But perhaps weíre going too fast here. Is this a design process of pure form follows function? Or, is wayfinding experiential? Does it contain a story too? Imagine a point ‘A’ and assume that wayfinding will aid you in getting to point ‘B.’ A good designer will include in this journey the emotional and motivational aspects of the distance being traveled. Inspiration and memory should be a part of the plan. In fiction and comparative mythology, the ëheroís journeyí is the common template of a broad category of tales involving a hero beginning a great adventure, facing a decisive crisis and winning a victory, then coming home transformed. In this scenario, our hero (visitor, student, patient, citizen) needs wayfinding (map, markers and guides). Getting from A to B is just the diagrammatic template for a wayfinding solution. When it succeeds, good wayfinding design incorporates many human needs along the way.

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So in this broader context, what can wayfinding bring to a project?

Complex structures and environments are interpreted and stored by the human memory. Distances, locations and time may be remembered differently than as they appear to be in reality. An effective wayfinding system is based on human behavior and consists of:

—reducing the fear factor (where is the next rest-stop?)

—creating a comprehensive, clear and consistent visual communication system with concise messaging

—taking special care (wayfinding and signage has a dynamic physical presence within the landscape and should be environmentally respectful)

Wayfinding is the tool that binds: roads, paths, buildings, thought processes, experiences, and more into a matrix. It can assist in getting us between two points in the simplest manner, or it can create a lasting ‘memory-scape.’ Designed effectively, wayfinding is a cornerstone to promotion and a catalyst to expanded interaction; a designed set of elements that help us navigate and provide greater access to discovery.

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“A hero ventures forth from the world of common day into a region of supernatural wonder: fabulous forces are there encountered and a decisive victory is won: the hero comes back from this mysterious adventure with the power to bestow boons on his fellow man.”

—Joseph Campbell

Considering our waste-stream, there’s the three R’s: reduce, reuse and recycle. Within the category of reuse may we suggest a closer look at the strategy of turning things inside out? The practice has great philosophical meaning and it’s considerate of the environment. Simply respectful to the original resource… to honor it again and preserve some of it’s history.

As a designer I was inspired over a cup of tea this morning. Peering inside the tea packaging there was the glimpse of another visual world. I saw an unexpected other life to this packaging. It was intriguing and I wondered about other ways we could get this to happen in more of our design projects at Partners in Design.  Please add your ideas below.

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The outside of this Korean tea packaging looks like this… sedate and simple. The zip-lock top keeps the contents fresh and I can store another green tea in it when I have finished this batch.

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On the inside there’s another package design. Life number two. A little more colorful… rice, wheat?

  • Open up envelopes and turn them inside out, tape or glue, and use them again.
  • Unfold shipping boxes and decorate the craft paper interiors with designs, refold inside out to make favorite gift boxes.
  • We always turn our grocery produce bags inside out to use them repeatedly. Don’t worry the inks used on these bags are food-grade.
  • Using press-sheets as wrapping paper.
  • Remember turning your craft paper grocery bags for textbook covers?
  • We like this one a lot, sort of turning something inside out… re-purpose an unwanted t-shirt and easily turn the shirt into a re-usable tote bag. http://etcetorize.blogspot.com/2011/08/t-shirt-tote-bag.html

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