Seminar review: Sign09 Vienna

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From 3 – 11 of December 2009 IIID and The Sign Design Society organized a 9 day seminar on signage and wayfinding in Vienna, Austria. I was lucky enough to attend the seminar day on Friday the 4th with the topic: City Identity & Wayfinding.

This article will feature a review of the seminar day with world leading speakers on signage and wayfinding such as Jim Northover, Tim Fendley, Nic Banks, Matt Butters, Cliff Selbert and David Gibson. In total on this day there were 16 speakers with presentations on: City wayfinding, Airport signage, Metro wayfinding, Environmental graphic design, Typography, Pictogram design, and much more, a seminar marathon so to say.

The purpose of sign09 is to bring together and inform those involved in the discipline, to offer education and networking opportunities and to improve awareness of the social and commercial importance of this often underestimated aspect of environmental design.

Sign09 Vienna

Sign09 Vienna Signage and Wayfinding Seminar
This 9 days of seminar is a joined initiative of International Institute for Information Design (IIID) and Sign Design Society (SDS) with the overall goal to contribute on better understanding of the importance of signing and wayfinding and to encourage greater focus in the design disciplines, industry and education. The speakers of the Friday seminar City Identity & Wayfinding each hold a position or have done remarkable work in this field of expertise and shared their knowledge.


Sign09 Vienna Signage and Wayfinding Seminar
The opening words were by Mike Wolff (SDS) and Martin Foessleitner (IIIDSpace), my compliments to the crew for organizing this great event. We got a personalized booklet with all speakers of today and additional space on each page to write down remarks, lunch, drinks, coffee and superb talks, great!

1. Jim Northover

Sign09 Vienna Jim Northover

Global Cities, Local Places:
the challenge of identity in urban environments

First speaker on stage (09:00 sharp) was Jim Northover, Jim talked about the identity of cities and its uniqueness to create an rememberable experience. Interesting topic Jim mentioned was the look at historical facts such as the Roman build city Rome and its structure on traffic flow and circulation.

  • Find out more about Jim Northover at his corporate website LloydNorthover.

2. Halime Fisenk and Zeynep Aran

Sign09 Vienna Halime Fisenk and Zeynep Aran

Environmental sign system as a visual language matter in Turkey

Two Turkish designers are building a case on creating a sign system for cities in Turkey. The main problem is that there is no clear and concise system of signs showing street names, directions and more. From the Turkish culture people navigate by asking locals the way. The students have come up with a color coded system and a sign proposal to create make Turkey more legible. Keep up the work and good luck.

3. Khanna Raman

Sign09 Vienna Khanna Raman

Reading the city of Delhi:
wayfinding strategies for international tourism

From Turkey to India where Khanna Raman talks about the need for information systems for international tourism. In 2010 India will host the Commonwealth Games and this will be an opportunity to create new wayfinding systems that oversees the illiteracy, cultural biases and overcrowded public spaces. From his point of view new mobile technologies will be used to navigate easier from one to another location.

4. Tim Fendley

Sign09 Vienna Tim Fendley

A principled approach to designing urban wayfinding

Tim Fendley talks about the project Legible London and the theory behind the wayfinding strategy, he talked about the awareness of information systems that can be used as a seamless guidance in your city journey. As Tim continued his talk he mentions the issues of naming the parts of a city, as from historical point of view areas or neighborhoods can have different names. By researching the areas and questioning locals they have gathered all the correct information as needed to locate an area. Further on Tims shows us a software tool which they use to get information on or off a navigation map, an impressive way to create different maps for each specific need in urban wayfinding. With various examples of good and bad we got a great insight on urban wayfinding.

5. Barry Gray

Barry talked about the latest developments in the standardisation of graphical symbols and signs. With many examples Barry emphasized the importance of the ISO standard on testing and using symbols and icons in wayfinding systems. This resulted in a discussion about the cultural differences and interpretation of graphical symbols. They plan to release a search able database that will give out the symbol that you can use in the design. Looking forward to this new functionality.

6. Stefan Egger

Sign09 Vienna Stefan Egger

Tern: A new traffic typeface for the Trans European Road Network

Stefan Egger talked about a European Union project named “In-Saftey”, where a typeface should be developed to meet the demands of road users since the introduction of the international standards (41 years ago agreed on). In a team of type developers Erik Spiekermann is involved to create the typeface TERN. Stefan talked about how the typeface is developed and what criteria was used to make it legible on road signs or electrical signs. In 2010 Austria will be the fist to have the typeface TERN Narrow on its roadsigns.

7. Gökhan Namanoglu

Sign09 Vienna Gökhan Namanoglu
For the Istanbul Summer Olympics 2020 Gökhan Namanoglu is researching if international pictographic languages exists and this project will focus on the function and effectiveness on pictograms.

8. Nic Banks

Sign09 Vienna Nic Banks

Signing public transport systems

After lunch Nic Banks got on stage to talk about his work in Asia for designing signage systems for transport facilities in Bangkok, Dubai, Hong Kong and more. Nic pointed out that the principle of signage is to move and navigate and will holds its own identity. To clearly inform passengers of understanding a facility forms the back-bone of all good transport systems. Nic addresses the differences between cultures and its interpretation of information on which a signage system is build. With various examples we got a great insight on transport signage systems in Asia.

9. Matt Butters

Sign09 Vienna Matt Butters

Heathrow Airport Terminal 5

Designed to handle over thirty million passengers a year this airport terminal was to bring together the standards of modern terminal design. Matt Butters talks about the way architecture can play a part in wayfinding to create a clarity in orientation and information delivery. This intuitive way of designing a building will create trust with its passengers who will find their gates with ease. Signage has become a part of its facility.

10. Helmut Ness

Sign09 Vienna Helmut Ness

Messe Frankfurt

Messe Frankfurt is world’s largest faire trade company with over 578,000 square meters of ground cover. Within three separate buildings an current wayfinding system is not providing the needed information. Helmut Ness talks about the new and improved wayfinding system they have developed with a custom Univers typeface designed by Erik Spiekermann. Their ideas consists of the right balance in showing dynamic and fixed information within a circular red following line that connects all three buildings.

11. Tony Howard

Sign09 Vienna Tony Howard

Public service or brand opportunism

As everybody has problems with clients demands Tony Howard talked about the signing and wayfinding for Dubai Metro. Tony discusses how they designed specific cultural pictograms and custom typeface that combines Latin and Arabic characters in one typeface. Interesting enough the way public signage is handled in Dubai is to sell ‘advertising’ space on signs in order to create income. Tony talks about how the managed to under these circumstances created a working signage system.

12. Tommie Nyström

Sign09 Vienna Tommie Nyström

Teaching wayfinding at Stuttgart Media University

The future of information design is in the hands of students. Tommie Nyström has students who perform wayfinding studies for well known places such as the Porsche Museum and let them come up with new ideas to show information. Within 6 weeks the students go from idea to prototype and present their ideas as parts of their study.

13. Ralf Herrmann

Sign09 Vienna Ralf Herrmann

Wayfinding typefaces

Ralf Herrmann studied for over three years road signage typefaces throughout Europe. His study shows many typefaces have difficulties under certain circumstances, Ralf Herrmann decided to design his own wayfinding typeface based on his ideas of maximum legibility. He created a software tool to simulate reading conditions in order create a working wayfinding typeface under all weather and distance conditions. Currently in beta.

  • Find out more about Ralf Herrmann and his typeface Wayfinding at his website Open Type, see here for an review of his typeface.

14. Clive Richards

Sign09 Vienna Clive Richards

A picture isn’t always worth 1000 words

Clive Richards the president of IIID / UK had a presentation about the design of warning labels in particular for tractor security. The manufacturer of tractors wished to minimize the number of different language variants needed on the labels, Clive talks about the problems that they faced and how they managed to maximize the level of understanding of graphical information.

15. Cliff Selbert

Sign09 Vienna Cliff Selbert

Finding your way while enhancing your brand

Cliff Selbert has a specific approach in wayfinding and landmarking, their philosophy consists on creating big environmental sculptures to create an identity for its area. This is an interesting way of making areas or facilities legible and while creating an photo opportunity people will remember the location more intense. Cliff talked about the parking for Disney where they used music and images to let visitors remember the location and enhance the experience which will be linked to the brand.

16. David Gibson

Sign09 Vienna David Gibson

Finding the hidden logic

After about 9 hours of talk David Gibson had the task to close this marathon day of speakers. With his book The Wayfinding Handbook David is creating legible enviroments by finding the hidden logic. With basic principles he creates systems that allows us to find our way in unfamiliar environments. With his recent visit to Beijing David tells about the hidden logic he found in this immense city.

Additional information:

Sign09 Vienna Wall of Fame signage wayfinding
Hopefully IIID and SDS will continue hosting these events in the future, if you want to know more about the organizations or the event please use the following links.

Afterwards we had a great dinner and drink till late. Thanks everybody for the open-minds and great talks about our common interests. Thank you Peter for showing us around in Vienna. See you next year!

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