Review by John Waites
The big idea behind Wayshowing is that the objective of signage should be to show the user of signs the way, rather than requiring the user to find the way. According to Per Mollerup, wayshowing and wayfinding relate to each other as do writing and reading, teaching and learning, or cooking and eating. Perhaps a closer analogy might be to point of sale and point of purchase. For years point of sale was the usual term, until marketing practitioners moved the emphasis to the purchase by the consumer.
The book is divided into two main sections, Principles and Practices. For a signage professional, some of the material feels a little too obvious. However, Per Mollerup roams widely across sign design and implementation, including familiar areas such as contrast, fonts, sign positioning and signs for the visually impaired.
The section on Practices includes cases from environments that depend on signage, including hospitals, airports, railways, museums and cities. For students or those setting out on a career in sign design, the book is comprehensive and will prove extremely useful.
The best part of the book is the 436 pictures. From the photo credits it is clear that most of these come from Per Mollerup’s personal collection, and impressive it is. It includes material that will be very familiar to SDS members, such as the National Maritime Museum signage, and even the SDS icon, as well as less familiar items from around the world. All are well judged. Sometimes the book’s approach seems somewhat contrived. For example, the terms signs and SIGNS are used. The explanation for this is:
“This book uses the word 'sign' with two different meanings. The first covers the sign outside a butcher’s shop, directional signs in an airport, traffic signs in the street, and so on. The other meaning uses the word 'sign' to stand for any phenomenon that has a meaning. That usage is related to Umberto Eco's definition of a sign as anything that human beings can use to lie. To discern between the two meanings, this book presents the word 'sign' in lower case letters when it has the narrow meaning, and 'SIGN'……when it has the broad meaning.” There is a helpful section on the planning process, which would make a useful aide memoire for most sign designers. This splits the process into:
- Defining the problem.
- Composing the team.
- Gathering information.
- Analysing data.
- Developing a wayshowing strategy.
- Planning signage.
- Designing graphics.
- Designing hardware.
- Implementing the plan.
- Evaluating results.
The quality of the pictures and print is high, which goes some way to explaining its price tag of £33. When I looked on Amazon, they had a used version at £19.99, and (rather puzzlingly) two others at £39.28 and £42.14. Not cheap, but good value.
John Waites has spent his working life in the sign industry.