A picture tells a thousand words...

June 19th 2017

Katie Lodge, Business Development Manager, Urbanite looks at the evolution of pictorial communication and its role in ancient cities to the modern day

From the earliest Chauvet cave paintings in 32,000BCE to the ancient Egyptian hieroglyphics in 3,200BCE, humans have been communicating through the written and pictorial form for thousands of years. Over time, as alphabets were created and people became more literate, the need and desire to communicate in a variety of ways grew.  

As the ancient Greeks and Romans settled and started to establish communities and cities, signs and wayfinding became important in order to direct people and also warn of enemies and danger. The application of wayfinding has continued to evolve as our cities and precincts have grown and expanded. 

Fast forward a few hundred years to a world which has become rich in data and information, and we are still using the written word combined with (and sometimes without) pictograms to display and communicate information and direct people from A to B. 

So with so much more intellect in the world, why do we still need signs and wayfinding to tell us where to go? Surely the design of a space should be so intuitive that we can find our own way to where we need to be? Well yes, this is probably true to a certain extent, but we always need to have the user and their situation in mind. Also, we don't just want to use environmental graphics and wayfinding to tell us where to go. We want it to inspire us, engage us, tell a story, activate a brand, a space, and teach us something new. We want a spatial experience that connects us to that place and has us coming back for more. 

One great example where this has been hugely successful is the recently completed NUBO project in Sydney. Designed by PAL Design Architects and Frost*collective, this space truly captures the imagination of children, whilst providing a much more pleasant spatial experience for the grown-ups compared to the typical loud, brightly coloured playcentres. 

The signage and graphics are simple, yet elegant, and their well-considered placement takes into account the height of the children and also their ability to read the written word, which is accompanied by beautiful pictograms. 

I recently took my daughter and couldn’t tear her away! So, if you haven't had the chance to visit Nubo yet, I would encourage you to do so, immerse yourself in the experience and let me know what you enjoyed most about it.