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  • Manda Villarreal

Graphic Design is Visual Literacy: Designing a Way-Finding System

Another September, another school year. But there's something different about this year - it's my last time around the block. I'm finally a senior! After a longtime coming, I'm in my final year of college. That means being career goal oriented with every project I have until I graduate. Including this one.

In my course Advanced Typography, we will be spending a semester "adopting" a building of our choice, ideally, "a building with longstanding problematic issues of directing people to required and desired destinations", and then creating our own Way-finding navigation system to help rid of said directional problems. Of course, I already have a few places in mind, places that left me confused or frustrated. But I also feel it's important to re-design a navigation system for an area that I can familiarize myself with. That being said, I'm most interested in looking into the museums across campus to see if there's one that could use extra help with way-finding signage. As a history of art minor, I've always been interested long-term in becoming a graphic designer for a museum. I knew this would be the perfect time to incorporate my interest in museums into a project.

Ideally, I'm looking into the University of Michigan Museum of Art (UMMA) or the Kelsey Museum of Archeology. Over this next week, I'm going to make a point to visit both museums and see what navigational flaws I find. It's been a good while since I've visited the Kelsey museum, and I know UMMA just updated it's layout of artifacts and artwork. It's important first to understand the issues from the users perspective so you know what problems you're trying to solve, than after you can dive into the design and brainstorming aspect of the project.

Another source I may look into is Jim Cogswell's catalog for his project Cosmogonic Tattoos, a vinyl mural project based at both museums I'm most interested in. Luckily, I have a copy of the catalog from helping him deinstall one of his murals last summer. The murals were illustrations of artifacts and artworks in both museums transformed into colorful patterns. Maybe the catalog will help me discover better the kind of work held at both museums. This will help me later on when creating signage for categories of work at whichever museum I choose. Until I get to that point, I'll be visiting the museums! I'll be sure to update the blog soon with the information I find in my way-finding investigation!

- Manda V.

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