Monday, 22 November 2010

Can traffic light design work better for drivers?

In an earlier blog post ( we talked about the trial that TfL were conducting with a countdown to provide more information to pedestrians on the time left before the lights change.

We have now come across this conceptual design for traffic lights that provide similar countdown information to drivers -

There are some obvious ergonomics questions about whether the signs could be accurately perceived by drivers, moving at speed, at a distance.

However the principle of providing another level of information to reduce stress and warn of changing states is interesting.

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Monday, 15 November 2010

Wayfinding is more than signage - using other visual clues

Wayfinding around complex buildings and spaces is a difficult task.  The main tactic is usually static signage.  However this has problems in the volume of information that can be presented and more importantly absorbed and understood by the user.  To deal with this we are seeing more interesting ways to convey wayfinding information - here are some examples that we've come across recently

Firstly, is Wayfinder Wallpaper created by Mike&Maaike for rollout.  An essentially decorative finish that attempts to embed wayfinding information in the visual.

The second example is the design for the Eureka Tower Car Park in Melbourne by Axel Peemoeller.   This uses distorted lettering on the walls which when viewed from the right angle give a strong message. 

Finally, a signage and wayfinding approach from Ralston & Bau for the Storehagen Atrim in Norway.  This borrows heavily from railway/metro maps and signage to provide wayfinding in an office building.  This provides a common visual linkage throughout the building. 

So there many other visual ways in which users can be helped to navigate spaces and these can integrate well into the interior design.  We can't be sure how well any of these examples or other similar designs work but we found them thought-provoking  in at least thinking of other ways to help people make sense of a space.


Tuesday, 9 November 2010

Managing overcrowding on trains

With the release today of the MP's report declaring that overcrowding on trains will only get worse attention will surely turn to how design and human behaviour can help.

On the BBC website today one expert declares that it is all about creating and maintaining flow.  This may well be true but it seems to us to deny many of the basic motivations that govern human behaviour in this situation - in an overcrowded train, with potentially a long journey ahead, you want a seat or at least a good place to stand. Mass transit is a de-personalised experience - as evidenced everyday by the impersonal behaviour that everyone exhibits on the Tube. So selfish acts become easier and everyone wants to be first never mind keeping the "flow".

So the real need seems to be to look at how design can address the challenge but accepting the way that people will behave.  Obviously the easy solution is to avoid the overcrowding in the first place but there seems to be limited appetite to spend enough to increase capacity as the MPs highlighted.  So can you change the design of the doors or the vestibule area? Can you change the way the passengers are managed at the station and on the platform? 

At CCD we have certainly worked on station and rolling stock projects that have attempted to address some of these issues.  Projects that have sought to understand the human behavior better, or where we have worked with the designers and engineers to improve the interior of the carriage.  All of these projects have been successful but it seems that the challenges are only increasing and perhaps now is the time for more innovative thinking.

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Thursday, 4 November 2010

Developments in road traffic management - carrots & sticks?

There has been much news in recent weeks of developments in the safety & management on our roads.  Some of the measures featured enforce the rules punishing those who break the rules.  Others are aimed at influencing our behaviour for the better.  Our question is which measures are likely to be successful?

The government last week confirmed hard shoulder running projects for the M25. How will these help to improve our road journeys? How will they improve motorway safety?  Our work on the M42 pilot trial suggested that hard shoulder running can be operated safely opening opportunities to reduce congestion, reducing the disruption from accidents and helping those drivers who have broken down or are involved in an accident to remain safe.

In the context of government spending cuts what can drivers do themselves to improve safety? How can technology help and even have side benefits such as getting a better rate of mpg. 

There are plenty of challenges for the driver such as keeping alert whilst driving, judging distances, judging what other drivers intend to do.  We are now seeing more technology enter the car to try and help -  sat navs to help navigation but now also providing things like congestion information and speed camera detection.  There are other systems emerging like Foot-lite ( tries to provide advice and information on eco-driving; or manufacturers like BMW producing cars that start to anticpate accidents about to happen and respond. 

There was news last week of the police getting their own lorry to be able to see into other lorry cabs to see drivers who are using mobile phones as well as to raise awareness of the blind spot in lorries that cause accidents with cyclists.

We've also seen the news of the new ASSET speed camera that is intended to be fitted in vehicles used by traffic police to:
  • measure speed
  • film inside a vehicle and see if the driver is wearing a seatbelt
  • read number plates to instantly recognise cars without insurance
  • record tax disks
  • monitor distances between vehicles for detecting tailgaters

It will be interesting to see if these new technologies for inforcement have any influence over driver behaviour and compliance - especially when compared with some of the existing technologies like the GATSO cameras.  Also, will we see any of the perhaps unintended consequences we saw with speed cameras such as excessive breaking when they were spotted by the driver?

There are a whole host of interesting human factors applied research issues to be explored!


Monday, 1 November 2010

International Control Room Design Conference - our thoughts...

Nearly 100 delegates and half-a-dozen exhibitors represented the leading practitioneers in control room design at the recent ICOCO conference held in Paris.  And we were there in force with four presentations and an exhibition.  If you want to see more on what we talked about, visit our website at

What did we learn from the event?  

Firstly that there remains a strong commitment to a user-centered design approach - which is just how we like it! This underlines how ISO 10064 has become the de-facto standard in the area and its role in ensuring that ergonomics is a central factor in design.

Secondly, the use of large overview displays in control rooms continues to present challenges. The message that "content is king" was discussed by a number of the presenters and was even reinforced by the display manufacturers! These expensive displays continue to be provided in control rooms even when there is little in the way of an operational rationale - the marketing department often holding the power.

Finally, that technology in control rooms continues to move at a fairly slow pace.  It was left to our own Adam Parkes and a very few others to talk about emerging technologies and the potential that they might unlock.

Overall, it was great to finally have a good technical conference to be able to discuss and debate some of the issues and questions we see in our daily work...and to learn from others how what we can do better in the future.