August 2, 2022

Missed the post

I missed posting yesterday after spending the weekend on a bicycle, with a camping stop between days (and Monday was a bit of a right-off {write-off?} as a result of all that physical effort.) Consequently my screen-time took a bit of a hit, for which I’d like to apologise now to all the tech co’s who weren’t able to scrape data along the route and offer me useful suggestions to places to stop and hydrate. And at the very moment of typing this, Instagram just ‘asked’ if I might like to follow someone called Ronaldo and Christian Lee Navarro, so that social account must be feeling especially needy. Sorry. Again.

Some of the cycling was a bit too real, especially for an old fool not used to a lot of dusty miles and I didn’t take a single selfie (and another mea culpa, BeReal. Now I’ve really got guilt) and during the last stretch we ended up having to navigate GPS-free, the old fashioned way – i.e. hoping the actual signage wouldn’t run out* and when it inevitable did, having to ask an actual human**.

And so, with a gear-grinding inevitability, to the point of this missive. When you know where you’re going, or if the thing you’re driving does, I used to wonder why we couldn’t clear the landscape of signage, especially the transport infrastructural type.

At a sweep you could clear cluttered roadsides from overbearingly huge signs designed for an age when speeding drivers needed plenty of warning for the next left for Marlborough. And not to mention the waste of materials. If everyone has a map-pointing device that’ll do almost everything except steer and change gear for you, why all the signage?

Everything about road signage is predicated (pretty much) on needing to bark orders at a user traveling at speed, with a host of other distractions, coming from all directions. As soon as you step into another user-group’s shoes (or pedals) you’ll find all kinds of glitches, bugs, breaks and frustrations. But to get something worthwhile – something like valuable understanding or appreciation – from a user’s perspective you can’t search-engine or ask what the persona might do. You need to actually see what happens at those points. Which is why I like the term ‘way-showing’ and as opposed to ‘finding’. As the old adage goes, don’t tell me, show me.

Three things, then. If you have a great team (thanks team 🙂 you really can get further than you thought you were capable of. If you think you’re getting lost, don’t just press on, stop and ask someone. If you want to understand how it feels to navigate the world (actually, how the world actually feels) try it with the phone switched off.

Oh. Four things. That thing about getting rid of all the signs? Ignore me. I’ll take all the signage you’ve got.

*Of course it did.
**And you really can rely on the comfort of strangers sometimes. Especially if you look (and probably smell) terrible, for maximal sympathy.

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About Richard Hill

Creative director, writer, designer, illustrator based in the UK with global project experience and consulting skills across sectors.

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