WayfindingLiz Cormack

The Tragic Loss of The Journey

WayfindingLiz Cormack

There is no such thing as a "sense of direction" - at least not one that can be proven by science. As Peter Morville points out in his defining book "Ambient Findability" we have only our 5 senses to point us in the right direction; how well each individual uses them varies, but what looks like impressive directional instincts is actually proof of keener use of the original 5 senses. Much like ants, we use Geocentric (landmarks and visual cues) and Egocentric (path integration, the retracing of steps) to determine where we are, where we're going, and how to get there. At least we used to - but I know if I take a moment to assess my own navigational habits, I'll come to the conclusive realization that it's been a while since I used my head to really get anywhere.

I don't know about you, but I use my iPhone, and that's kind of a shame.

Necessity births invention, which results in a cycle of invention and innovation. Wayfinding used to be an issue of human survival; while navigation is certainly a daily issue, it's becoming less of a necessity to human survival, and more an issue of practicality and transportation. For prehistoric humans, embarking on a trek was always a risk, and getting lost could mean the end. Today, however, the act of "finding" holds no allure; efficiency is everything, from shopping to traveling. In other words, it isn't about the chase anymore.

That said... have you ever gone online to look up a movie trailer and found yourself 2 hours later, still browsing YouTube? Of course you have. I'm sure you've experienced this or something close to it, which brings me to the question: how are sites so effectively designing their navigation to DISTRACT when we live in world that doesn't understand how to wander? The same goes for Facebook - these networks aren't oriented to a user's end goal. They aren't designed to help you navigate from point A to point B. They're built to trap you in their maze of info-tainment for as long as you'll allow yourself to be led from page to page.

Does that count as a modern variation of 'the journey?'

Graduated with a B.A. in Communication Design from Emerson College. Studied Product Design in Startup Insitute Boston's inaugural class. Marketing Manager at The Tap Lab, a mobile gaming startup focused on location & augmented reality. Founder of Colab Boston, an AIGA Design for Good partner. Raised overseas, uncomfortable with familiarity, lover of live music, skiing, Bourbon Ales, black coffee and weird food. Current favorite topics: The Internet of Things, serious games, data visualization and epic burgers.