Brian Dixon

From ‘You Are Here’ to ‘I Could Be There’: designing wayfinding user-interfaces for exploratory walkers

Central Saint Martins

This research considers the design of mobile wayfinding applications. Specifically, it seeks to investigate how user-interface design can support movement, as exemplified by the practice of exploratory walking- negotiating an unfamiliar environment on foot for pleasure. Emphasis here is placed on serendipity rather than geographical route display and site marking.

Theoretically, user interface design is approached from an information design perspective (i.e. Bertin 1983), while exploratory walking is connected with information design from a variety of angles, both geographic and cultural. Here the work of geographers Massey (2005) and Thrift (2008) allow for a re-imagining of space, based on movement rather than fixity. Additionally, Wallace’s theory of ‘the peripatetic’ (1993) - examining the emergence and establishment of the practice of ‘excursive’ walking- provides a basis for analysing the role of walking within contemporary society.

The methodology is centred around a practice-based inquiry. To begin, semi-structured interviews with walkers will investigate how exploratory experience is conceptualised. By identifying common themes within the discussions, a list of desired characteristics will be compiled. This list will be used to initiate the practice-based enquiry, wherein a series of prototype user interfaces will be designed. Each prototype will be evaluated through a cycle of workshops and focus groups, with participant feedback directing further development and scrutiny of the design principles.

The outcome is a proof concept accompanied by a written thesis detailing the implications for information design theory, as well as offering a series of recommendations to future information design practice in this area.


Bertin, J., 1983, The Semiology of Graphics, Madison: University of Wisconsin Press.

Massey, D., 2005. For Space. London: Sage.

Thrift, N., 2008. Non-Representational Theory. London: Routledge.

Wallace, A.C., 1993, Walking, Literature and English Culture: The origins of the peripatetic in the nineteenth century. Oxford: Clarendon Press.


Patricia Austin (Director of Studies)

Professor Janet McDonnell