Rethinking Signage

MRT stations are becoming more complex as the network expands. The goal is to make signage easy to learn and to follow, so stations are less intimidating to navigate in. The revamped signage system was designed with different user demographics in mind.

The research is extended from my final year thesis, which explores the role of design in human decision making, and the challenges faced by both the maker and the user of navigation tools in Singapore’s MRT network.

First, dissect the system to understand the role of each sign. 

Before breaking the system apart to review each signs’ purpose, a considerable amount of time was spent to observe how commuters interact with the signs. A lot of assumptions were raised and questioned because the current signage system has been in place for over twenty years.

Commuters in Singapore tend to look for information on directional signs.

Directional signs should be giving directions, quickly.

Misleading expectations and inaccessibility of information resulted in the overreliance of directional signs by commuters here. It started with one road name per exit that grew to contain various destinations over the years.

This means commuters are conditioned to expect their destinations to be on this sign. And if it doesn’t it means they are “lost” and will seek help from station staff. And the staff will put up paper signs to prevent future queries.

If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses.

Henry Ford

One of the greatest challenges was to convince key stakeholders that change is vital for the continuously growing network. The buy-in process continued throughout the design and implementation stages.

It’s time to simplify the wayfinding language of the network, to make signage easy to learn and to encourage commuters to form a new habit.

Read how we started from the directional signs in the next chapter.