Problems with the guide map to the UN
During May, 2007, I toured the United Nations in New York City. It was fascinating - I learned that it was the UN that mandated all air traffic controllers and pilots on the planet speak and understand English, that red means stop and green means go, and even the expiration date for milk. The logistics of the tour - learning where to go, getting tickets, waiting for a tour - were not conducted well, a bit awkward, confusing, and inefficient. The map handed out was no better:
Here's a map of the United Nations for visitors. Its from a brochure that is printed in a multitude of languages for the international visitors. At first glance it looks like a decent map, but here's how this map could be better:
Change the label of 1st Basement to Lower Level. The label on the left, Visitor's Lobby is okay since it is at the entrance level, but the visitor doesn't know nor care how many basements there are - first, second - we just don't care. Basement sounds a bit scary - 'we gotta go down to the basement?' Lower Level works because it relates to the lobby level - one intuitively gets that it is beneath that.
Change the icon for the Ticket Desk. A dollar sign often means an ATM machine. The ticket desk is actually the first place the visitor wants to go - to get a ticket to go on the tour. One would not think to go to the place with a dollar sign - one wants a ticket, not money.
Use the standard icon for Elevator. The one used here looks like the one for an empty vending machine.
Delete references to the Tour Coordinator. The visitor doesn't care who is in charge of coordinating tours. If that also serves as tour information, then label it Tour Information (although there is another Info booth by the entrance and one is likely to seek info from there or the ticket seller).
Reduce the number of legend icons. Legends make the reader go back and forth from map to legend to find stuff - usually, as is the case here, there is enough room on the map to label the item without adding another layer of information.
Remove the tiny arrows pointing to the restroom entrances. Move the restroom symbols to the entrances. One doesn't care where the bathrooms actually are as much as where the entrance to the bathroom is. The arrows are added to compensate for poor design decisions. Instead of adding crap, redesign and solve the problem. Design should aid communication and comprehension, not bog it down.
Change the color coding. The light green in the lower right of the left map is off limits to visitors, but the dark blue Exhibits Area color looks more foreboding - the light green, being so close to the tan area, looks inviting; like one can go there.
Here is the crucial change to make - reorient the map on the left 90 degrees to the left. One enters at the green entrance and looks straight ahead - the map should respect that orientation so the visitor can get his/her bearings more easily and intuitively. And - the two maps are oriented differently. If one does get the orientation bearings from the first map, then one goes downstairs and the map for that level is turned differently. Its just rude and inconsiderate to be messing with people at a time when they are disoriented and want to be guided, not confused.
This map is another great example of a piece in which the designer did not design for the user.
Tour of the UN: May 31, 2007
Sketches: June 2007