Site navigation: Reality check from the underground

The other day, I was walking through an underground parking garage on the way back to my car. I’d just come out of a very interesting client meeting about content strategy and UX innovation.

I was backtracking my way up a pink line painted on the floor, which I’d walked along a few hours earlier on my way to the elevator. The very visible pink went well with the clean walls, bright lights and indoor plants. It was a very nice garage, as garages go.

Someone from the shopping center above ground had obviously put a lot of thought into the brand image. They wanted to extend the brand into the entrails of the garage.

Ahead of me stood a group of three people looking around in all directions. They were talking among themselves. Every now and then their gaze would tilt upwards to a sign hanging from the ceiling.

“Excuse me, can you tell me where the elevator is?” one of the asked.

I aimed them down the pink line, explaining that the elevators were hidden in a small alcove, behind the plants.

As they left one of them muttered to the two others, “they could have at least put up a sign.”

In fact, there was a sign. Here it is.

Unusual elevator symbol

It was hanging over us the whole time. The group had studied it half a dozen times at least, to no avail.

Cute isn’t innovation

I’d spotted the elevator when I’d driven in, so I hadn’t paid any attention to the sign. The group had apparently come in through another entrance and hadn’t seen the alcove. They’d latched on to the sign for guidance, but it didn’t tell them what they needed to know.

International symbol for elevatorNot surprising. It wasn’t the internationally recognized symbol that we see in just about every public place on the planet.

No, no, the owners of this garage were smarter than the average bear. They had decided that they needed a symbol more in line with their brand image. Something friendly and fun.

Problem is: these folks weren’t in the mood for branding. They were lost and needed help.  And this sign looked like some kind of Prozac-induced purse snatching warning.

Extending color schemes to the garage isn’t the same as providing a consistent brand experience from the parking space to the retail space. And inventing a new version of the elevator symbol creates a new and unnecessary learning curve that hurts the overall brand experience.

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