Transforming Public Space Through Wayfinding Strategy with Katie Osborn

On August 18, Katie Osborn, Principal & Wayfinding Strategist at Via Collective, will join three SEGD Fellows and leading wayfinding design, application and technology practitioners from around the world to speak at the 2017 SEGD Wayfinding event in Boston.

In her session, Transforming Public Space Through Wayfinding Strategy and User Research ( sponsored by Color-Ad), Katie will share how user research and community engagement helped create wayfinding strategies for two very different outdoor spaces that were connected through a public infrastructure project twenty years in the making. (Get the full agenda.)

We had a chance to speak with Katie about her professional journey, what inspires her and the 2017 SEGD Wayfinding event. Here’s what she had to say.

How did you get into wayfinding as a career path?

My degree is in graphic design, but I was always more interested in how various types of design worked together rather than just a single item. I was always asking “why” people decide on engaging with one thing over another. These questions eventually led me from print to the interaction of the urban environment and how design impacts people's feeling of a place.

What are the biggest challenges in using wayfinding to connect people to place?

A lot of people view wayfinding as “signage,” but it's much bigger than that. Working with clients and collaborators that understand and engage in multiple ways to help people navigate, such as lighting or landscape, creates a stronger solution and always enhances the visitor experience.

In what ways are strategy and user research important for wayfinding designers?

Without understanding who we are designing for and deploying research to discover what they need, there is no way to design programs that improve the visitor experience. Wayfinding strategies that are based in user research will connect directly back to the community that utilizes the space.

What are some of your favorite examples of wayfinding projects that transform public space?

  • The work that the Japanese firm Party did for Narita Terminal 3is one of my favorite examples of combining ideas to transform an experience in unexpected ways.
  • The terminal map feature in the American Airlines appis very helpful, even when you're not flying on American.
  • When I was eight years old, the Minnesota Zoolaunched a new wayfinding system designed by Lance Wyman. I did not know what wayfinding was at 8, but I know that I loved the signs and the way the shapes of animals were integrated into the system. I recently met Lance at the 2017 SEGD Conferencein Miami and had a great time speaking with him about the work he did there.


Describe the most exciting wayfinding project you’ve worked on.

I'm very drawn to the transportation work we've done as it is fundamental to the function of a city and connects directly to people's lives and their day-to-day activities. Early in my career, I worked on the World Trade Center Path station with Santiago Caltrava, which was incredibly inspiring. Currently we are working on Grand Central Terminal and 35 subway stations.

What do you hope to communicate in your session, “Transforming Public Space Through Wayfinding Strategy and User Research”?

The importance of connecting with, and designing for, the people who are using the space.

What are you most excited about for the 2017 SEGD Wayfinding event in Boston?

I'm looking forward to connecting with others who get as excited about wayfinding as I do!

Join Katie for the 2017 SEGD Wayfindingevent, August 17 (tours) and August 18 (event) in Boston. Tickets are going fast! Register today.

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Upcoming SEGD Events

2023 Careers in Experiential Design
2023 Wayfinding and Placemaking
2023 Experience Washington D.C.