Proximity was born with an ambitious goal: creating a free standard visual system which is consistent and simple to use. We want to create comfortable spaces for everyone, to help everyone stay safer in a correct way, while making the new normal natural.
Free: Proximity is completely free. All the design elements, examples and tutorials are freely downloadable at: www.proximity.design/download
Standardised: without a standard, shared signage project, everyone worked out a personal system, creating many different visual languages which are often difficult for users to understand.
Simple: when designing Proximity, we started by thinking at schools, because we wanted a visual language that is universally understandable regardless of age, language and culture.
Proximity also aims to an aesthetical purpose, a decorative function, for it is useful to get the user’s attention. Recurring and precise elements such as grids would be mistaken as “background noise” and would not be interesting enough to get attention. “Playful” design elements, on the contrary, keep the users attention level high and conveys a much deeper educational purpose.
We started by enumerating the huge number of activities we do in every single place we experience. We figured that it is impossible to address each and every possible situation.
Therefore, we summarised 4 main situations. These situation, while being nowhere near comprehensive, represent a great starting point for many purposes in every kind of environment.
- Walking Zone
- Attention Zone
- Queueing Zone
- Talking Zone
While working on Proximity, we figured out that we needed to abide to some fundamental principles. The system must use materials and solutions which are:
- universally available;
- very affordable (tape, paint, chalk);
- easy to apply and remote;
- versatile, adaptable to internal and external spaces;
- able to quickly change together with polices and regulations;
- visually effective (with no or minimal use of written words).
The shape of the arrow was an obvious choice, which we have depicted with playful illustrations, taking away the precision of the symbol. We imagined a “flock” of arrows that indicate the way, with the number of arrows decreasing along the path as you approach the destination.
We considered this component of the toolkit carefully as we wanted to clearly identify the route as a non-walkable space. The first attempt was to fill up a shape with symbols such as ‘+’ or ‘x’, but we concluded that this could have been easily misunderstood. As such, we opted to communicate the message using the “forbidden sign”; this approach, once placed in front of an object, was the most effective way of getting pedestrians’ attention. It helps people to understand how to carefully navigate the space, minimizing interaction at risky bottlenecks (i.e. entrance/exit, a bookshelf, a market stall).
We did not want people to queue back to front, we wanted them to look at each other, making safe interaction possible. Moreover, a linear queue requires a much larger space. The solution was written in the stars, more precisely, in the constellation. As we did for the other signs, the irregularity of the symbol helps people keeping a high level of attention.
Interaction and chatting is part of human nature, and is fundamental to addressing and designing any sustainable solution to social distancing in public spaces. We solved the problem in a very simple way: a series of squares of differing dimensions offer wanderers a space to stop and talk. We suggest disposing of the regular grid pattern, instead using the different dimensions to help raise the level of attention. This method can be applied in many different ways, places and situations- we leave it up to the users.