“Where will this train take me?” “Will I make it to my appointment on time?” “Can I use my wheelchair on this bus?” – these are just some of the critical questions wayfinding answers for public transport users. 

Through carefully planned signage, information points and navigation, wayfinding provides public transport systems with a face and voice to help people of all abilities navigate systems safely, intuitively and cohesively. 

Giving Adelaide wayfinding consistency by transport consulting

Adelaide’s approach to wayfinding was inconsistent, making it difficult and confusing for people unfamiliar with the city to make quick and accurate transport decisions, often resulting in stress and anxiety for people with limited mobility. 
In 2020, we partnered with the Government of South Australia’s Department of Infrastructure and Transport and local design studio, Arketype Industrial Design, to develop the state’s first Wayfinding Rulebook specific to public transport. We provided transport planning, user experience, wayfinding design and project management to create a rulebook which improves the commuting experience, encouraging more people to use public transport. 

The Rulebook considers the entire commuter journey, from multiple perspectives, from trip-planning through to interchanging and the last mile of reaching a destination. Adelaide’s commuters and visitors now have a simpler wayfinding system with clean and simple signage, and information points helping make Adelaide a more user-friendly, safe, accessible and liveable city.

Improving the public transport customer experience and increasing public transport patronage are key objectives of both the Department for Infrastructure and Transport (DIT) and the South Australian Public Transport Authority (SAPTA). The Rulebook has enabled DIT and SAPTA to deliver a consistent suite of signage across the Adelaide Metro network.

Paul Silvestri

Network Planner, South Australian Public Transport Authority

A collaborative and comprehensive wayfinding design approach 

Good wayfinding design considers the entire passenger journey, from trip planning through to interchanging and the all-important last mile of reaching a destination. It also considers the journey from multiple perspectives, ensuring people of all ages and abilities can travel with safety and ease.

To create a rulebook that reflected this, we formed a collaborative, integrated experience design team bringing together our transport planners, experience designers and project managers. To understand the customer journey, we instigated a three-stage process involving our team, the client, and Arketype Industrial Design:

  1. Project definition workshop: a collaborative workshop to agree on the project vision, scope and problem, and working approach.
  2. Walkshop: together we walked around sites across Adelaide to experience what it was like to catch public transport. We discussed the challenges, pain points, and opportunities and gained appreciation and empathy for commuters.
  3. Customer journey workshop: using the walkshop insights we brought in technical insights from our client’s network planning, asset management, customer satisfaction and disability access experts and our team to define the customer journey and create a consolidated customer journey map to inform the wayfinding design.

Prototyping to create inclusive and community-led design outcomes

To ensure our design reflected the lived experience of public transport users in Adelaide, we needed to test our wayfinding design with real people catching public transport.

Working with the South Australian Public Transport Authority disability access and inclusion leaders, we held a customer diversity and inclusion workshop to test our customer journey map against best-practice research in universal design. Creating personas helped ensure we included a range of use cases, ages and abilities in our design considerations.

Using temporary signs, over a two-week period, people used our wayfinding design and provided feedback through a form, accessed via a QR code. Over 200 feedback responses were collected from the community and used to inform the Wayfinding Rulebook. The feedback was overwhelmingly positive, validating the value of our design approach.

Improving South Australia’s public transport experience

The Wayfinding Rulebook is now embedded into all South Australian public transport projects. Since 2019, over 3,000 bus stops, eight bus interchanges, 15 train stations/tram stops, timetables, maps, promotional campaigns and disruption signage have been updated in line with the rulebook.