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Better museum maps: an empirical study comparing the appeal and effectiveness of graphic design approaches

McIlwraith, A. (2019) Better museum maps: an empirical study comparing the appeal and effectiveness of graphic design approaches. PhD thesis, University of Reading

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Visitor maps are a key resource that many people use to facilitate their visit to a museum. This thesis sets out to understand how such maps are used by visitors, to investigate the range of graphic design approaches and elements that are employed in their design, and to consider how map design can improve museum visitors’ experiences. The research examines the range of information different maps attempt to convey, and the graphic means they use to do it, using of a corpus of around 250 contemporary museum maps from around the world. A historical perspective is also gained through an examination of the design of maps produced by two major UK museums throughout their history. Three linked surveys of museum visitors investigating the use of maps and digital guides reveal that, when using maps, while people are interested in navigation, their prime interest is what the museum holds. These surveys also reveal that, at a time of high digital device ownership and use, many museum visitors still favour printed maps over digital guide devices. Two empirical studies examine particular aspects of map design: the relative effectiveness and appeal of two-dimensional or three-dimensional depictions; and the appeal of two methods for labelling exhibition spaces (location labels on the map, and a directory-style list). The first study suggests that three-dimensional representations can better help people understand the layout of a museum, as they can more clearly show the building as a whole, and the ways of moving between floors. However, threedimensional representations can, in themselves, create complexity that make maps difficult for some users to use. The second study suggests that using a directory labelling system may mitigate this sense of complexity. This research provides insights into how museum visitors use maps, and particular issues in the design of maps that can impede their understanding of the museum’s layout, which can help map designers. The thesis concludes by identifying avenues for further research that would improve our understanding of design features that best serve museum visitors with varying needs and mapreading abilities.

Item Type:Thesis (PhD)
Thesis Supervisor:Walker, S. and Black, A.
Thesis/Report Department:School of Arts and Communication Design
Identification Number/DOI:
Divisions:Arts, Humanities and Social Science > School of Arts and Communication Design > Typography & Graphic Communication
ID Code:85343
Date on Title Page:2018
Additional Information:Redacted version. Parts removed for copyright reasons are: the published article filed at the end of this thesis.


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