A ===> B – Passini’s Wayfinding Theory

For our second blog assignment, the theory of information design that I picked to discuss is Passini’s wayfinding (or sign-posting) theory. I especially appreciated the ideals of this theory because it concentrates on the effective display and communication of information so that users can efficiently reach their chosen destination in complex environments. One of the dangers of information design is that we can become overly preoccupied with the production of information rather than helping our audience realize their destination, whether it physical or logical. In other words, in order for information to be beneficial, it should also be functional.

Passini’s theory exhibits several pros and cons that I share in the table below:



great problem solving techniques through step by step instructional approach variation in different culture’s use of symbols or visual cues can introduce confusion
wayfinding makes educated guesses for what decisions users will make to reach a destination variation in user’s cognitive reasoning skills can negatively influence outcome of decision
provides users an opportunity to visualize different outcomes with multiple options information can easily be missed or ignored if designed or displayed appropriately
strongly supports the idea that decisions are linked together to obtain a full picture/outcome

I think that Passini’s ideals can be somewhat displayed with this amusing baby care chart I came across. While I doubt someone would attempt to wake a sleeping baby with an air horn (at least I certainly hope not), this chart shows clearly the DO(s) and DO NOT(s) for reaching the destination of a happy and healthy baby!


On a more serious note, Passini’s theory can be displayed in a blog environment for any number of reasons; like providing instructions for the ever frustrating task of tying a tie or possibly selecting the best path for a family hike in the Adirondacks. Regardless the task at hand, sign-posting theory ensures that the information pertinent to a specific situation is more than just a pretty picture; it provides a clear path to a desired destination.

Works Cited:

Jacobson, R. E. (1999). Information design. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.


One thought on “A ===> B – Passini’s Wayfinding Theory

  1. Bev Shaff says:

    You did a great job of describing the wayfinding theory. You cannot get through life without signs to point you in the right direction. I like the way you separated the pros and cons in chart form, very easy to read and very clear cut. All though we may not really want it,there are many visuals with different outcomes with multiple options. Kinda scary!

    Last, Tom, I love the baby health graphic! Sad thing is, some of those nos have probably been done. 😦

    Nice job, thanks!


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