Friday, 24 February 2012

Lost in navigation

I had the great pleasure last night to attend a talk by Tristan Gooley, (explorer, writer and navigator) on the subject of 'natural navigation'. This was the first event organised by the new SEGD, (Society for Environmental Graphic Designers) branch for Edinburgh, chaired by my friend Lucy and sponsored by Napier University who provided the wonderful 'Egg' lecture theatre as venue.

And what better subject to kick-start the series of talks, than taking us back to the very roots of wayfinding, literally in some instances, and to the navigational techniques that our ancestors used for millennia but are sadly now a dying art across all cultures. In our increasingly satellite guided GPS world, he took us back to nature and showed how to interpret the wealth of information around us in the landscape.

Tristan Gooley is on a one man mission to keep these skills alive, though I think he may have gained some willing new disciples from within the auditorium. He unpretentiously introduced the simple art of looking. The clever bit is then translating what we see into navigational clues that can accrue into practical directional knowledge. Using a crescent moon to find south, what asymmetry in the countryside is saying and what the timing and flight paths of certain seabirds can tell us on the open sea regarding land. This was fascinating, inspiring stuff and will I'm sure feed intuitively into the design of future wayfinding projects.

Gooley has a couple of books out, both now on my reading list, The Natural Navigator and The Natural Explorer. Now I know what I'm looking for, a walk in the country will never be the same again - especially for the kids as I casually introduce my new found expertise.

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