Natural Wayfinding

The use of nature for modes of navigation is a trick that goes back thousands of years; the Greeks would map the stars the sun and the moon using these for directional purposes before cartographers began to map the world. Through evolution and the resulting digital age a lot of these natural navigation techniques have been lost to us due to the use of satellite navigation and even the paper map!

Tristan Gooley (2008) is among one of the only authors in the world with a book on natural Wayfinding. The book informs readers of facts that will help them navigate their way through the wilderness without the use of a map or compass. Such techniques and tricks as looking at tree stumps and locating which side the ‘centre’ of rings are closer too – always to the south side of the tree. Other tips such as looking for rust coloured lichen are given in the book, it states that this lichen hates to be touched by sunlight and so as a result will always grow on the north side of the tree. I find it really interesting to think that humans or more specifically the design team heralded by Calvert and Kinnear, have spent years trying to develop and perfect Wayfinding signage and techniques when there has already been a perfectly good system in place for thousands of years that nobody knows about or how to even use anymore.

In 2011, BBC 2 saw three celebrities taken out of their comfort zones with modern day Wayfinding to be put into the wilderness after a crash course in the natural techniques. They were told to find their way from one point to the next, only through using these methods that they were otherwise unfamiliar with. I thought it was a very interesting experiment to see how well they coped and I would like to see more tests done in this area to see how easy it is for people to switch back out of pictograms, signage and logic and find their way through natural means.


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