Background

GLIDE is a pioneering human services and social justice non-profit organization serving the most vulnerable and marginalized individuals and families in San Francisco, CA. Over the decades, the programs and services GLIDE provides emerge and disappear in direct response to the community’s needs. This means that the organization, which operates inside a building initially conceived for housing purposes, is in a constant state of change, operationally and physically. Departments and programs have been placed randomly around the building, wherever space was available at a given moment. 

These conditions plus a lack of signage resulted in all stakeholders (staff, donors, congregants, volunteers, service providers, program participants) getting lost in the building. 

GLIDE wanted to improve the navigation in the building through signage.

Challenges

How can we provide all of GLIDE’s constituents with the information they require to successfully navigate the building in a way that is accessible to all, and that is also easy for the organization to maintain?

Outcomes 

  • Ever-changing spacial and organizational configuration 

  • Multiple user types with very different needs

  • Users who are Illiterate and/or have other permanent and temporary disabilities

  • Dissonance between the institutional structure and internal lingo versus the way external users understand and navigate the organization and its services.

What I proposed, in short, was to choose program participants as the main users of the system and to center their navigation needs; to color code the system; to develop icons for all the programs and departments that provide direct services; to produce the system using adhesive vinyl; to make the nomenclature and use of language the closest as possible to what program participants and volunteers use; to rank and structure the information by floor first and then alphabetically.

Results

My role(s)

Design researcher

Visual Designer

Process

In addition to solving the navigation problem, through the development and execution of this project GLIDE is able to show the wide breadth of services it provides to all constituents (more often than not, every user knows about only one or two services.) Also, the icons I designed for the programs have been used in print materials and uniforms. Furthermore, giving clarity to the nomenclature and hierarchy assisted in giving structure to the redesign of the organization’s website. Lastly, the system also serves to strengthen GLIDE’s values and brand. Some of the feedback has been the space feeling more welcoming, warm, and pretty.

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© 2020 by Laura Cerón Melo.