That Is Not A Bookmark

Loranne's Adventures in Librarying


This was originally posted in the Information Design blog as part of my coursework.

Fiona & Grandpa at the park

Fiona & Grandpa at the park

Taking readings both from last week’s coverage of wayfinding, and the Information Design Handbook’s chapter on aesthetic principles into consideration, I started thinking about something that we haven’t heard much about, yet. Periodically, in the reading’s coverage of aesthetics and visual cues, there would be a mention of impaired vision or making allowances in your design for the elderly. I started wondering about people on the opposite end of the age spectrum. What is it like to design information for kids? Combine that with our readings on wayfinding, and I started to think about playgrounds–specifically playgrounds that feature those massive, colorful plastic complexes of slides, ladders, monkey bars, bridges, etc.

As I started to think more about how designing a playground system might work, looking at pictures of playgrounds, I asked myself, how does a child know? What about this structure says to them “Climb here,” and “Don’t climb there”? Kids of all ages are in varying stages of testing the limits of the world, learning what works and what doesn’t. How does the designer communicate proper use of objects? The designer can’t rely on the reading abilities of all kids who might interact with their work, so they must communicate intended use without the help of words, right?

Image from

Image from

One thing I’ve noticed is that even playground equipment systems have a flow to them. Entrance points are usually ladders, exits are almost invariably slides. There’s nothing that says a kid can’t climb down a ladder, but slides are usually a more fun way to get around. There’s also nothing stopping the occasional contrarian from deciding to climb up the slide, but that usually incites the wrath of the kids waiting to go down it. It’s a bit like a large scale, 3-D game of Chutes & Ladders.

From the examples I’ve seen, it seems that some playgrounds use color as a method of communication, whereas others use it primarily as decoration, and as a method for marking the equipment as a “for kids” structure. In the picture below, for instance,  notice that all the ladders are brown, and all the slides are green. Contrast that with the photo above, in which I can’t really discern a communicative color scheme, other than “This must be fun, because it’s so bright!” The noise created by lots of bright, saturated color is what our culture uses to indicate that something is kid-friendly.

Image from AAA State of Play

Image from AAA State of Play

I can’t imagine that the designers of the above equipment somehow accidentally color-coded the pieces this way, and I wonder whether this design is actually effective. Given the comparatively dull color scheme, perhaps this one was designed more with parents in mind–for the people who supervise the children, or walk them through the playground. I think

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This entry was posted on March 7, 2012 by in animal and tagged , .
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