Designing way-finding in the Thai context
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This applied PhD study focuses on navigation systems for the new Urban Transport System (UTS) in Khon Kaen city, Thailand. In 2017 Khon Kaen city will reform their UTS by introducing ‘Bus Rapid Transits’ (BRT), replacing the old local transport (Song Thel). The radical change to a whole new operating system will create a culture shock phenomenon in the transit usage behaviour of citizens in this community of about 250,000 people. A public transport map is a useful instrument that many experts in Western countries have studied and applied to bridge the gap between passengers and the UTS. The design standard of most graphical variables in these studies is based on Western cultures.These perspectives are very different from Thai and Khon Kaen (Isan) cultures. In particular, there are differences in individual cognitive learning, affecting long-term memory in the process of interpretations. The application of Western navigation system design standards to create readability for Khon Kaen passengers is not the best solution for understanding the new system. My development as a designer influenced the design development for creating a new public transport map in areas of the Khon Kaen municipality. I thought systematically through philosophies (co-design, epistemology and axiology) to cover the design framework, and participatory design, systems psychology and design theory, using what key ideas the Western paradigms could offer to my Isan cultural and Thai design contexts. Stakeholder analysis, human-centred design and information design assisted my inquiry into the knowledge base of the stakeholders in the community reflecting the local way of life, culture and perspectives of the Isan people. These human factors (variables) formed the original map design concepts in order to make identity sets of graphical materials reflecting the local people’s cognitive experience and meeting usability design concepts. After the evaluation of the final design, results indicated that 92.5% of the stakeholders recognised the usability of the original maps based on auditing concepts of efficiency, effectiveness and satisfaction. My research approach not only linked and enhanced the cognitive map (readability) skills of the target users, but also demonstrated how democratic responsiveness, community design ownership and cultural values in public space, could be applied in the Thai context in the experimental design of the new map model.