symbols: a case study
in India is constrained by factors arising from the very diverse cultural,
traditional, lingual and social backgrounds of its people - resulting
in potential as well as real situations of communication impasse. A drawback
of no mean proportion, it is related to the simple linguistic and cultural
fact that in India, there are as many as 14 major languages and about
1,600 dialects. Secondly, many of its adults are perhaps functionally
literate but are literally illiterate. Thirdly, people do not communicate
easily because of boundaries determined by the cultural-traditional-social
denominators of gender-divide that limits the free mixing between the
sexes, or among different castes or religious communities.
the very outset it was discovered that there was no existent data pertaining
to the problem of message communications in the domain of health-care
services. One reason for this being that at the time of our study, Indian
hospitals by and large, did not employ any system of symbols. Five major
hospitals run either by the government or the municipality within the
city limits of Bombay were therefore chosen for a study of the potentials
of symbol development. The results of the study revealed that there were
several problems deriving from the absence of a sign system: There was
a great degree of confusion that resulted from using a number/numerical
system for identifying the departments, counters, etc. It was found for
instance, that 35-40% of the first -time users coming to a hospital to
utilize health services, invariably ended up standing in the wrong queues.
This not only caused loss of time for the user but also undetermined efficiency
as a consequence of the considerable confusion and delay caused on both
sides- on the part of the patient, as well as on that of the hospital
staff. Since the queues were lengthy on account of high patient turnouts,
the patient often wasted over half an hour to simply realize this error.
It was felt that visual symbols, appropriately used could go a long way
in ameliorating these avoidable conditions.
the approach was the creation/generation of a large set of possible solutions,
which were to be narrowed down, and graphically refined until the final
set emerged. The design solution also involved a dialectical movement
between the user and the designer, and each stage of the process was modulated
by responses from the users.