Indoor Wayfinding

Project Overview

Meet the Team

Asher Friedman: Asher grew up in Texas with an international and intercultural family. He has always found himself a member of two worlds with strong interests in technology and creativity. He received his Bachelor of Science degree in electrical engineering from Texas A&M. After working in Austin, Texas for three years at an MEP Design firm, Asher located to NYC to get a Master of Science in Integrated Digital Media from New York University. With his two degrees and his engineering knowledge, he hopes to create an exceptional user experience design that is all inclusive.

Lucas White:

Jenny Liang: Jenny is a senior studying Computer Science and Economics at the College of Arts and Sciences at New York University. She enjoys programming, hacking, and tinkering with new technologies.

The Wayfinding group is tasked with improving maneuverability throughout the museum for people with visual and mobility impairments. Continuing a series of onsite observations, interviews, and user-tests, this group is experimenting with materials and signage to develop a communication and navigation system unique to the Cooper Hewitt.

The team’s first step was to conduct contextual inquiries to determine all the museum’s areas of improvement. Based on these observations, research was conducted to determine possible low-tech and high-tech solutions. The team would also tour other museum’s to reveal what methods are being offered elsewhere and to discover what technology could be used in an unconventional way to produce realistic results.

A couple of prototypes were created to demonstrate a combination of possible solutions.


Setting up our prototype was a two-step process. First, a piece of string was taped to the floor providing an initial path for us to follow and creating a raised surface. Second, a special type of tape was placed over the string and taped down. The tape is unique because it has a surface similar to sandpaper to provide a substantial amount of friction. Because of where the prototype was tested, we could not adhere the sandpaper-tape directly to the ground. Therefore, the entire prototype had pieces of blue painter’s tape periodically placed over it to provide some level of security.

Initial design ideas for a way-finding method involved putting a piece of string on the ground for people with visual impairments to follow. Different thicknesses of string were tested and it was determined that a string of at least one quarter inch diameter was needed. However, once the string was incorporated with the sandpaper-tape, a third of that thickness was sufficient.

As part of the way-finding experience, a plate with raised numbers was conceived so that a user could input the number and gather information about the exhibit they are in, the art they are facing, and their position relative to the rest of the room.



Upon testing the sandpaper tape with users with visual impairments, we found that there were some serious issues with our sandpaper tape paths concept. In particular, one user had trouble finding the difference in texture with their white cane because the sandpaper strip was too small. While the other user found it easy to follow the path (because of a different white cane usage strategy), both were dismayed by the lack of independence they had when being forced to follow a path. One user felt the most important thing a wayfinding app should do is orient the user in the room, while the other felt a GPS-type approach to wayfinding would be most effective for navigating the museum. In immediate ideation with the users, we came up with some interesting concepts to pursue, including greater usage of beacons to triangulate position, and an idea to use magnets and a metal-tipped white cane to indicate a path.



Through our research and user testing we have developed a methodology to improve the way-finding experience at the Cooper Hewitt. Our solution involves a low tech and high tech approach to utilize alternate senses and technological advances.

The most straight forward approach is also easily implementable: a raised surface or texture on the museum’s floor will help people with visual impairments aware of art installations around them. This technique is utilized throughout all the pedestrian avenues in New York City and around the world.

The second aspect is to incorporate Beacons with the Cooper Hewitt floor plan. Beacons are a small, unassuming technology that sends small packets of information to a receiver, such as a smart phone. Using Beacons will allow patrons to freely maneuver the museum and always be aware of their location.

This combination of micro- and macro-navigation approaches will inform the user regardless of their location in the Cooper Hewitt.

Fine Tuning the Way-Finding Experience

Raised floors

Jutting out from wall/tables

chair locations

Audio on TV / Subtitles


Power cables (tripping hazard)

Floor plan optimization (radio room columns)

Touch screen requires a lot of pressure and dexterity

Signage (elevator, bathroom, etc.)

Help Desk