GRAND CENTRAL MARKET

grand central market

Navigating Culture

Wayfinding in its simplest form is a system of creating ease. In this project ease was a goal in some respects but only to ensure that the journey itself was a path of non-linear and not necessarily efficient, exploration and discovery. 

Grand Central Market is more than a public eatery. A historic landmark of Los Angeles, its mission is to celebrate the cuisines and cultures of Los Angeles and to gather the city’s many communities around a shared table. 

our (broad) brief

To design a wayfinding system for Grand Central Market to aid visitors in navigating this crowded and sometimes confusing space. 

*Why not solve this brief with the common and obvious solution, a clear map of vendors and amenities?  

Because, through research, I found that the 

solution was not so obvious.  

The research process began with a contextual inquiry that aimed to truly understand how visitors used and navigated their way around Grand Central Market. Visitors were observed at different times of the day and on both

 weekends and weekdays. 

user pathways

congestion mapping

interviews were conducted with current or recent 

visitors to the market, workers at the market and an 

architect who helped give insights into its spatial design. 

“There’s mystery and excitement provided by that open, multi direction layout...Every time you’re going somewhere else within the space, you’re about to encounter something new and different that you wouldn’t have seen before.”

“The open [typology] is more of an adult playground.”

“The toughness of eating there is you kind of have to either stand around or hover over people possibly leaving to sit.”

additional research methods included: task 

analysis, social media reviews and competitive + comparative analysis.

Having gathered this wealth of information we began to categorize and distill it through processes of affinity mapping, empathy mapping and mind mapping. 

 So, where is Grand Central Market

actually falling short?

My research invalidated the idea that Grand Central Market needs a wayfinding system to vendor stalls and demonstrated that this exploratory process was one of the major draws to the space. 

Conversely, hard-to-find seating, minimal navigation aids and long vendor lines often detract from the positive experience. 

How can we improve this experience?

Reflecting on our insights, we focused on alleviating the frustration associated with waiting in line, finding a seat and navigating an accessible route. 

*We purposely wanted to leave room for the physical 

exploration of vendors by not emphasizing wayfinding to particular stalls, ensuring that one of the most positive 

experiences in the space would not be taken away. 

It's time to get DESIGNING

As we wanted people to maximize their time spent being present in the physical environment, we aimed to have the flow through the mobile website be as smooth and efficient as possible. Our flow was informed both by my research and also looking at other navigational flows through menus and streaming services. 

Navigating through a menu

After multiple rounds of usability testing...

look how it turned out!

Users can easily view the wait time for different vendors to help inform their purchasing decision. Playful graphics are used to indicate the types of food vendors sell as much of the experience at Grand Central Market is visual. 

Users can view the vendors and their respective wait times in some detail but information is limited to ensure that they explore the space and spend minimal time on their devices. 

The seating filter users LRS heat sensing technology to determine where free seats are and where people are likely to be leaving soon.  

The accessibility filter enables people to easily view the accessible route through the space for people with mobility issues. 

final thoughts

This project was an interesting experience in feature prioritization, primarily because of our key pivot; to not design a system for finding specific vendors as is custom in wayfinding for shared spaces. 

There is value in a discovery process and a space that enables people to experience a childlike wonder and curiosity. Grand Central Market is a rare space that achieves this, and this could be a contributing factor as to why there is currently only one map in the physical space.

Our final design thus strove to include only the key features that would allow people to spend more time in this discovery process, not provide them with so much depth of information that the space became just another where people were lost to their devices. 

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