What is traffic flow interior design?

Traffic flow interior design uses the structure of a building to encourage safe and efficient movement between locations within the building. Designers use principles such as connectivity, path choice, visibility, comfort, safety, rules of thumb, way-finding signage, etc., to create an inviting environment that encourages people to stay within it for its intended purpose(s).

Traffic flow interior design takes into account how many people are anticipated in the space at one time (density), how long they will be staying (dwell time), where they are coming from/going towards (origin/destination), what route they need to take while using obstacles or other visitors in their way (path). It also looks at the physical limitations of the space (for example, is there only one entry/exit?).

Traffic flow interior design aims to create an environment that will work most efficiently for its intended purpose. For example, suppose someone only needs to be in a building for five minutes (i.e., they are dropping something off). In that case, they do not want to follow a long path with many obstacles or be forced to stop and wait at several places along their way due to accommodating other visitors who might take longer than the desired amount of time. Those factors could result in them deciding not to use the building for its intended purpose, which is very inefficient!

On the other hand, if someone will be spending an extended period in one space(i.e., they are attending a multi-day conference), they might want to make use of the facilities (restrooms, food/drink locations, etc.) along their path; therefore, traffic flow interior design takes this into account when deciding which routes should be prioritized or simplified.

Traffic flow interior design is an integral part of the work performed by many different types of designers (for example, industrial/interior). It can be applied to any space with multiple uses.

The traffic flow interior design process typically consists of asking questions that will help determine the desired user experience or determine how much effort should go into designing the traffic flow (and consequently how it should be prioritized)

Who are my users? When are they coming? Where are they going? How long do they need to stay within this space? What path might they take from point A to point B? In what order should I simplify things for them to navigate this building/room/environment?

For example, should I prioritize the path leading to the nearest exit (in an emergency)?
What are the physical limitations of this space? For example, is there only one entrance/exit, or could there be more than one entry/exit? If so, where should these additional access points be located? Which paths will take longer because of people getting in other people’s way (i.e., shortcuts)? Does any part of my building have to remain accessible in case of an emergency (i.e., sprinkler system).

Do I want different routes for users with different needs and abilities? Are certain factors considered when deciding which way a user should take compared to others who may need assistance (such as elevators)?


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