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Navigating Life: A Taxonomy of Wayfinding Behaviours

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  01 February 2019

Andrew Barker
(Department of Typography and Graphic Communication, University of Reading)
E-mail address:


This paper presents a taxonomy of human wayfinding behaviours. For the purposes of this paper, wayfinding is purposeful navigating in everyday life, in man-made environments, traversing an environment or aiming for an objective with which the individual is unfamiliar. The taxonomy is developed through a review of wayfinding literature from research and practice, user studies conducted specifically for this research and a process of thinking by designing. This taxonomy can also be applied to navigating in documents printed on paper and on-screen, but this paper concentrates on behaviours in environmental space. This taxonomy creates twelve categories of behaviour differentiated by the characteristics of the information that they use. The categories of behaviour are also separated into three groups: social, semantic and spatial. This paper briefly describes and gives examples of each of the categories of behaviour. This is followed by insights into the behaviours from user studies conducted by the author. (This paper borrows its title from Cohen, 2015).

Research Article
Copyright © The Royal Institute of Navigation 2019 

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This peer reviewed paper was presented at the RIN's International Navigation Conference at Bristol, UK, November 2018


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