Singapore may be small in terms of land space but when you actually do come to Singapore and experience the country, it will feel like anything but small. There are a lot of spaces built up and designed to be big – often it is through stacking, use of underground but also, there are tricks employed such as placement of elevators, escalators etc that requires you to walk a lot more in order to get to a location where the displacement from your original position isn’t that much. Likewise, sometimes public transport routes are convoluted so it takes much longer to get from one place to another than if you were to just take a cab, ride a bike or walk.

And maybe because of that, we seem to have a lot of signages. To point towards different directions, to make sure you know how to take the convoluted path to get to where you want to get to. And when the paths are diverted, it becomes frustrating quickly, especially when signages are wrong or obsolete as a result.

A recent trip to Changi Jewel was insanely frustrating for me. I walked towards Terminal 2 (according to the signages) from the MRT station only to be told that I had to go to Terminal 1/3 side in order to get to Jewel. Then, I was looking for a place where I could call a Grab to pick me up at. I was told to go to the taxi stand but the doors which are usually for Grab pick up are closed because of Covid measures. And I kept going between B1 and Level 2, figuring out where to board the Grab.

A signage is actually a design flaw because if things are well designed, it should be quite intuitive where to go for what and roughly how to go there. Relying on signages is a result of poor or lazy design. Yet when we do fall back on a sign, we need to be careful about the investment we make towards the sign – how permanent it is and how responsive it is to changes. We need to make signages serve the people rather than the development.