The making of the Yandex office navigation

Overview   Process   Real Life  

A customer contracts us to help with navigation in their new building which must make it feel “like home.”

To start-jump the job, the project manager and the designer struggle to find their way from a meeting room back to elevators. The building screams for some signs to point you in the right direction. Taking pictures of a couple of dozens of really tricky hallways, sourcing the building floor plans, and taking our time to think it through. The main challenge is that there’re no traditional, clearly defined rooms and corridors there: instead, all walls are curved and have different finishes, surprising open spaces pop up here and there. Think a pleasant landscape with zero hints on how to determine your location. First task is to find some key-elements to build the navigation system around.

First worthy concept—T-coding.

The second—the building rests on a grid of posts, which therefore appear regularly throughout the space, why not use them as mileposts?

Choosing the posts to link locations to and developing an “address” system with lists of objects in alphabetical order, thinking up some changing navigation elements, and searching for a theme for each floor to set them apart in a subtle, informal manner.

A “square,” “doubles,” “land,” “sky”:

Meanwhile, testing different ways of navigating visitor flow in the actual setting.

An idea pops up to use curved pointers that would resemble tree branches and would be intuitively recognized as directing towards and away from elevators.

Additionally, the maintenance openings in the ceiling tiles practically beg to bear some signage as well and serve the community in-between pipe service sessions.

With the structure in place, moving on to the floor themes, bringing up all we can think of regarding different numbers, and drafting the posts. Deciding to cover posts in marker-friendly material to encourage some “travel notes” exchange.

Defining the themes, making the posts more austere.

Developing some ideas around the themes and completing the forth floor.

Everyone really loves it. Looking for more metaphors to furnish each post with, designing the grid and drafting the layouts.

Measuring all posts, typesetting the design, and preparing layouts for the contractor.

Same with the “skylights”: photographing, measuring, making layouts.

Magnetic mounting and letters made of ferromagnetic vinyl:

Realizing that the major “intersections” do need floor plans. How about a mandatory fire evacuation and navigational plans combo, it’s a win-win. Working on plans for each floor and instructions for the contractors.

Coming up with themed arrows to support the metaphors on posts, they’ll direct public to a music room, gym, café, and such. Topping off the visual feast with “just illustrations.”

A bridge in perspective:

Throwing more “flesh” in: equipping each floor with a covert bike from a “boneshaker” to anti-gravity type. Researching the subject, drawing.

Moving to elevator halls. The floor’s main entrance is the place for the grand presentation of its theme. Typesetting the “table of contents”: the floor guides to be placed by stairs and the whole building guide to go by elevators.

The customer says they need just some decoration and no navigation at the elevator halls. Surprise, surprise. Inventing extra themes for the elevator halls to supplement the main floor themes.

The executive seventh floor needs something cosmic but within the budget. Brainstorming all things sky, paradise, weather, height...

Light animation:

Floor projection:


Drawing an enormous illustration the size of the whole stairwell wall. Having a blast stuffing it up with all kinds of cultural links, context rhymes, and web memes.

Picking lightbox colors and drawing pictures for the doors, elevators, and offices.

The customer wants us to bring the floor guides back and place them by the stairs. Satisfying the request by embedding them into the grand illustration.

Thinking on design needs for the facade and how to guide visitors to the main entrance.

Designing the entrance and the waiting room.

© 1995–2018 Art. Lebedev Studio