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Totetsu Training Institute wayfinding design by Motive Inc

Motive Inc bases signage for Japanese rail company on train tracks

Japanese studio Motive Inc has created a highly tailored wayfinding design for the training institute of railway maintenance company Totetsu Kogyo, using stylised floor markings to guide visitors through the building.

Located in the city of Tsukubamirai in Ibaraki Prefecture, the Totetsu Training Institute features flowing lines reminiscent of railway tracks embedded into its floors, leading the way to various rooms.

Motive Inc created the signage, which is shortlisted in the graphic design category of the 2022 Dezeen Awards, to embody Totetsu Kogyo's core identity as the company that services Japan's rail system and to inspire the trainees that frequent the building.

View of Totetsu Training Institute railway-style floor markings viewed from the second floor looking down
The Totetsu Training Institute features railway-style floor markings

The studio wanted the design to be intuitive to follow, with environmental cues helping to prompt an instinctual response while barely relying on text.

"When children see stripes on a pedestrian crossing, don't they try to jump over the white part?" Motive Inc founder and director Takuya Wakizaki told Dezeen. "Or if there are some circles on the ground, don't they play hopscotch?"

"No one tells them what to do, no one teaches them the rules. But their actions come naturally," he continued. "I always try to design in such a way that encourages unconscious action."

Lobby in the Totetsu Training Institute showing railway-inspired wayfinding markings on the floor
A design of flowing steel lines was embedded into the porcelain floor tiles

In addition to guiding people effectively around the ground floor, Wakizaki wanted the design to make an impact when viewed from above.

"We secretly but carefully considered making the rail and graphics look more beautiful from the upper floors since the building has an open ceiling space," he said.

The railway tracks flow continuously across two different areas of flooring in the building. The porcelain tiles near the entrance are embedded with industrial-looking steel lines while in the corridors, the pattern was created using vinyl flooring in two different colours.

The steel lines had to be laid at the same time as the tiles, which according to Motive Inc required "extremely precise construction accuracy" on the part of the contractors to perfectly fit the pieces around each other.

Corridor with vinyl flooring showing railway style floormarkings
In the corridors, the design is continued with vinyl flooring

In both areas, the lines have a reddish, rust-coloured appearance to evoke actual train tracks, while white text in Japanese and English denotes where the lines lead.

In addition to the railway tracks, Motive Inc's wayfinding design includes details made using scrap metal from the industry and a colour-coding system for the second-floor rooms based on the train lines serviced by Totetsu Kogyo.

The scrap metal features in the building's main signage, embedded in a concrete retaining wall at the front, while inside it forms the risers of the staircase.

Scrap rail metal sign reading Totetsu Training Institute embedded in concrete wall
Scrap rail metal was used to create signage

The colour-coding system includes corresponding key cards that open the room doors. Placed side by side, the key cards combine in a puzzle-like fashion to make route maps.

Wakizaki founded Motive Inc in 2019. The firm specialises in wayfinding design and has worked on projects in Japan, Romania and China.

Other memorable wayfinding projects have come from Australian studio Toko, which designed the signage for a daycare centre in Sydney based on colourful building blocks, and Studio dn&co, which created circuitry-inspired floor markings for a London tech hub.

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