Does any body know of either:

1 / Any research which looks at the best ways to categorise and signpost items in a system with a large number of items ? (This could be in a standard software interface situation)

2/ Any application of this kind of research to Physical World environments ?

Background: I was reflecting on the ‘system’ used for signage (High Level through to Detailed) in a local supermarket: - The apparently random choice of high level categories / combined with the random use of colour coding / random use of fonts / font sizing / label location (ie above or below the item…) etc, etc drives me nuts.

It certainly wouldn’t be how you’d do it with an online shop.

  • 1
    It's designed to drive you nuts.
    – Erics
    Oct 22, 2011 at 10:57
  • You also have a large swath of stores trying to represent a unique brand. You can't think of a mall as an online shop, you have to think of it as many online shops. It's still confusing, but largely a result of the physicality (thus they're all in one place) and need for a unique brand.
    – Ben Brocka
    Oct 22, 2011 at 17:14
  • Googling I'm wondering whether this is covered by 'Semiotics' ? ( a subject I've never read up on)
    – PhillipW
    Oct 23, 2011 at 20:37

1 Answer 1


The field of knowledge that can answer your question is called information architecture. While there are some dedicated Websites around, most of this field's popular knowledge is still found in books. Information Architecture for the World Wide Web by Peter Morville and Louis Rosenfeld was a great place to start for me; it spends a lot of time discussing the nature of information and its organization as well as discussing the various patterns and systems people can use to find information.

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