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Why do so many people get lost? What can they do about it? How can we design places that are easier for everyone to navigate?

For 30+ years, architectural sociologist Jan Carpman has planned and designed wayfinding systems with users in mind, and has made scores of presentations to both public and professional audiences.

Sample Video

From Interview on “Graceful Aging” Community Access TV. Host: Gregory Bator


Lost & Found
Why you get lost and what you can do about it

Help! I Can’t Find My Way Out of a Paper Bag
Tips for the directionally challenged

Are We Telling Our Customers to Get Lost?
Designing public and commercial facilities where everyone can navigate with ease

The GPS Led Me into the Median!
What wayfinding technology can and can’t do to help you navigate

“Directional Sense” at Every Age
What people can do throughout the lifespan to competently find their way around

North, South, Right, Left
What you need to know (and what you can fake) to find your way around

Take the B Elevators, to the Green Wing, to Otorhinolaryngology
Everything you need to know about health facility wayfinding

Jan Carpman’s Bio

Jan Carpman is a wayfinding expert with 30+ years’ experience on hundreds of projects in large, complex, public facilities. Believing that designed environments and their wayfinding systems should respond to the needs of the people who use them, she is proud to have involved thousands of users in her work.

A skilled speaker, writer, trainer, and coach, Jan is the author (with Myron Grant) of the award-winning books, Directional Sense: How to Find Your Way Around and Design that Cares: Planning Health Facilities for Patients and Visitors. She is a founding Partner in Carpman Grant Associates, Wayfinding Consultants, Ann Arbor, MI and holds degrees from the University of Michigan (PhD in Architecture and Sociology), Harvard University (Master of City Planning), and the University of Rochester (BA in Sociology).


Jan has a knack for explaining complicated concepts in down-to-earth language. Subtle humor and great graphics make her presentations fun, and her warmth makes each audience member feel personally engaged. Jan’s wayfinding observations and tips made me repeatedly nod my head and think, “Of course – that makes so much sense!”

Larry Friedman, Urban Planner, City of Ann Arbor, MI (retired)

A great speaker is not just a mouthpiece: she or he has deep command of a subject and a gift for clearly communicating the essence and relevance of that subject. Jan Carpman is such a person.  Most importantly, she is an extraordinary individual – one of the few professionals who have combined expertise in physical planning with social science analysis – whose wayfinding practice is creative, scientifically well grounded, and produces tangible successes. As a speaker, she is well organized, communicates visually to support key messages, paces her material well, and gives the audience a sense that they’ve learned something useful.  I recommend her highly for professional or public audiences.

Jeff Hayward, PhD, Director People, Places, & Design Research, Northampton, MA

Although everyone eventually figures out how they can find their way in public spaces, it’s not always obvious how design decision-makers should consider customer orientation in new or existing facilities. Jan Carpman has remarkable insight and experience in deciphering people’s wayfinding needs and explains how they can be met by design. She communicates these challenges with clear, compelling language and useful graphics. Her gentle humor and obvious passion for doing away with disorientation make her presentations engaging and enlightening.

Elaine Ostroff, Hon. AIA, Founding Director, Institute for Human Centered Design (formerly, Adaptive Environments), Boston, MA 

Speaking Experience

Invited Presentations

  • Adult Learners Institute of Chelsea, MI (affiliated with Elderhostel Institute Network)
  • American Academy of Health Services Marketing
  • American Association of Museums
  • American Hospital Association
  • American Institute of Architects
  • American Society for Hospital Engineering
  • American Society of Landscape Architects
  • Ann Arbor District Library
  • Architectural Institute of Japan
  • Arkansas Governor’s Conference on Tourism
  • Association pour la Sante Publique du Quebec (Canada)
  • Boston Architectural Center
  • Build Boston
  • Center for Health Design
  • Centre Scientifique et Technique du Batiment (France)
  • Elderwise
  • Environmental Design Research Association
  • Facility Management Institute
  • International Hotel, Motel, and Restaurant Show
  • International Institute for Information Design
  • JFK Center for the Performing Arts, Leadership Exchange in Arts and Disability
  • Lawrence Technological University
  • The Merchandise Mart
  • Nagoya University, College of Architecture (Japan)
  • National Academy of Sciences, Building Research Board
  • National Institute of Building Sciences
  • National Society of Patient Representatives
  • Public Works Canada
  • Society for Environmental Graphic Design
  • University of Kansas
  • University of Michigan
  • University of Michigan Osher Lifelong Learning Institute (upcoming)
  • University of Toronto
  • Washington University School of Medicine

Fields & Industries

  • Accessibility/Universal Design
  • Architecture
  • Arts administration
  • Campus planning
  • Commercial facility planning
  • Conference and event planning
  • Customer service
  • Exhibit design
  • Facility management
  • Gerontology/Older adults/Baby Boomers
  • Graphic design
  • Health facility planning
  • Hospitality
  • Information Design
  • Interior design
  • Marketing & Public Relations
  • Mixed-use development
  • Multi-family housing
  • Museums and cultural institutions
  • Parking planning
  • Real estate development
  • Retail facility planning
  • Sign design and fabrication
  • School design and planning
  • Tourism
  • Transportation planning
  • Urban & regional planning
  • Wayfinding technology
  • Zoo planning