Galactica’s Wayfinding


The Battlestar Galactica is a twisting and interlocking series of large hallways that provide walking access to all parts of the ship.  The hallways are poorly labeled, and are almost impossible for someone without experience to navigate. Seriously, look at these images and see if you can tell where you are, or where you’re supposed to head to find…well, anything.


Billy (a young political assistant steeped in modern technology) finds this out after losing the rest of his tour group.

The hallways lack even the most basic signage that we expect in our commercial towers and office buildings.  We see no indication of what deck a given corridor is on, what bulkhead a certain intersection is located at, or any obvious markings on doorways.

We do see small, cryptic alphanumerics near door handles:


Based off of current day examples, the alphanumeric would mark the bulkhead the door was at, the level it was on, and which section it was in.  This would let anyone who knew the system figure out where they were on the ship.

Labeling doors like this led to Billy accidentally entering a bathroom without any clue what was behind the door.


Effective Wayfinding

People moving through labyrinthian spaces need to know two things from their environment: Where they are, how to get wherever they are going.  Presumably, the Galactica has such a cryptic system because it was an active warship and didn’t want an enemy boarding team to find a “This way to the CIC!” sign.

With its transition to a museum, the Galactica should have had more effective signage added.  In her introduction, Laura Roslin said she wanted to put in a fully networked system of digital signage, but this would likely be overkill for the situation.  

Given its purpose as a warship, the Galactica should have been built with major corridors, minor corridors, and maintenance access.  Good signage could direct people to the major corridors from anywhere in the ship, and then only the major corridors would need specific signage to get visitors to other sections of the ship.  Supplemental signage could provide direct line navigation to interesting points such as the CIC.

Cryptic labeling is fine for a highly trained workforce, but is inadequate for the majority of visiting users.

2 thoughts on “Galactica’s Wayfinding

  1. It looks like there was a significant twitter conversation about this topic started by @walkyrjenny here:

    I agree with the points on both sides and definitely think that the signage should relate to what the ship’s purpose is. For a warship, the cryptic numbers are acceptable and likely valuable for its mission. For a museum, they’re distinctly lacking.

    Overall, great discussions so far!

  2. I got to spend a night on an American Navy aircraft carrier and noted that somewhat cryptic (to the uninitiated) location information was stamped on every wall and door. Interesting that Galactica didn’t follow that same military-style protocol.

Leave a Reply