Profile - Dr Upali Vandebona

Dr Upali Vandebona

Dr Upali Vandebona

Senior Researcher
BSc,University of Ceylon, Peradeniya, Sri Lanka 
MEng, Asian Institute of Technology, Bangkok, Thailand 
PhD, Monash University, Melbourne, Australia

Area of Interest: Signage systems

It is a transport planner’s dream to have fully functioning and completely reliable transport infrastructure – and in some cases this may exist. But what does this efficiency mean if the system is not being optimised by its users? Dr Upali Vandebona, Senior Lecturer in transport at UNSW Australia, School of Civil and Environmental Engineering, is looking at ways transport systems can be improved through the optimal use of signage and directional information.

Relative to other transport infrastructure, the cost of signs is low. So if the user’s experience can be optimised through the choice and placement of signage, Dr Vandebona believes he can make a real and inexpensive difference to a system’s efficiency.

“The strategic distribution of appropriate signage should make access to a facility easy to the vast majority of network users,” said Dr Vandebona. “So we are asking the question what is the optimum quantity and distribution of direction signs?

Different people have different expectations from signs depending on their familiarity with the network. Therefore, Dr Vandebona’s approach is to first identify sub-groups of users and focus on specific objectives relevant to those groups.

“We don’t start with the sign itself,” he said. “We start the design process by looking at the person and what information they require at different times.”

There are numerous possibilities when it comes to choosing types of signage – from traditional fixed signage that shows static or variable messages to an increasing number of new media and signage technologies. Although Dr Vandebona believes we will never completely eliminate fixed signage he thinks a serious rethink of conventional signs is required in the face of other media available to many users.

The aim of the research is to develop a framework for the optimal design of signage that can be used by future transport planners. Dr Vandebona hopes to be able to specify a suite of signs and media that is appropriate for particular problems and situations – including the optimum type, shape, delivery technology and quantity of signs in the context of target sub-groups, message content and budget.

As part of his research he also wants to introduce a cost-effective method of monitoring the effectiveness of signs so the process of improvement can continue indefinitely.