TsunamiClear

Visual Standards for tsunami evacuation information originated from examining the taxonomy of semiotics and visualization currently used in two approaches of evacuation information; 1) city evacuation instructions and 2) airline evacuation cards. These two formats provided a comparison of visual representation and effectiveness, the influence of regulation (or lack thereof), and the assessment of path-knowledge for the people who access the information.

The application of cognitive phenomena was considered in assessing current models of information and potential of a redesign. Cognitive phenomena include collective behavior, tunnel vision, and issues in temporary cognitive paralysis. A cognitive recall study was completed in order to measure performance outcomes between audio ,written, and visual presentation of information. You can download the full case study and research support here: jaenichen_published_work

Visual Standards for Tsunami Evacuation Information project is endorsed by the California Governor’s Office of Emergency Services, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the United States Geological Survey, and the Design Network for Emergency Management.


In the beginning…Below are original public-facing evacuation instructions provided by Emergency Management agencies in the United States. I noticed that they are all maps. Why? Maps require a specific skillset to decode and gain meaningful information to the everyday person. They were also overall inconsistent in how they looked and read. They varied in density, color coding, typography, hierarchy, and overall symbology.

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Maps were tested in a cognitive recall study. We tested audio, written, and visual (TsunamiClear map) formats of information. Participants were able to remember information with more accuracy and for a longer period of time with maps compared to the other formats.

TsunamiClear maps below demonstrate the “branding” of tsunami evacuation information. The “look” of these public-facing maps stay consistent throughout coastal cities in California and does not require the public to learn a new visual language for each city. TsunamiClear maps are also schematic diagrams not based on GIS data. This approach prioritizes relative positions of main landmarks and directional evacuation routes as opposed to geographic accuracy. This concept was adopted from Harry Beck’s London Tube map in 1931 and used widely for public-facing applications such as transportation maps.

TsunamiClear has received recognition, awards and published in several academic journals and design publications including Wayshowing > Wayfinding II: Basic and Interactive by Per Mollerup (2013) and 2+3d Grafika Plus Produkt (Polish Design Quarterly) Issue 52. NR15 (11/2014):13 ISSN 1642-7602. TsunamiClear received the California Emergency Services Association’s Silver Award for the TsunamiClear campaign in San Diego County.

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Santa Barbara

Santa Barbara was the first pilot city to apply TsunamiClear visual standards and provided the platform to run the cognitive recall study with Chapman University.

Disclaimer: Tsunami information and inundation area is reviewed and revised regularly by CalOES and CGS. The maps below do not reflect the most recent and updated changes. Please do not refer to these maps in an emergency situations. Refer to your local emergency management department in your city for updates.

San Diego County

Here are a few samples of TsunamiClear campaign for San Diego County. It was the first full-county rollout supported which gained some media attention.

Disclaimer: Tsunami information and inundation area is reviewed and revised regularly by CalOES and CGS. The maps below do not reflect the most recent and updated changes. Please do not refer to these maps in an emergency situations. Refer to your local emergency management department in your city for updates.

san diego county-wide mailing to all coastal residents

Orange County

Disclaimer: Tsunami information and inundation area is reviewed and revised regularly by CalOES and CGS. The maps below do not reflect the most recent and updated changes. Please do not refer to these maps in an emergency situations. Refer to your local emergency management department in your city for updates.

Los Angeles County

Disclaimer: Tsunami information and inundation area is reviewed and revised regularly by CalOES and CGS. The maps below do not reflect the most recent and updated changes. Please do not refer to these maps in an emergency situations. Refer to your local emergency management department in your city for updates.

Northern California

Disclaimer: Tsunami information and inundation area is reviewed and revised regularly by CalOES and CGS. The maps below do not reflect the most recent and updated changes. Please do not refer to these maps in an emergency situations. Refer to your local emergency management department in your city for updates.

new tsunamiclear maps are currently in production…
check back for more work!