Sunday, January 23, 2011


One of the oldest and most unique concepts in existence, mazes are associated with everything from children's games and puzzles to unknown horrors and sheer terror. Like their use in video games, psychology experiments, or the embellished labyrinth of Theseus and the Minotaur fame, mazes are seductive as they allow us to flirt with one of our most primal fears: being lost. The better mazes however realize that trying to remember your path as you navigate from point A to point B is only half the excitement. What defines a maze are the methods of distraction; the obstacles and challenges along the way that impede your ultimate goal of escaping.

From the Daily Mail I found this article about Ikea's strategy for losing customers in their store mazes. That they have trouble finding their way out, and are confronted with an array of time and money consuming diversions, is precisely the point.

It's more common to see these superstores with maze style floor plans rather than the traditional symmetrical grids. We have all felt the general and immediate sensations of being lost in these places, and we all know it's deliberate. Businesses spend a small fortune hiring companies to not only optimize the last square foot of their floor spaces, but to also look for all possible ways to delay your exit.

For anyone who has worked at or frequented a casino, the use of mazes as customer traps is hardly novel. Everything from the gaming tables and the slot machines to the lunch buffet and the entertainment stage is strategically placed to confuse and entrap people into not just spending their money, but actually losing it.

Pharaoh's Palace in Macau, China

With no windows, overspaced layouts, mirror walls, optical illusions, repeating and hypnotizing patterns on the floor, walls, and carpet, casinos are the masters of customer maze manipulation.

The Flamingo in Las Vegas

The MGM in Las Vegas

Main casino floor of MGM, Macau Peninsula, China
This travel blog photo's source is TravelPod page: 'Picture Me Rollin'

The Wynn in Las Vegas

Main casino floor of Wynn. FANCY!, Macau Peninsula, China
This travel blog photo's source is TravelPod page: 'Picture Me Rollin'

Casinos play on the same idea of endless depth that you see in popular mirror mazes. The first photo is the from the Petrin Hill mirror maze in Prague, Czech Republic. The second photo of The Mirror Maze in Lucerne, Switzerland I found from a site that has a terrific progression of mazes and labyrinths from as far back as 20000 BC.

British maze designer Adrian Fisher explains the wonder of mirror mazes:

The amusing thing about a mirror maze is that whichever way you turn, and however far you go, you're always looking in the wrong place.

Though I had heard of the popularity of hedge mazes in the U.S. and Europe, I didn't realize there were so many, and in so many unique designs. This video is an amazing (ugh) Google Earth journey of several dozen of these outdoor mazes.


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