Wayfinding Signage Tips

How often have you visited a place for the first time and found yourself wondering which way to turn? Even when there are signs with maps and arrows, they don’t always give you a clear path to follow.

The Society for Experiential Graphic Design (www.segd.org) is a terrific resource that offers workshops, conferences and webinars for sign professionals to learn the principles of effective design, but there are some simple, practical guidelines you can follow the next time you are asked to help the public find their way.

  • Keep a Fresh Perspective—The first step is the research phase, which often involves a detailed review of floor plans, several site visits, and meetings with facility managers. When you tour the building, note the intersections where you must pause to get your bearings. Spend some time observing the flow of visitors and how they use the existing directional signs. Short messages, pictorial symbols and directional arrows make it easy to find your way.
  • Fit the Message to the Reader—Consider your “audience.” In hospitals in particular, visitors are more likely to be under stress or physically impaired, so simple, effective signs can literally save lives. Keeping the signs at eye level will make it easier for the elderly or infirm, who may find it difficult to look up while walking. The message must also fit the visitor’s expectations; if they are looking for the “X-Ray” department, but the signs call it “Imaging,” navigating the hallways will be a frustrating experience.
  • Give Them a Way Out—Once the visitor has reached their destination, they also need to be able to find their way back out, so exit routes need to be marked as well. The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) requires public use rooms and egress routes to be identified, but once other private permanent-use rooms are identified as part of a wayfinding system, those signs must also be tactile. The code clearly defines letter heights, spacing, fonts, contrast and placement of the signs, but there is a lot of flexibility in the use of colors, shapes and materials, so the signs can fit the design of the program as a whole.
  • Keep Up with Technology—Because of the prevalence of GPS these days, people are becoming better at reading maps, but they must be complete and accurate, and oriented correctly to the direction that the viewer is facing. Consider using a touch-screen directory that also prints out a map. A QR code printed with a directory cabinet might take visitors to a website with a map they can take with them.

For more information on this topic from Mardeen Gordon, click HERE.