Wayfinding signage is designed to help people find their way on properties both inside and out. It can be applied in many different ways including as part of the architecture, incorporated into landscaping, using specialty lighting, introducing art, or leveraging changing technology. The larger and more complex your property, the more wayfinding signage is required.
The purpose of your property also comes into play, as you might need to include not only signage for directing people throughout your area, but to also help them find key spots surrounding your property such as local transit. Here, we review everything you need to know about wayfinding signage and why it is so important.
Types of Wayfinding Signage
There are basically four types of wayfinding signs, which work together to help people find their destinations safely and easily:
- Directional: Directional signs literally point visitors in the right direction to various destinations on the property. Arrows are typically used to indicate where people should head.
- Informational: Informational signs include things such as maps, diagrams, and indices to provide direction for large properties such as malls, underground passages, campuses, or tourist attractions.
- Identification: Identification signs are labelled to scale in relation to the area they are identifying. They should be designed to remain visible to passersby so they can see their destination. They are often lit, and installed directly on or immediately in front of the location.
- Regulatory: Regulatory signs dictate where and how people can enter or travel on a property. Signs such as “Do Not Enter”, “Reserved Parking”, or “Enter at Your Own Risk” are examples of regulatory wayfinding signage. While they don’t necessarily show the way, they actually help by telling people where not to go!
Disability signs make it easier for people with disabilities to find their way to areas such as ramps or bathrooms, but also provide information using Braille. Properties are required by law to provide disability wayfinding signage to ensure those with disabilities are safe and accommodated. Some common examples of use might include:
- Room/floor numbers or letters in Braille
- Elevator buttons in Braille
- Bathroom signage for disabled stalls
- Indicating unsafe rooms such as IT, mechanical, or utility rooms
Wayfinding signs often begin on the exterior of a property to help direct people to the proper entrances. However, they also help keep visitors safe. Complex parking garages, for example, require complex, well-thought-out signage to help people avoid accidents. The wayfinding signage required for property parking should include:
- Indications for where visitors and residents park.
- Signs indicating which direction to travel when entering and leaving to avoid collisions.
- Clearly marked entrances indicating where they lead.
- Well-lit signs to show where elevators or stairs are located.
- Indications where pedestrians can safely walk.
- Areas where parking is prohibited.
- Level numbers or parking area letters, so people remember where they parked.
- Where payments can be made.
All of these signs help direct traffic (both pedestrian and vehicular) to keep people moving, and help them find their destinations safely.
Exterior Complex Wayfinding Signage
Large outdoor complexes, such as university campuses, can include wayfinding signage in their landscaping and architectural plans. A combination of large lit signs on or in front of buildings, as well as signs along pathways, help people find the areas they need to reach. They help improve traffic flow, and keep the community safe from taking less travelled paths where they can get lost or encounter risk for crime. Landscape and lighting elements are important, as they offer obvious cues to help define pathways. Lighting elements also act as identifiers when installed on buildings or at main entries. Well-planned landscaping that incorporates hedges and pathways in hand with signage work well to keep people on the right track. Signs installed on buildings can also be used as identifiers.
One of the most important considerations for wayfinding signage is ensuring their size suits their purpose. For example, a sign identifying a building must be positioned and sized to be noticeable from the street and sidewalks below. Once people enter the building, the signs become smaller. Often, identifying and information signs tend to be the largest, while regulatory and directional are made on a smaller scale.
Using Landmarks for Wayfinding
Larger complexes and outdoor properties often include landmarks such as sculpture or gardens to help in wayfinding schemes. While not signage per se, these landmarks make it easier for people to offer directions, such as “Turn right when you see the statue of so and so.” This can be a powerful addition to wayfinding schemes, as they offer memorable directional clues that help people remember how to find a destination. These landmarks also offer unique aspects to a property, which sends a message about who uses it, works there, or visits the area.
The Importance of Wayfinding Signage
Wayfinding signage serves three important purposes:
- Providing direction: Simply put, wayfinding signs show people where to go, whether they are in a hospital, hotel, campus, park, transportation station, shopping complex, entertainment venue, or an office building.
- Improving experience: People want to feel confident when visiting a new place. By offering wayfinding signage, you make it easier for people to find their way and provide an improved experience. The purpose of your site really doesn’t matter. What does matter is that when people arrive, they know where to go, avoid frustration, and avoid areas that are off limits or that could be dangerous.
- Mitigating risk: Using signage to reduce risk of accidents and injuries is necessary for just about any kind of property. From controlling crowds at concerts to directing people away from dangerous spots at a construction site, and from directing vehicle traffic in parking lots to helping people avoid areas at risk for crimes, wayfinding signage mitigates risk for accidents on your property.