generally refers to information systems put in place to guide people through a physical
environment and help them better understand and experience the space. Wayfinding
systems combine signage and map design, typography, color and symbols to
effectively navigate people through a space.
Wayfinding design is especially important in built environments and provides the visual cues for people to use to reach their destinations easily. They also serve to ease stress and promote wellbeing in such environments by making people feel safe and secure.
So what should you consider when designing your wayfinding designs?
When designing wayfinding options, there are five major guiding blocks to adhere to: create an identity at each location to make it easy to pick out or find, use landmarks to provide orientation cues as these will confirm to the person that they are at the right place, create well-structured paths or walkways to ease navigation, ensure each region has a distinctive visual character to allow the person to discern easily, and suggest as few/little decisions as possible so as to maintain an easy movement plan.
As concerns the actual messaging on your wayfinding sign:
v Write in headline text: Try your best to simplify your text into a short punchy output making it both concise and simple. It is possible to communicate well without necessarily including prepositions and extra words. Employ the recommended message hierarchy: headline, explanatory text, and lastly, a call to action.
v Keep it simple: Ensure your sign’s message is clear and without too much information. People tend to ignored signs that are crowded with information. The best way to ensure you are within acceptable limits is to apply the five-second rule, i.e. if you can convey your entire message within five seconds or less then it is ideal. If it takes longer, you are better off using a series of successive signs if you can’t shorten your message any further.
v Be specific: Make sure you give people the right message in just the right place. By applying narrowcasting you can work on including only specific details, in this case location-specific instructions only.
v Create a call to action: Any sign is ideally intended to get the viewer to do something; otherwise called the call to action. Your wayfinding sign needs to have a simple and clear goal attached to it.
Types of wayfinding signs
Wayfinding signs are divided into four distinct types: informational, directional, regulatory and identification. On their own, each wayfinding sign serves a particular purpose, but what is interesting is the fact that they are part of a seamless system and all inform each other. Informational signs give some more insight into an area of a building that a person may be in, e.g. building level (1st floor/ Basement/ 9th floor etc), services available, or the different stores on it (in case it is a mall, for example). Directional signs are like small markers showing a person which part of the building or premises to head towards or away from if they are trying to reach a particular section. Regulatory signs tend to remind the user on expected code of conduct around where they are. Some also double up to warn of any danger (e.g. wet floors, silence, no smoking, switch off devices, etc). Identification signs may also serve the same person as the Information signs but without detail. As the name suggests, they basically name the place/ section around where the person may be (e.g. Groceries/ Cosmetics/ Dairy/ Hardware sections in a supermarket, etc). In offices, there could be signs on doors marking the occupant’s title e.g. CEO, MD, HR Manager, IT Support, etc. All these signs serve as wayfinding aids and feed into each other to guide a person to reach their intended destination easily.
Examples of places where you are likely to find wayfinding signs are bathrooms/ restrooms, particular shops or stores in a mall, staircase, elevators, escalator, parking area, restricted area, reserved area, cash register, and many other sections within a bigger whole (building or store).
Creating your own wayfinding signs using cardboard cutouts
There are many companies out there that produce signage pieces, whether as normal/ basic signage or all the way up there neon signs. Once you furnish them with the information required and measurements, all you have to do is wait for your signs to be delivered and maybe mounted at the appropriate locations.
However, it does not always need to translate to spending money to have your wayfinding signs in place. The professionally produced signage doesn’t really come cheap, yet it is something that you can produce easily if you have the right tools with you.
Did you know that you can make your own wayfinding graphics out of cardboard cutouts? All you need is measuring tape, cardboard, cutting tools and a proper pen to write out what you need to communicate. Once you measure and cut out the actual size make great wayfinding graphics for use in all sorts of places. Just write everything out in large legible handwriting and then stick them onto the wall or hang them off a hook! Simple!