The Principles of Wayfinding Design & Signage
8 October 2021 6 min read
Wayfinding is a tool that helps people navigate between two or more points.
Wayfinding signage is an integral yet unsung part of everyday life. Airports, highways, shopping centres, hospitals and other facilities use systems of signs and other visual cues to guide users from A to B in the most efficient way possible.
Wayfinding Signage is valuable because it allows individuals to navigate unfamiliar spaces more easily and efficiently, making return trips easier and more pleasant for customers or visitors.
At its best wayfinding creates an excellent opportunity for companies to create more immersive branding experiences. When it comes to wayfinding it is important that the user does not have to overthink. Instead, you should create a visual communication system that is clear and consistent with concise messaging. It is also important that you only show what is needed. Any excess information will quickly become background noise and clutter in the users’ mind, ultimately confusing their journey.
An effective wayfinding design must be:
Keeping all of this in mind, these are the Principles of Wayfinding that should be emphasised within a navigation system:
Each location should have an identifying characteristic that sets it apart from all others. This allows the visitor to easily identify the location based on visual information. This core principle of creating an identity can be obtained through various methods, including colour schemes, unique textures, text styles or fonts. It is important to note that while your identifying marker must be easily recognisable, it faces the dual challenge of needing to be as unobtrusive as possible within the larger context of the environment.
Landmarks also serve an important function in wayfinding. If a navigator knows a specific landmark in relation to their larger environment, then they know their position and can navigate where to go next. Landmarks’ most important attribute is their visibility – this can help organise and define a specific area or space. It is however important to use them sparingly as too many landmarks can create clutter and make a location less unique or identifiable.
An important wayfinding principle is getting the user from A to B in a structured manner. A well-structured path helps navigators to maintain their orientation, allowing them to move from landmark to landmark without getting lost. Large areas, such as hospital wards or university campuses with multiple buildings, benefit from well-structed paths. With markers strategically placed throughout the route, location awareness is heightened, letting the navigator know that they are in the right place and heading in the right direction.
To assist with wayfinding in a large area, the area should be subdivided into smaller, easier to map out regions. Each region should have a set of visual attributes that define and set it apart from the others. There is no specific requirement regarding a region’s overall size; what is most important is that each is unique. With the regions divided, it is easy for someone to move from one space to another as needed. In an airport, for example, each unique region uses different identifying colours, indicating where check-in, security, and boarding take place. This provides a useful function while helping the visitor navigate the larger airport environment.
It is important to restrict the navigator’s wayfinding choices as much as possible by displaying only the most pertinent information. While there may be multiple ways to get from place to place, the space should be designed that only 1 or 2 routes are listed and defined. Limiting user choice prevents confusion and allows them to orient themselves to their surroundings faster. This principle is important if you want the navigator to experience something specific along your path. By eliminating the option for detours and keeping them on a primary defined path, they can establish an understanding of the space faster.
Decision points occur in areas where the navigator must decide to either continue their route or change direction. Wayfinding Signs at decision points help to provide more detailed information regarding what lies ahead on either path, helping to establish their own place while furthering the goal of getting them to their destination. A sign should have navigational information that is authoritative and unambiguous. If the consequence of making a wrong turn may be negative for the visitor or there is insufficient information available at the decision point, a sign is necessary.
At airports, it is critical that people can move quickly and easily around the facility as the consequence of getting lost is potentially missing a flight. This means multiple signs are necessary for helping people get to where they need to go while communicating to them that they are on the right path.
Here at isGroup, we create bespoke wayfinding signage which aligns with all core principles. We are experts at creating bespoke wayfinding signage designed to meet your exact requirements and user needs. With 40 years of experience, we know exactly what it takes to deliver your project on time and on budget.
isGroup’s flagship WAY2GO product range has a wayfinding solution to suit any environment. The WAY2GO signage range offers beautifully crafted, perfectly functional, and cost-effective wayfinding solutions. The WAY2GO system aesthetically delivers information in a clear and instinctive way to provide an intuitive user experience. These stunning designs are available to customise through a range of engineered or natural materials with a vast range of colours to suit any environment.