Tips for Improving Your Wayfinding Signage
Finding your way and knowing what to do in certain environments is a part of everyday life. Day to day, most people don’t even make it a second thought because they are probably used to a routine of going to and from familiar places where they know how to navigate and what is expected of them. However, when that routine stops and you enter unfamiliar territory, wayfinding systems come to the rescue. The more complex the location or higher the population of first-time visitors, the more important it is to have crystal clear wayfinding signage and systems in place. Locations such as airports, trade shows, state fairs, sporting and concert events, or even large corporate buildings are all common places that require wayfinding signage. The most effective wayfinding systems follow human behavior and share a few common characteristics:
- They come as second nature to the reader.
- They are consistently visually pleasing with clear, concise verbiage.
- Do not show unnecessary information.
- They utilize a hierarchy when necessary.
Adaptation of wayfinding signage is a common concern among those implementing the signage. If the wayfinding signage implemented is not recognized or understood by the majority of people, it can be an utter disaster of people not knowing what to do, where to do it, and wasting a lot of time (and dollars for your resources to tell them what to do and where to go). When you create a wayfinding scheme, take into consideration the way humans generally interpret the environment they are in. Three popular ways to create wayfinding schemes include:
1. Color-Coded Wayfinding
Color-coded wayfinding is one of the most popular ways to keep people following directions. Done correctly, it offers an easy way for people to distinguish between different signage types and can even affect moods. Color-coded wayfinding is truly a powerful force! On the flip side, if the graphics media is colored wrong, it can create confusion and have the opposite effect on your mood.
Color coding is a popular concept, especially for locations that are very large, possibly disorientating, and is frequented by lots of visitors. For example, a trade show may utilize a floor diagram on the wall listing all its booths as numbers and color codes which gives the visitor a greater cognitive experience. Then it may use non-slip colored graphics media to distinguish between various sections to ensure visitors are in the correct area. For example, booths in a certain section have one color non-slip flooring decal throughout so you can ensure you are in the correct place. Those with bad eyesight will be especially grateful for a color-coded experience. It can also prevent clustering by giving people a quick visual vs textual content to quickly move along their way. The sensory receptors we have in our brains are triggered by colors and this has the effect of what in wayfinding is termed environmental differentiation. In other words, this means we are able to differentiate different parts of the environment in such a way that we can better remember and find different areas or locations within a given space.
It is important to choose color combinations that are visually appealing and also work with your current color scheme and mood you want to portray. For example, “green and purple can have a stabilizing effect; red can create excitement; and yellow can encourage feelings of restfulness”. The idea that colors can be used as visual cues is a proven way to improve your wayfinding efficiency.
Color coding your wayfinding experience is an excellent aid to help people find their way. By using graphics media to put colored signage on the floor or wall, you can easily have the majority of people on track when they are traveling around your location.
2. Themed Wayfinding
This is an incredibly popular wayfinding option for countless locations! At Jessup, we have seen great themed wayfinding designs implemented for tradeshows, state fairs, sporting events, within malls, and even zoos. You can easily use non-slip graphics media cut to specific shapes that follow a theme and place them on the floor or wall to mark specific areas and include information for messaging. Themed wayfinding can also be made into a very fun (and functional) way for visitors to learn and get to where they want to be. In some cases, it can also give them a visual sample of what they can expect during their visit. Well-designed themed wayfinding signage enhances people’s experiences on both fronts while providing a pleasant, unique environment.
3. Conversational or Gamified Wayfinding
Keeping people entertained as they look for their next directional sign or read regulations has become increasingly popular. Conversational wayfinding engages with the people and also offers them a more memorable experience, which in turn helps them to follow your directions. When creating a conversational wayfinding experience remember:
- Display your directions as visually as possible. Incorporate things like pie charts, bar graphics, and funnels on your walls and floors. Even simple arrows can be effective. People tend to remember these as markers when it comes to directions and it also makes your location appear more pleasant to be in, even if you do have a lot of rules or information to get across.
- Keep your “conversation” concise. Remember our tips from earlier on only showing what the reader needs to know or do. People don’t want to stand around for minutes reading the directions, make it clear and let them keep on their way to keep congestion from happening.
- Show real-time progress. An example of this is if people are walking from a parking lot to sporting event. At the parking lot, you could put “Estimated Walk Time 10 Minutes” on a non-slip floor decal and then offer 3-4 minute updates on the ground or walls as they proceed to the sporting event. This could be implemented in any situation where a long walk might be in the visitor’s future. Think about airports, museums, state fairs, or amusement parks utilizing this kind of wayfinding and directional signage!
- Encourage readers to promote your building or product. This won’t make sense in every scenario but can be a lot of fun and offer free marketing if done properly. Offer a hashtag suggestion and provide photo op locations with graphics media to keep people engaged and remember where they are during their visits.
A great example of keeping things conversational with wayfinding can be found at the Copenhagen International Airport. Adam Marsh explains how they have basically gamified the passport control queue line with color-coded floor stickers and directions. The floor goes from red to yellow to green and during each section, it tells the people a different instruction so they are prepared when they approach the desk. By doing this, it not only ensures people are prepared but also improves the experience by making those in line more engaged and moving through the line quicker.
Through great design, wayfinding can make places seem friendlier and more accessible. The great thing about floor or wall wayfinding signage is that it is generally a small investment to make, and only presents a minimal risk, especially when the return on investment could improve astronomically. By minimal risk, it is meant that the only risk is the cost to designing and printing out the temporary wayfinding signage, which is actually one of the least expensive promotional display advertising tools in which a business can invest. Not only is the designing and executing of wayfinding signage inexpensive, it is also a quick and simple method of acquiring a much needed and very helpful promotional advertising tool that will dramatically increase company awareness and brand recognition.
Beyond these tips and techniques, it is imperative to have a quality material that you are printing your signage on. You will want to look for a material that contains printing components that will guarantee your wayfinding signage to last as long as you need it to, without having to worry about damage, blemishes, fading, smearing, or smudging from foot traffic, vehicular traffic, and/or inclement weather, such as extreme heat and sun or heavy rainfall. Depending on where you are putting it, you will also want to make sure the material is able to conform to uneven outdoor surfaces such as asphalt, cement and paving bricks. Often times, basic printing medium cannot offer the required quality that will ensure the longevity of your wayfinding signage or ability to work on uneven surfaces. Lastly, if you are focusing your wayfinding signage on the ground, ensuring that the material is non-slip is a great addition. When you invest in an advertising design, you do not want to worry about whether it can handle forces that could work against it. Asphalt Art® stands apart from other media for its non-slip properties, anchoring adhesive, and the fact that unlike other ground graphics, it does not require overlamination to maintain the printed image. No other media for ground graphics has the printability, safety, and ease of installation and removal as Asphalt Art®.