Mapping a Path to Better Wayfinding

In today’s fast-paced world, it’s more important than ever for people to be able to figure out where they are headed quickly and easily. Whether someone is rushing to a session at a business expo or running late for a doctor’s appointment, it is critical that he or she is able to get there successfully, experiencing as little frustration as possible to ensure repeat business.

That’s where interior wayfinding comes in. And while the need for direction has existed for virtually as long as there have been facilities with multiple buildings or rooms, most customers still don’t fully understand the opportunities and the challenges presented by this specialty design field.

That’s why it is important to consider a number of factors prior to developing any wayfinding graphics. By thinking about the bigger picture, business and property owners or managers can ensure they have a smart wayfinding strategy that is both functional for the end user and supports their marketing goals. A few factors to consider include:


Brand Aid

While the primary mission of wayfinding and environmental graphics is to guide people where they need to go, these graphics also present a great opportunity to reinforce the brand and design intent of the larger project. With today’s sophisticated new materials, customers have more options than ever to support their brands through signage. By choosing from elements like dimensional lettering, unique lighting and diverse materials including metal, acrylic, and wood, a business can align its signage to convey its brand essence.

For instance, recently a major cruise line needed directional signage for its private island in Haiti. While the purpose of graphics was to provide approximate walking times and to identify the location of attractions, the overall look and feel of the signs that were developed reinforced the feel of being in the islands, using materials designed to mimic driftwood and a treasure map design.



Contrary to what some property owners think, wayfinding is not a “once and done” project. The people who work in a building are constantly changing, and it is not unusual for entire departments or offices to move to accommodate fluxes in growth. Facilities like convention centers are a revolving door for groups, and need signage that can be updated daily or even hourly.

But by planning ahead, business owners or facility managers can adapt to these constantly shifting conditions without having to invest in all new signage with every personnel or organizational change. A large Florida medical center recently developed signage for three medical office buildings and a medical mall and, knowing that turnover was an issue, contracted for suite identification signs that allowed for frequent changes in doctors occupying the spaces.

By choosing from a wide variety of product options including freestanding frames, pedestal signs, and lightboxes, it’s possible to achieve maximum flexibility at the minimum cost.


Regulatory Signage

Virtually every business or facility is bound by some sort of regulatory restrictions on interior wayfinding signage, which is why it is particularly important to ensure that any signage developed meets the latest local regulations. When designing interior wayfinding graphics, be careful to follow all local regulations, including ADA and OSHA compliance, to avoid unnecessary fines. For example, signs may need to feature tactile Braille lettering, or be placed at a height that is visible to those in wheelchairs. Other areas that typically require signage to meet ADA requirements include restrooms, emergency exits, parking facilities, and entryways. No smoking, evacuation maps, and other safety signage may also be required.

And while most OSHA signs must meet a certain size and color requirement, remember it’s possible to add custom design elements to ensure these signs aren’t boring, but rather reflect each unique brand.


Off the Wall Ideas

While many people assume directional signage should be on walls, the latest graphic materials allow for innovative new ways of directing visitors through a space. While traditional wayfinding tools such as walls and other eye-level signage can be effective and needed to meet ADA and other requirements, don’t underestimate the power of graphics placed elsewhere, such as the floor or even on windows.

In fact, floor graphics can be a great way to meet OSHA requirements that exit paths be clearly identified. They can also serve as a great marketing tool to direct visitors to a gift shop, cafeteria or other revenue area.

Finally, when designing wayfinding signage don’t forget to make it intuitive for users to follow and understand. By using color-coding to identify certain departments or including design elements that reinforce the function of an area, it is possible to subtly reinforce the text on a sign to make navigation even easier for visitors.

While there are many other elements to consider when developing wayfinding graphics, these talking points provide a great starting point and can help to frame the blueprint for a successful project.