How to Improve Interior Wayfinding Signage

Anyone who has ever wandered the halls of an unfamiliar building understands perfectly the need for interior wayfinding signage. Many companies may not realize the necessity of creating appropriate signage simply because they travel those halls every day and perhaps the route from one place to another seems to be obvious. Not so. Nothing is more frustrating than being late for an appointment only to try to decipher confusing maps or discover unmarked passageways. Appropriate signage can make it easy for clients and visitors to find their way with ease. Creating attractive signage can also improve a company’s brand through use of color and design.

There are several types of interior wayfinding signs including orientation signs, destination signs, event-related signs, and regulatory signs. Sign makers constantly evolve using new techniques, processes and products to create attractive and useful interior wayfinding signage. Experts weigh in on creating new and improved wayfinding signage.

Adam Larson, SignPro Sales Consultant, discusses his company’s role in the market. “SignPro Systems, a division of Orbus Exhibit & Display Group, designs, manufactures and markets a user-friendly, versatile and cost-competitive line of way-finding signage solutions, through a network of professional dealers, on a trade-only basis.”

Jayme Nelson, Manager Public Relations / Communications at Fastsigns International, gives insight into Fastsigns: “FASTSIGNS has been involved in the wayfinding signage market for more than 20 years. As visual communications experts, we consult with our clients to understand what challenges they face when it comes to directing people and traffic at their places of business to increase how quickly, comfortably and safely people get to their destinations.”

 Finding the Perfect Balance

It is not uncommon for PSPs to find the need to use different techniques for various clients depending on their specific needs. Some clients may ask for straightforward signing while others may have special requirements for their businesses. Additionally, ADA signage is becoming more prevalent in the marketplace. The experts discuss their experiences in this area.

When it comes to choosing techniques for creating and reproducing wayfinding signage, Larson says, “We’ve observed a growing need for quick changeability of signage content and our front-loading curved system lends itself very well to quick updates, by simply removing one insert and replacing it with the next. SignPro frames are designed to accommodate a variety of substrates, from simple digital prints combined with a clear lens, to ADA faces, engraved plastics, metal and more.”

Marina Batzke, General Manager at American PERMALIGHT, Inc., adds a different point of view to wayfinding signage. “Instead of helping people find their way into a building, e.g., access to a hospital, then the way to the emergency room, PERMALIGHT wayfinding signage helps building occupants find their way out of a building, both with lights on as well as in full darkness.”

In order for PERMALIGHT to create successful wayfinding signage that is especially effective in dark or under lit areas, the company uses special techniques.

Batzke says, “PERMALIGHT signage is photoluminescent, a NON-electrical, NON-radioactive technology that functions even during a power failure, natural disaster or simply at night. Photoluminescent products absorb ambient lighting (e.g., fluorescent ceiling lights) and emit their bright yellowish luminance, when all lights are out.”

Nelson discusses how technique is based on the needs of the client. “The techniques chosen always depend on the client and their specific needs. For example, a grocer may struggle with making sure that customers are finding the products they are looking for. In that example, we might suggest floor graphics, hanging aisles signs or even ceiling tile graphics to better capture the customer’s attention. From there, we recommend specific parking lot signage, lobby signs and directories to doctors and health service offices, signs communicating how to go to foodservice locations, the chapel, gift shops, restrooms, tornado shelters and other important places in and around the hospital.”

When it comes to special requirements, Larson says, “We’ve recognized the growing requirement of ADA compliant signage and offer a system that is all around ADA-compatible, ready to accommodate ADA faces that can be produced with multiple techniques.”

Nelson offers several bullet points to consider when gauging special needs:

  • Knowledge of good design practices for readability and legibility, and for creating common, logical elements that can be used across the sign designs.
  • An understanding of where to place the signs to get the most user value (height, where on path of visit, etc.)
  • An understanding of ADA requirements

Nelson gives advice on attracting new clients. “By thinking outside of the box. Improvements in printing technology has widened the options available and opened up the possibilities when it comes to wayfinding. Almost any surface that is caught by a visitor’s eye can have a sign or graphic applied to it, directing them to their destination. Digital signage is also technology that can be utilized. Digital signage is ideal for wayfinding because of the flexibility it provides.”

Batzke also addresses the importance of knowing codes and where and when they apply: “The 2009 and new 2012 IBC – International Building Code and IFC – International Fire Code require Luminous Egress Path Markings in multi-story building stair cases to help building occupants evacuate from darkened assembly, business, educational, institutional, hotel/ motel, mercantile high-rise buildings. UL1994-listed signs and markings fulfill the Code requirements.”

Moving Forward

As businesses change and grow, needs for wayfinding continue to evolve as well. Larson points out some untapped markets: “We always point out how easy it is to get customers started with way-finding signage. Although industries such as healthcare, hospitality, education, sporting events, and property management remain heavy users of way-finding solutions any customer can make good use of a desktop welcome sign on their reception counter, and accessorize it with room identification signs, projecting or suspended, and directional frames, either wall mounted or free-standing.

Nelson states: “In every market, there are businesses and organizations that lack the understanding of the benefits of a good wayfinding program. Small to medium size businesses seem to be a little underserved when it comes to well-designed, well-planned wayfinding programs.”

“Additionally, there are replacement opportunities for locations that already have wayfinding sign systems in place.”

PSPs are always on the lookout for trends that may help grow their businesses. Lrson offers a few tips: “ADA signage and the need for interchangeability are big trends in the signage industry. As more companies and organizations work to update their facilities SignPro’s modular frame technology is a great option for a long lasting interior sign system.

Batzke says it is important for PSPs to keep up with code requirements and how they affect the industry. When PSPs are aware of these things they can venture into new markets. “States and local jurisdictions have started to adopt these code requirements and as new high-rise buildings are constructed, their emergency staircases need to get equipped with the photoluminescent signs and markings,” Batzke says. “Certain states also adopt the requirements for existing high-rise staircases.”

Nelson says, “There is more integration with the business or campus environment branding than in prior years, as wayfinding signage has become not only functional, but more aesthetically pleasing and tied to the organization’s brand look and feel. Wayfinding signs don’t have to be boring or clinical in look. They can be elegant, modern, classic—any style that best reflects the personality of the brand and organization—and they can be designed in a way that is an extension of the current interior and exterior decor.”

“Another trend is the types of signs and graphics that can be part of a wayfinding program. In the past, wayfinding often meant site signs and wall signs. Now, with the help of technology and some imagination, wayfinding has expanded to include floor graphics, wall graphics, suspended signage and digital signs (kiosks, digital posters and touch-screens) all applications that are more creative and flexible than before.”