Wayfinding

Earlier this month, I had the honor and privilege of being asked to speak about Wayfinding for the Fashion Institute of Technology Graduate in Exhibition Design class.

The students were working on a project that challenged them to create a new Wayfinding system for the Central Park Zoo. Many museum or zoo visitors probably never think about Wayfinding. That is, until they get lost!

An effective Wayfinding system will Identify, Inform, and Direct. It's not all just words and arrows. Wayfinding can be architecture, lighting, color, icons, images, landscape, and signage.

Think about who your audience is. For instance, if you're developing Wayfinding for an airport, people are coming from all different parts of the world and speak many different languages. Instead of using words, use color and symbols. Many symbols are universal and can be easily understood no matter what language you speak.

Make sure your design is universally accessible. If you follow ADA guidelines, your signage will be readable by people with a wide range of abilities. Not just those of us with 20/20 vision. Think about placement. Can a small child or a person in a wheelchair see the sign from their perspective? Do the colors you chose have enough contrast? Is your font legible?

Consider the look and feel of your location. If you are developing Wayfinding for the Central Park Zoo, you want to incorporate their brand and image into the design. For example, a Wayfinding system for a hospital will have an entirely different look and feel than a Wayfinding system for an amusement park or museum. Make sure your design is consistent with the brand.

Though most people don't give them much thought, Wayfinding systems are extremely important. And if designed well, people shouldn't have to give them any thought. Navigating a foreign location should be effortless. As someone who is a frequent traveler and has to constantly navigate my way through unfamiliar cities and airports, I know how helpful a well designed and user friendly Wayfinding system can be. I also know how confusing and frustrating it can be to encounter a poorly designed Wayfinding system.

Nobody likes to get lost and Wayfinding helps us find our way. It keeps us out of danger, it informs us and directs us and gets us to where we need to go.