Wayfinding is about more than just signs

As your recent article points out (Seamless Flow, DW 22 April), good wayfinding helps us to navigate in a way that is ’clear, visible and intuitive’. The transport sector, without question, has a particularly tough job to make this happen.

However, it’s worth pointing out that wayfinding involves a lot more than signage. It relies on the entire structure and design of the environment, which means everything from the floorplans through to all materials, the design and position of furniture, the lighting (both natural and artificial), fabrics and furnishings, sound design and signage.

Everything has to be designed to work together to ensure first-time visitors can sense their way around by intuition alone.

This involves logic and picking up clues from the environment. Inside a building, for example, vast spills of natural lighting indicate edges which you will walk towards if you are looking for a way out, but will head away from if you are looking for the central area.

Intuitive wayfinding experts also include sound as an important element, from the sound identity itself to how you sonically brand the overall experience. Gatwick Airport (and we all know how tricky airports can be to navigate) has already successfully experimented sonically with the new Pier 3, where you can hear birds chirping as the corridor opens up into a large glass atrium.

Signage is an important part of transport wayfinding, but it isn’t everything. Designers need to understand how people take an intuitive approach to their surroundings, and create wayfinding that is as much about the unconscious mind as the conscious.

Joanna Anthony, Consultant, The Team, by e-mail

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