Different Wayfinding Solutions for Built Environments
Whether you’re designing a wayfinding system for a hospital, mall or office complex, the bottom-line goal is the same: to develop signage as part of a comprehensive system that helps people find their way around a facility with little to no stress or aggravation. Wayfinding is, however, one of those concepts where one size – or one type – can never fit all. Tremendous variation exists in how people use different types of built environments. That’s why wayfinding solutions for built environments must vary depending on the type of facility and how the building or buildings will be used and navigated by people.
Simplicity must be a common denominator between wayfinding solutions for otherwise different built environments, and it’s the concept of simplicity that distills the multiple variables involved in planning in order to come up with workable wayfinding solutions. These solutions, when applied to different built environments, must take different shapes. Wayfinding should be, at once, centered around the people who will be using the facilities and around the basic structure of the facilities. That’s why you can’t design a single wayfinding system that will suit the needs of colleges, hospitals, prisons and malls alike, though the wayfinding goal for all these facilities should involve making navigation as simple as possible.
Variations in Built Environments
Wayfinding in a hospital, for example, should be streamlined not only for patients and visitors but also for physicians and staff. The goal for wayfinding solutions in health care facilities are to help everyone get where they need to be, whether it’s a surgeon who must operate on a patient, a visitor looking for her loved one’s hospital room, or a patient who is on his way to the imaging area of the hospital to undergo an MRI. For many health care facilities, wayfinding is primarily an interior concern. Wayfinding for a college campus, by contrast, is both an interior and an exterior concern and has as its goal helping students and teachers get where they need to be in order to attend or teach classes, and to get there on time.
In airports, time is of the essence. Travelers tend to be in a hurry, and often, they’re anxious about missing their flights. Large airports can be complicated structures, and there’s much to be done before boarding an airplane: checking in, dealing with matters of security, and finding the gate from which a given flight will depart. Wayfinding solutions for airports require signage and architecture that help people get where they need to be in order to complete pre-departure activities, then board their flights in a timely fashion. By contrast, shoppers in a mall are less anxious and time-pressed and have come to the mall to spend money and have fun. Wayfinding solutions for malls can amp up the entertainment factor people seek when they’re shopping.
The best wayfinding systems arise organically from how facilities are built. It’s best when a wayfinding strategy is planned in advance, then integrated into the buildings that comprise a facility during the construction phase. Signage, then, complements and enhances the wayfinding considerations already present or built into the architecture. Again, these wayfinding considerations must differ depending on what kind of structure is being built and what function it will serve. Different wayfinding solutions for built environments are necessary because of variations found in the infrastructure of facilities and the psychology and needs of the people who will use them.
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