Converting the Science of Wayfinding into Practical Art
On the surface, facilitating the movement of people from one area to another seems like a relatively simple task. But wayfinding, like any practice involving the accurate conveyance of detailed information, requires extensive advance planning. In order to provide the public with the best possible directions, statistics and observations concerning local landmarks and culture must first be gathered and evaluated, long before the implementation of any kind of signage. Only then can this knowledge be transformed into a helpful, coherent and aesthetically pleasing final product. The following are some facts to consider in attempting to convert the science of wayfinding into a usable art form.
Geography is integral
Wayfinding, at its core, utilizes basic geographical principles in order to provide information to people. Often, this type of signage includes maps that share many similarities with traditional cartographical maps. Take, for example, a directional sign in a shopping mall that offers an aerial view of the individual businesses contained therein. Such a display usually contains an orientation key, complete with a marker that indicates where a person is standing with regard to his surroundings. Consequently, navigating one’s self accordingly requires only a rudimentary understanding of spatial relations. In order to enhance this sort of directional sign, you can entertain the notion of adding various symbols, such as numbers to correspond with their respective stores or color-coded displays to designate business types. High-contrast versions of these, in addition to complying with ADA standards, are user-friendly and easier to peruse.
Precise language is crucial
Because the creation of a visually arresting image is such an important component of wayfinding, sometimes it can supercede actual content. However, proper usage of language is essential and should never be overlooked. Adherence to the science of linguistics not only guarantees quality control, it also reinforces trust in your brand. In other words, when a cluttered, poorly worded sign results in misinformation, it also discourages consumer confidence. Conversely, signage with clear, concise language free of grammatical errors instills in customers faith in the products you offer. Carefully considered phrasing can allow you to target an exact market, as well. For instance, copy featuring a regional dialect or catchphrase can attract a specific segment of the local population and otherwise will reflect to visitors the sensibilities of your particular area. Also, the manner in which others judge your establishment is determined largely by your graphical preferences, namely the size, style and color of the font that you choose for your signage. It, too, can be modified in order to best represent the personality of your company and/or region.
Physical placement, sturdiness of signage is vital
The actual location of a display is, of course, an elementary concern. But all too often, not enough attention is paid to the physical landscape around an installation. Placement of traditional wayfinding signage in crowded, urban areas is especially important, as the flow of pedestrians dictates the height and angle at which it should be situated. While it serves a different purpose, the same rule can also be applied to university campuses and hospital grounds, where freedom and speed of movement are critical. Certainly, the versatility of fonts and symbols in denoting various pieces of information is a major advantage in all of the aforementioned places. With respect to the strength, durability and constitution of signage, deference to climate and active weather patterns can pay dividends, as well. Something as seemingly innocuous as the composition of the earth surrounding a sign can cause accelerated erosion if the structure consists of unsuitable materials.