Digital signage software is a communication tool that is primarily used to inform its viewers on items important to them, whether about a new product launch or an important safety announcement. In settings like schools, malls, buildings, airports, and hospitals, among others, you’ll often find a unique category of informative digital signs: wayfinding signage.
What is Wayfinding Signage?
Wayfinding signage is a display that helps people find their way around. It gives them directions or points them to a specific route to assist them in getting to their intended location quickly and without hassle. We can say that, in a way, it is one of the early forms of digital signage technology.
This is why you’ll often find wayfinding signage in large spaces like schools, malls, medical buildings, transportation hubs, and offices — places where it’s easy to get lost without clear directions. Wayfinding signage helps empower visitors and allows them to get where they need to be, without having to waste time walking around or asking for assistance.
4 Types of Wayfinding Signage
There are four types of wayfinding signage:
Each has a unique role but serves the bigger purpose of informing viewers and helping them navigate their way through a large space. Plus, each type of signage forms a complete wayfinding system, so they can and should be used together to achieve their main purpose.
Identification signs function as landmarks, telling the visitor that they have arrived at their destination or are going in the right direction. True to their name, these signs identify specific locations in a building, like a library, a classroom, or an office.
Common identification signs that we see every day include:
- Door plaques, i.e. “Chief Executive Officer” or “School Principal”
- Departmental markers, i.e. “Sales”, “Marketing”, or “Human Resources”
- Landmark signage, i.e. historical markets, donor plaques, or business logos
Identification signage should be clear and straightforward, leaving the visitor no doubt that the destination is where they intended to go.
In contrast to identification signs that tell the reader they’ve arrived, directional signs precede them by telling the reader how to get there. It shows the directions from point A to point B and often shows up at different points in a route, keeping the visitor assured that they are going the right way.
Directional signs find important applications in large buildings like offices or shopping malls. They help the viewer navigate the different paths and ultimately get to where they mean to be.
These types of signs usually come in the form of a directional plaque with arrows pointing them forward, left, or right. But you’ll also find them displayed as colored lines or arrows on the floor or as large signs that provide general directions like “Sales Department, 2nd Floor” or “Auditorium, 4th Floor”.
Regardless of their form, the most important characteristic of directional signs is continuity. There needs to be enough of them to keep the visitor from becoming lost along the way and having to backtrack to the last installation. Moreso, they should be placed in strategic locations along the route, such as at junctions.
Informational signs are broader than the other types we’ve discussed so far. Instead of pointing to a particular location, this type of signage informs the viewer about facilities or other information they could use while navigating.
They usually cover broad information about the following:
- Amenities and accommodation, i.e. “Elevators” or “Free Wi-Fi”
- Facilities, i.e. “Exit”, “Entrance”, or “Restrooms”
- Business information, i.e. addresses, contact information, operating hours.
Informational signage should be clear and concise, enough for the viewer to understand what it’s trying to say at a glance. It usually comes with universal symbols that are common knowledge to all — just like that familiar Wi-Fi symbol.
Basically, its purpose is to give the viewer enough information that they don’t have to look for someone to ask. Because of their broader purpose, informational signs are best placed in areas with large foot traffic, including waiting rooms, lobbies, or building entrances.
Regulatory signs are more proactive than the other types, enforcing rules, standards, and expectations instead of generally informing or providing directions. These signs inform the viewer of what is and isn’t acceptable in the building or facility in order to maintain a safe environment.
Regulatory signs are usually big and bold, with a clear message that can’t be missed. They can either cover a place’s rules and regulations, set forth compliance standards or help with access control.
We see them everywhere, from the sign that says “Off Limits” or “Employees Only” that restrict access to different rooms to the “No Pets Allowed” sign right at an establishment’s front door.
Tips for Effective Wayfinding Signage
There are best practices to incorporate wayfinding signage to achieve your intended results. Here are 4 tips for effective wayfinding signage.
1. Stay Simple
The target audience for wayfinding signage isn’t people who have time to stick around. They’re likely in a hurry to get to a specific destination or busy navigating the area. As such, wayfinding signage should be simple and easy to understand. A good rule of thumb is to make sure that it communicates the information at a glance — within seconds of seeing it.
2. Coordinate All Signs
The four types of wayfinding signage should all work together to help the visitor navigate their way through the facility while informing them of regulations and other information they may need to know.
The wayfinding system is typically kickstarted by a directional sign, telling the viewer where to go next to get to their intended location. Along the way, regulatory and informational signs come into play, guiding the visitor’s behavior as they make their way through the facility.
And finally, identification signage gives the visitor landmarks or otherwise tells them that they have arrived at their destination.
3. Cater to All User Types
Because wayfinding signs serve a very important purpose, they should be accessible to all, regardless of age, culture, or physical and mental ability.
Think of how you can cater to every type of user, whether that’s supplementing visual cues with braille for the visually impaired or making letters bigger and using readable colors. You might also consider supplementing English text with another language depending on where the sign is placed, or using universal symbols that anyone from anywhere in the world can understand.
4. Mind Lighting
Lighting is an important factor to consider when putting up wayfinding signage. Bright light can cause glare and strain the reader’s eyes while low light will make the sign unreadable. Make sure your sign is clear and visible under different lighting conditions.
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