Imagine that you’re heading to an appointment at a new doctor’s office on a busy Monday morning. You’ve never been there before, so upon arrival, you head straight to the information kiosk to see what direction you need to head to make it in time. With a quick glance at your watch, you decide you have enough time to visit the restroom before going to the elevator and selecting the desired floor. Without even knowing it, you have easily navigated this new space through the process of wayfinding. Wayfinding, which is the way people orient themselves in a physical space and navigate from one point to another, helps us connect with our environment and feel at home and welcome wherever we go.
With the increase in population and urbanization, wayfinding has transformed, becoming a more complicated process as we find ourselves in larger complexes and cities with vast transportation and building networks. Advancements in our cities have created the need for wayfinding in architecture and use of signage, visual cues, audible communication, and graphic communication.
Planning and design are now used to create permanent wayfinding systems, with the focus on specific audiences as needed (i.e. pedestrians, cyclists, vehicles, etc.). Architects and planners now study locations to determine signage design and placement. In many cases color is used as a wayfinding method in the various wings of a hospital, area in a park, or departments in a store - all assisting patrons to quickly establish their location and create a path to their desired destination. Examples of these are the largely recognizable male and female restroom symbols, exit signs, and numbering systems in parking garages to the maps in malls, hospital kiosks, and building directories. All of this is done in an attempt to not only help you easily navigate the space, but to also create a less stressful environment and, because of this, it is a very important component in the business to customer relationship.
As technology advances, these wayfinding designs are quickly becoming enhanced through the use of smart mobile applications, which often include various types of interactive maps that visitors can use in anticipation of a trip. Kiosks and message boards like those found in airports, museums, or amusement parks are also used to reduce signage clutter and have the capability to pull news, television, and other feeds, making even more information accessible to viewers in one location.
Next time you are somewhere new, such as an airport you’re visiting for the first time, take a second to see what wayfinding resources are available to you – whether signage, kiosks, monitors, or even loudspeaker announcements, and see how these make a difference in helping you establish where you are and how to get to where you need to be. You’ll be amazed to discover all the ways the building and other cues make navigating these large, and often complicated, spaces possible.
While these systems are largely helpful and have been put in place to assist us with wayfinding, a vast majority of currently available wayfinding tools are dependent on visual cues, causing a divide with individuals who are visually impaired. Although most businesses offer braille restroom signs, there is little else in terms of alternative wayfinding solutions. This is why we, at Sensible Innovations, have made it our mission to close this information gap and reconnect people who are visually impaired to their surroundings and to the world. To learn more about us please visit www.sensible-innovations.com.