Wayfinding behavior exhibited by someone unfamiliar with an environment can be broken down into three interdependent processes:
- Analyzing environmental cues to come up with the best possible route (Decision making).
- Physically following the chosen route (Decision execution).
- Developing a mental map of the environment to understand locations, landmarks, and the relationships between them.
A United Nations Report revealed that 55% of the world’s population lives in urban areas, with a 68% growth expectancy by 2050. In the presence of many alternative routes and multi-entrance buildings with multiple floors, directional signage in towns and cities makes it easier for people to orient themselves during the decision-making phase, keep them on the right track during execution, and finally recognize their destination.
What is Directional Signage
Directional signage, also wayfinding signage refers to navigational aids that enable users to move from where they are to where they want to be and is a core consideration when designing the layout of a building.
Thoughtful placement of entrances, clear sightlines, and intuitive pathways minimize the need for excessive signage, and make it easier for occupants to understand and execute their routes.
The primary goal of wayfinding signage is not to advertise but to provide a seamless navigation process. According to Hubspot, 93% of people are likely to make repeat visits with companies that offer excellent customer service, and navigation is a crucial touchpoint.
When you strategically place well-designed and clear directional signage in key decision points in your establishments, you help your customers find products, and departments and check out areas efficiently.
Types of Directional Signs
Arrow signs, hanging signs, wall-mounted signs, and floor decals are examples of traditional directional signage. They’re typically made from durable materials such as wood, metal, or plastic. Traditional signs are static and provide wayfinding information passively. Even with the rapid adoption of technology in wayfinding, traditional signage is still widely used in outdoor and indoor environments where frequent changes in information are not necessary, such as permanent building directories or exit signs.
Digital Wayfinding Signage
Digital navigation has enhanced wayfinding and route-planning strategies for users by providing a variety of wayfinding information all in one place in an accessible manner. Digital wayfinding signage uses multiple layers conveyed using LED or LCD screens to display location, orientation, route planning, spatial layout, and provided facilities. The easily upgradeable nature of digital resources allows for real-time updates and accommodates a large volume of information to enable accuracy and relevance.
Interactive Digital Wayfinding
Global navigation satellite systems (GNSS) have made interactive wayfinding solutions possible by providing accurate positioning information in external environments. Through a user-friendly touchscreen interface, individuals can interact with the wayfinding system, by inputting their current location, desired destination, or specific points of interest.
The system integrates with real-time data sources to offer live maps, event schedules, transportation updates, and other relevant information. What sets interactive digital wayfinding apart is its adaptability; users can personalize their navigation experience by selecting preferences like the fastest route or wheelchair-accessible paths.
Many traditional signage materials (PVC, vinyl banners, neon signs, and non-recyclable plastics) can have environmental impacts, either due to their production processes, disposal difficulties, or the depletion of non-renewable resources.
In a survey conducted by Nielsen, 81% of global respondents felt strongly that companies should help improve the environment.
To create eco-friendly signage, consider materials that prioritize renewable resources, recyclability, and reduced energy use. For instance, recycled aluminum or bamboo can contribute to reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Water-based inks and paints are eco-friendly alternatives to traditional solvent-based ones, decreasing the release of harmful VOCs into the environment.
In addition to that, working with suppliers and manufacturers who prioritize sustainability and provide transparency regarding their production processes can ensure a more conscientious approach to signage creation.
Counting the Costs
The cost of wayfinding signage can be difficult to estimate owing to the myriad of factors to consider, including the specific needs and requirements of each user. However, here is a range based on the types of signage we discussed above.
- Cost Range: Low to moderate, typically ranging from $50 to $500 per sign, depending on materials and complexity. Custom-made or artistic signs can be more expensive due to the labor and skill involved in their creation.
- Cost Range: Moderate to high, with initial investments ranging from $500 to $5,000 per screen, depending on size, quality, and interactive features.
- Cost Range: Higher, ranging from $1,000 to $10,000 or more per unit, considering advanced technology, touch-screen capabilities, and interactive functionalities.
Both digital and interactive wayfinding signage may require additional costs for digital signage software and its associated hardware which you may need to factor into your budget.
The Power of Design
The significance of design in directional signage is underscored by its impact on user experience and navigation efficiency. Effective design not only aids in wayfinding but also influences consumer behavior. For instance, nearly 68% of consumers make purchasing decisions based on a store's signage, as reported by the FedEx Office.
You can start by enhancing readability and visibility by:
- Using clear typography through legible fonts and font sizes.
- Using high contrast colors for text and background.
- Maintaining a consistent design theme and color scheme across all signage
- Avoiding clutter and unnecessary information that distracts the message and leads to confusion.
It’s important to design signage from the perspective of the user. Considering their vantage points and potential points of confusion. Anticipating user needs during the design phase helps improve wayfinding effectiveness.
The Calgary Central Library is an excellent example of innovative wayfinding design that integrates with the distinctive architecture of the building to enhance the overall visitor experience. Inspired by the natural beauty of snow drifts and Chinook cloud clearings, the library's façade employs a unique geometric design that mimics these phenomena.
The wayfinding and signage system uses the same geometric shapes to create a flexible yet coherent system that adapts to the needs of visitors throughout the library. Warm wooden surfaces combined with vibrant colors are used to separate information effectively and also contribute to a visible system that harmoniously blends with the building's architecture.
London Luton Airport (LLA) joined forces with SPC and Interdirect to create an advanced wayfinding system for its 58 million passengers. Using boarding pass scans, the system offers personalized boarding times, gate numbers, and routes. It also provides accessibility information and adjustable content for disabled travelers, along with onward journey details for inbound passengers.
This comprehensive solution includes UI/UX design, custom development, touchscreen software, interactive wayfinding, and hardware provision. The kiosks and digital signage have significantly improved customer experience, by boosting foot traffic, increasing passenger spending, and promoting airport services.
Individuals need to perceive and store environmental knowledge while navigating a place they’ve never been before. They build mental images that reinforce that environment and make it easier to identify their route during subsequent visits. The right directional signage solution is fundamental to this process. Traditional signs where frequent updates are unnecessary, coupled with digital signage for real-time information will do the trick.
Look Digital Signage software is an all-in-one platform where you can design and execute your wayfinding content across every decision point your customers will likely encounter. Don’t just take our word for it, try the 14-day trial period and see for yourself!