wayfinding signs

Getting lost is easily one of the most frustrating things in the world. It leaves you feeling confused, irritated, and in some situations it can be a little bit frightening. When you’re on a mission to get somewhere, getting lost simply doesn’t end with good feelings for the wanderer.

Wayfinding signs offer a simple solution to keep customers from getting lost in schools, libraries, hospitals, any sort of large office building, national parks, or even just temporary signage for an event. However, not all wayfinding signs are created equal; it’s important to determine which type of wayfinding sign will enable you to create a useful system.

Generally speaking, there are four different types of wayfinding signs: identification, directional, regulatory, and informational. Although the differences between each type are mostly subtle, identifying the purpose of your wayfinding sign can help you create a better wayfinding system that will be more beneficial to your customers, and ensure that you don’t leave them with the frustrating feeling of being lost.

So what are each of these types of signs and how should you be using them?

Identification

These signs let you know that you’ve arrived. Whether they display the name of a conference room on the outside of the door, the entrance to a state or a national park, or the arrival at a campsite, identification signs should be a clear and simple of what is located directly at that spot.

Directional

This is where not getting lost really comes in to play. Good directional signs are the key to ensuring that your hospital doesn’t become a maze or your hikers don’t turn what was meant to be a nice day trip in to an unwanted overnight stay. Directional signs should be one of the first that you check off of your list, as they can prevent a lot of unnecessary confusion. They should be placed at any junction or any location on the way to a destination where a person might look to find instruction on how to get there.

Informational

Do you have free wifi? What hours are you open? Are you the number one burger joint in all of Texas? Is this the very spot where George Washington cut down the cherry tree? Whether these signs contain necessary information about your company or gives little fun facts and history of the place, their job is to provide anyone who might be viewing them with all the information needed to make the most out of their time there.

Regulatory

These are arguably the most important signs in your wayfinding system. Regulatory signs let people know whether they can park in a spot, whether they need permits to be on the site, if animals are allowed, or if it is a smoking or non-smoking area. People won’t know if you don’t tell them with a regulatory sign! Signs should be clearly visible so that people are aware of any rules or laws that could potentially be broken and to ensure that any safety warnings aren’t overlook. It may not seem like a big addition to your signage, but regulatory signs are the cornerstone for creating a safe environment; they ensure that there is no confusion over what the rules are and that people aren’t put in a dangerous situation simply as a result of lack of knowledge.

The messages on each of these signs should be short and sweet, but still enough to get all the point across. Keep in mind that too much information can be just as bad as too little.

Ideally, you should be using every type of sign in your wayfinding system. People should be able to follow the directional signs until they get to an identification sign, where they can find informational signs to give them a little more information.

Click here to check out the University of Houston’s wayfinding project!

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