what is the process of creating wayfinding signage
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The creation of signages can be traced back to the Stone Age. When people first discovered fire, humans always drew on stones or cave walls. These markings, filled with information like rituals and hunting ways, were their way to communicate with each other.

Now, every establishment with ample spaces – like supermarkets or malls – has signage that helps individuals navigate their interior. These guides are called wayfinding signage, and they are crucial to any business, even with small spaces.

What is Wayfinding Signage?

Signs are potent communication tools. They help individuals to look for a place or a thing, and wayfinding signs are no exception.

Wayfinding signages are any sign that gives individuals directions. This kind of signage builds a secure and customer-friendly space around an establishment. Businesses highly benefit from these (sometimes) voiceless guides. Here are some of the benefits of having a wayfinding sign:

  • It creates an organic customer experience – inviting customers and allowing them to experience the space on their own.
  • It has guaranteed return of investment – as signs are also advertisements. They can promote a business’s services or products.
  • It uplifts the brand – informing people what the company is, or the story of the brand.

How to Create Wayfinding Signage

The creation of wayfinding signs should be well-thought and thoroughly planned. Concrete design and plans guarantee these signages are visible in locations where they are required.

However, there are many aspects to consider when designing these guides. Some of these factors are colour, font size, and universal symbols such as arrows. To familiarise companies and executives in the creation of wayfinding signages, here is the comprehensive process:

how to create wayfinding signage

1. Pre-Design Phase

Before going into the design proper, an individual must undergo a pre-design phase. Here are the components of this phase:

  • Gathering and Analysing Data
    Often called pre-schematic, research, learning, or discovery; this stage lets designers gather as much information as possible. Data such as customer profile, map of the site, and branding should be noted in this stage.

    One good strategy is to observe customers. Observing customers on how they navigate a building or area is useful in the lead up to the wayfinding designs phase. Looking for places where customers stop to figure out which way they’ll go next is a good way to find pressure points in their journey.

  • Create a Signage Hierarchy
    Once the relevant information has been gathered, designers should make a hierarchy of the wayfinding signs. There are four types of signages to utilise in a wayfinding system:

    • Guiding – to steer people in a direction.
    • Directing – notifying people what they’ll see in a specific area.
    • Informing – providing information and relevant details to the place or location.
    • Instructing – telling people how to do something.

A wayfinding system can use a combination of these types of signages to maximise their effectiveness.

2. Design Phase

The design phase involves the design itself, development of the design, and documentation.

  • Schematic Design
    This stage is the initial design stage, also called the brainstorming stage. Designers spawn ideas, approaches, and concepts through this stage until they reach a refined and fully realised look.

    The main goal of this stage is to generate sketches for clients to review and approve. Take note that there shouldn’t be a single initial design, and clients should have multiple mock-ups to review.

  • Design Development
    Once a design has been approved, the design development stage begins. The design development phase is more intense than the schematic design.

    Its primary objective is to consolidate and improve the initial design. Improvements can include sign locations, message schedules (if digital), and the creation of 3D computer renderings and full-size mock-ups. The client may or may not review the progress on the above.

  • Documentation
    The final part of the design phase begins when the client approves the design development stage changes. The documentation stage involves finalising the sign types, which may have been left undecided in the last step.

    The level of intricacies on the drawings and the dimensions and scale are also finalised in this stage. This stage ties all the loose ends from the design documentation stage.

3. Post-Design Phase

After finalising the design and its components, and correctly documenting it, designers move on to the post-design phase.

  • Bidding
    In most significant projects (i.e. wayfinding signages in malls and hospitals), bidding is essential. Designers may opt-out of this stage as the client, or a representative, will handle the necessary documents for the bidding process.

    The bidding process mainly involves finding a contractor or secure materials needed for the project at a reasonable price.

  • Overseeing the Fabrication and Installation
    After procuring materials and contractors through bidding, it is now time to create the signages. Designers should be engaged with everyone involved in this stage. They are to supervise the fabrication of the signages so the contractors will follow the final design.

    Moreover, they will oversee the installation of the signages onsite. This way, designers can change any aspect of the design (of course, with the client) to fit the installation space.

  • Evaluation
    In the last stage of the whole design process, the client and designer assess the signages’ effectiveness and functionality. The main goal of this stage is to check if there are any areas for improvement. One way of doing it is to invite volunteers to roam the site and check if the signs are helpful.

Best Practices on Making Wayfinding Signage

After learning about the process of creating excellent wayfinding signage, individuals should be knowledgeable of the best practices behind it. Following these practices can help in measuring the effectiveness of a wayfinding sign. Here are some of the tips in creating a successful wayfinding design:

1. Consistent and Friendly Language

Sometimes companies or establishments have lengthy names for their departments or offices. For example, hospitals have departments like “Otolaryngology” and “Ophthalmology,” which are quite confusing.

One way to tackle this hurdle is to use user-friendly words and iconography across the whole signage system.

2. Set up Excellent Sign Standards

Create a long-lasting design that can grow with the site or company. These standards can cut costs (i.e. the need for new designs) and rule out redundancies.

3. Staff Training

Most businesses think that the job is done after installing the signages, but that’s not entirely true. Companies with intricate wayfinding signage systems should invest in educating their staff with it. This training ensures a uniform set of directions for everybody.

4. Colour-Code

With symbols, shapes, and words, colours are vital factors in distinguishing signs. Make color-coding consistent and give a colour key for reference. However, do not use very striking colours or dull ones. Also, sticking to the company’s brand, do not go overboard and pick a colour outside the brand’s colour scheme.

5. Simplicity is the Key

Do not complicate signages by putting too much information or over the top designs. Keep it simple, clear, and always to the point. Customers should immediately see the sign and read it in a matter of seconds.

6. Go Digital

Using digital wayfinding signages can be costly, but the benefits are much more significant. Companies can augment their signs with touchscreens and QR codes to cut labour and printing costs. Moreover, they can also change the display anytime, anywhere, due to the system’s centralisation.

Read also: Benefits of Wayfinding Systems for Business

Final summary

To sum up, wayfinding signage is vital to establishments with multiple buildings or areas like hospitals, malls, hotels, or museums. This sign helps guide visitors to unfamiliar and new spaces and creates a more comfortable visit.

However, for it to work, it should be well-planned. The core principles of a wayfinding design are clarity, conciseness, relevant, visible, and consistent. Without these, this kind of signage will fail and lose its purpose.

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