Latest Wayfinding Research: Design

Posted in Behavioral Science, research, Wayfinding Concept, White Paper on February 27th, 2014 by Mark VanderKlipp – Be the first to comment

chute-749588This is the second of three posts related to the article referenced below:

As a member of the Center for Health Design, we have access to research documents that cover a variety of topics related to wayfinding. In this post, we’re summarizing findings from the most current article*, which provides an overview of specific design interventions, backed by extensive research. Readers of this post can follow up with Mark VanderKlipp for more information on where these findings originated.

Much of this may seem like common sense. But then again, the entire practice of user-centered wayfinding relies on simple, common sense solutions.

Architecture and interior design can support wayfinding:

  1. We get lost less frequently when hallways meet at right angles.
  2. Staircases can aid understanding if they allow users to see into other parts of a building. Multiple-turn staircases increase confusion if no clues to the outside are provided.
  3. When different sections of a structure have unique appearances, we’re less likely to get lost
  4. Visitors expect that each floor in a building is laid out in essentially the same way. When this is not the case, it can be confusing.
  5. Hallway color influences the ways people navigate:
    – Adults find cool blue spaces easier to navigate than warm red spaces
    – Designers should use cool colored surfaces brightly lit to help people find their way
    – For landmarks, warm colors should be used
  6. Symmetrical environments are particularly confusing. Distinguish areas using signage, colors, material changes for easier navigation.

Effective signage design:

  1. Where people are distracted or concentrating intently, directional signage needs to support and reinforce the route they intend to take as they travel. Examples cited include nurse’s stations and at end points of train routes.
  2. When asked, people say they prefer more complex and realistic maps; in reality, they find their way more effectively with simplified/stylized maps.
  3. Most people prefer maps oriented north if possible. If not, maps need to be aligned with the user’s point of view from their current location.
  4. When location names are presented in an easy to read font, they are perceived as closer to the viewer than those presented in a more difficult to read font.
  5. Typography: words that are a different color than nearby words are more easily remembered.
  6. Red type supports remembering negative words and green supports remembering positive words (think “stop” and “go”).
  7. Older people see color differently (generally with a yellow tint).
  8. Colored surfaces used as landmarks make it easier to find your way, even if unaccompanied by navigational text.
  9. Colors should be easily spoken. There should be no more than four colors used for navigation in a given environment.
  10. Contrast is critical on signage, to support sight-impaired people.
  11. Pictograms/international symbols are helpful to those with limited English proficiency.

Electronic Tools

  1. People using GPS tools travel longer distance and make more stops than those using handheld maps. They also move slower, make larger directional errors, draw less accurate sketch maps (after the fact) and rate wayfinding tasks as more difficult.
  2. Researchers testing hand-held interactive guides that use landmarks as navigational cues found that these were more effective for the test subjects regardless of age. Using combinations of photos, text and audio directions, no one got lost using the device.


*No publication date or author is specified for the article, originally titled “Navigating to Wayfinding Solutions,” but the organization that publishes this is Research • Design Connections.

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Corbin Design, a national leader in wayfinding planning and signage design, announced Shelley Steele has been named President. Steele formerly served as vice president of marketing.

As president, Steele is primarily responsible for the vision and direction of Corbin Design as well as the internal leadership and management of the staff. In her new role, she will continue to oversee business development and marketing.

“With her knowledge of the… More...

As we develop wayfinding systems for a variety of clients, we appreciate how public engagement is critical to the design process. Here, we share two examples from recent client groups and the outcomes of those sessions:

Ochsner Medical Center, New Orleans LA

We led a prototype process on the interior of this complex medical campus to test proposed logic changes and as a “proof of concept” for wayfinding tools. The exercise was designed to… More...

The FHWA has issued a clarification on the ruling it issued on January 25, 2016 terminating the Interim Approval of Clearview as an alternate font to the MUTCD. With regard to community wayfinding signage systems, the use of alternate fonts is still possible.

To summarize:

  • Projects currently in fabrication do not need to comply.
  • To the extent possible, projects currently in design should switch to the

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