Latest Wayfinding Research: Places

Posted in Behavioral Science, Civic Wayfinding, Healthcare Wayfinding, research, University Wayfinding, Wayfinding Concept, White Paper on April 22nd, 2014 by Mark VanderKlipp – Be the first to comment

libraryThis is the third 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 wayfinding challenges in a variety of places, 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:


  1. First-year undergraduates tend to get lost in the stacks, primarily because they’re familiar with how digital libraries catalog information (via a searchable taxonomy) vs. print collections, which support “serendipitous discovery” (alphabetical listings by author, title or topic).
  2. As a statement of the obvious, this part of the study recommends that it’s important to have “readily identifiable staff who seem amenable to answering questions at key decision points.”
  3. Use of language in libraries is key: in Pittsburgh, a designer took out the library lingo for a more friendly experience.  “Reference Desk” is now “Ask a Librarian” and “Customer Service” (originally associated only with problems) is now “Customer Services,” implying a range of helpful available service options.

Healthcare Facilities

  1. Perceived ease of navigation is related to many environmental factors: cleanliness, privacy, aesthetic appeal.
  2. Since increasingly people are referring to building maps online prior to a visit, terminology and imagery presented to visitors should be consistent across media.
  3. Technical terms such as “otolaryngology” should be replaced with easier to understand phrases such as “ear, nose and throat.”
  4. Environments rich in visual cues such as landmarks and artwork help people give and remember directions.
  5. Nurse’s stations should use visually prominent colors and lighting effects
  6. Architectural color coding schemes are often too subtle for hospital visitors to understand; signage color coding should use no more than four colors to delineate different areas in a building. Use simple, speakable colors.


  1. Multiple decision points and level changes in a terminal make for longer wayfinding journeys.
  2. Providing lines of sight to the next point of decision is key to understanding the building.
  3. Readable, well-lit signs with understandable international symbols are critical given typical times spent in airports
  4. “You are here” maps correctly referencing to the viewer’s point of view are key to orienting to the entire airport layout.

Civic Wayfinding

  1. The federal MUTCD dictates much of civic wayfinding signage design.
  2. Signs must have at least 60% contrast between lettering and background
  3. Type must be at least 3 inches, potentially higher based on road speeds and sign setbacks.
  4. An MUTCD-approved typeface must be used, with appropriate spacing for distance viewing
  5. Limiting the amount of information on a sign increases legibility and comprehension
  6. Signs should be placed at least 75 feet from an intersection, and spaced at no less than 30 feet apart.
  7. Avoid placing information intended for pedestrians within view of drivers.
  8. An estimated 5% of signs need to change, are damaged or destroyed annually; planning and budgeting for maintenance is key to keeping information up to date.


*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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