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Wayfinding Signage Guidelines and Best Practices

Explore Poyant’s guide to wayfinding signage, including best practices for retail and healthcare along with ADA requirments.

Wayfinding Signage Guidelines and Best Practices

Digital wayfinding signLarge buildings or sprawling environments such as college campuses, medical centers, and shopping malls benefit greatly from the inclusion of wayfinding signage. Wayfinding signage includes informational assistance such as maps, symbols, labels, and directions or instructions that help staff and visitors navigate from one point to another as easily as possible. In this blog post, we will explore the best practices when developing wayfinding signage for retail and medical environments.

Wayfinding Signage Best Practices

To best assist visitors, wayfinding signage should follow established best practices. Understandably, different environments require different nuances from their wayfinding signage. A college campus will likely want its signage to focus on modernity and clarity for students while a museum would likely merge grandeur and functionality to make its wayfinding signage both informational and aesthetically pleasing.

Retail Environments

The wayfinding signage used in malls and shopping centers balances shopper psychology with signage best practices. These environments should focus on:

  • Legibility. To avoid agitated customers and boost sales, retail environments should clearly label aisles and store names using readable typefaces, properly sized text, and enough contrast for the text to be legible.
  • Exterior signage. Outdoor shopping centers in particular should pay special attention to their exterior wayfinding signage. Sprawling retail environments can be intimidating for a shopper to navigate, so clear exterior signage is key. Individual stores can also combine branding and exterior wayfinding signage to help shoppers more easily locate their storefront.
  • Lighting. Proper lighting is essential for retail environments. Stores should include illuminated exterior wayfinding signage on their facades and properly lit storefronts.

Medical Complexes

Large hospitals and medical campuses may contain dozens of departments and wards, making them extremely difficult to navigate without appropriate wayfinding signage. Some of the best practices for hospital and medical wayfinding signage include:

  • Branding. All wayfinding signage should incorporate the hospital’s branding to make it easily identifiable to staff, patients, and visitors. This is especially important for medical centers located across multiple buildings or those that overlap with college campuses.
  • Storytelling. Many hospitals have found storytelling a valuable tool in their branding and wayfinding signage efforts. For example, a children’s hospital might name each ward after a popular animal to help the patients feel more comfortable. These themes can then be incorporated as artwork on walls and signage to further enhance the story.
  • Feedback. Sign designers should get feedback from hospital staff, patients, and visitors on what they need from signage, what they think is working, and what they feel the hospital could do better. Commentary and criticism can help to streamline the signage layout and organizational system to best suit the community it is meant to serve.
  • Maintenance. It’s important to establish a regular preventative maintenance schedule for wayfinding signage. If signs fall down, get damaged, or become otherwise obscured, patients and visitors may have trouble finding their way through the facility.

Infographic describing wayfinding guidelines for medical complexes

ADA Requirements for Wayfinding Signage

Wayfinding signage must comply with Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) guidelines at all businesses and municipal facilities. Here are some best practices to follow to ensure ADA compliance:

  • Interior wayfinding signage must include braille and be located on the side of the door that the latch/doorknob is on.
  • Signage is required on all permanent spaces. A permanent space is defined as any space that will serve its function longer than a period of seven days.
  • Signs should use large fonts, easily read colors, and is high contrast.
  • Signage should be located directly next to what it is meant to label, or on the nearest adjacent wall of if space constraints don’t leave room for signage.
  • When symbols are used, such as the common symbols found on bathroom signage, they must match international standards to avoid confusing international visitors.
  • In most cases, exterior signage does not have to be ADA compliant. ADA-compliant signage is required for accessible parking spots.

As a general rule, any internal or external wayfinding signage that contains information deemed essential should comply with ADA standards to avoid violations.

Wayfinding Signage from Poyant

At Poyant, we have a successful history of creating wayfinding signage for hospitals, retail centers, universities, resorts, casinos, and much more. We excel at building signage for challenging projects at complex facilities, and we work closely with each customer to ensure the production of wayfinding signage that meets or exceeds their project needs.

For more information on how we can help you get started designing your environment’s own custom wayfinding signage, please contact us today.

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