Sign Language

A wayfinding system links different people together, even if they do not share a common language or destination, by guiding all of them through the same spaces with a single system of communication. The unifying language of a wayfinding system creates a public narrative of how people witness, read, and experience a space. Each sign in a system, each separate voice, serves a particular function and displays a specific kind of content called a message, which might include nonverbal graphic symbols, images, or words.

– David Gibson, The Wayfinding Handbook

Most wayfinding systems can be broken down into several categories of signs: identification, directional, orientation, and regulatory.

EXTERIOR

Identification – the building blocks of wayfinding

  • Site monument identification
  • Site entry identification
  • Building mounted identification
  • Entrance identification
  • Parking area identification
  • Accessible parking identification

Directional – the circulatory system of wayfinding

  • Off-site trailblazers
  • On-site vehicular directional signs
  • Pedestrian directional signs

Regulatory – describes the do’s and don’ts of a place

  • Parking regulations
  • Entrance information

INTERIOR

Identification

  • Store identification
  • Area/level identification
  • Public amenity identification
  • Service and maintenance identification
  • Office identification
  • Elevator and stair identification

Directional

  • Directional signs

Orientation – provides an overview of surroundings

  • Building directory
  • Elevator/floor directory

Regulatory

  • Fire egress maps
  • Life safety signs

The sign narrative is the voice of the building or place and its owner, revealing the pathways and destinations of the building or space, the rules that govern how to use it, and essential information about activities happening within. It is the job of the wayfinding designer to weave these voices together into a single eloquent statement as people navigate the space.

Wayfinding systems serve living environments where functions for areas change, spaces are renovated, and new facilities are constructed. Wayfinding systems must be flexible and adapt to the evolution of a place.

As I have in the previous two posts, I call your attention to Walt Disney World and the amazing use of signage throughout the property. In addition to covering the categories mentioned above, the genius of the Imagineers takes it several steps further by designing all wayfinding pieces to be an integral part of the theme the participant is experiencing.

EnchantedTalesSign

The picture above is a good representation. Found outside the location of Enchanted Tales with Belle, the primary purpose is to guide Guests to the queue for the attraction. A closer look reveals key elements of the Beauty and the Beast story (the sign in the shape of a book, Lumiere, the windmill and gears from Maurice’s inventions) as well as a cottage housing the queue wait time clock.

You aren’t just directed to the location, you are immersed in the experience even before you meet Belle.

That is the power of wayfinding.

Part One: Why Wayfinding Matters: What We Can Learn from Disney Culture

Part Two: The Wayfinding Design Process


Information from this recent series of posts has come from The Wayfinding Handbook by David Gibson. A concise and engaging work, it is an excellent resource for leaders wanting to apply the art and science of wayfinding to their organization. The extensive illustrations, using real-life examples, provide a visual analysis of the fundamentals that lead to great wayfinding design.

As a leader, you may not think of yourself as a designer. If you think this, you would be wrong.

 

Wayfinding design is an intuitive process we use all the time, one that helps us navigate the places and spaces we encounter every day. Leaders may not design a wayfinding system, but they should have a clear understanding of the process.

 

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Bob Adams

Bob Adams

Bob is an absolute fanatic about Guest Experiences, growing up watching his father serve customers at the gas station he built and operated for 44 years. Bob is continually connecting with corporate leaders in the customer experience world, learning and then translating practices for ChurchWorld. He writes, speaks, and consults on the topic frequently. Best of all, he is a front-line practitioner at Elevation Church, serving in various roles at the Uptown and Lake Norman Campuses. Vocationally, Bob has a dual role at Auxano, a clarity first consulting firm serving the church. As Vision Room Curator and Digital Engagement Leader he researches, edits, writes and publishes online content. As Guest Experience Navigator, he leverages his passion, providing Guest Perspective Evaluations and Guest Experience Blueprints. Bob and his wife Anita have been married for 38 years. They have 4 children, 2 daughters-in-law, 1 son-in-law, and 4 grandchildren.

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COMMENTS

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Recent Comments
In this era, we have the opportunity of professional church staff today who utilize their gifting to shape the image and atmosphere of the church organization. But the 100% real impact on the church visitors is genuine evidence of changed lives by the gospel and the active growing discipleship (just as it was in the first century church). One demonstration is financially rich believers ministering equally together with poor believers (how odd, and incredibly miraculous; all humble and bow at the foot of the cross.). It is the awesome contrast of church members vocations, race, gender, age, maturity, gifting, humility that demonstrates to visitors "there is a Spirit in the place". That first-time guest list of 10 are "physical excuses", not spiritual excuses. Those don't tell the story. The condition of facilities and publicly greeting people have zero to do with it. The power of God in and through believers lives dedicated to impact other people with their relationship bridge-building of acceptance of the lost around them. Empowered believers are infectious, loving, helpful, giving, self-less, dynamic, compelling, bold, Christ-filled. As I have been in many church settings domestically and internationally, the facilities can be poor, and yet the fellowship can still be rich. We need to operate with first church humility. People come to Christ on His terms, not on our human abilities of hospitality. A huge catastrophe in a community, disaster relief brings lots of people into churches – many come to the church in those terrible conditions no matter the physical condition of the local church. Off the condition of facility, and onto the condition of God's people (living stones).... and everything else will grow.... and the other physical issues will be corrected by the staff.
 
— Russ Wright
 
"While I understand the intent behind this phrase" Expound please. What do you understand to be the intent behind that phrase?
 
— Ken
 
Thank you for this article! I'm the pastor of a small church. My gifting is in teaching and we are known for aiding Christians in becoming Biblically literate. Visitor's often comment on God's presence being very real in our services. But we just don't seem to be growing. I have some soul-searching, etc. to do and this article provides some solid ground from which to proceed. Thank you again.
 
— Jonathan Schultheis
 

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