Tim Rob Don Dow


Wayfinding is human behaviour.
Wayshowing is the strategic design of that behaviour.

What is wayfinding?
It is human behaviour.
Wayfinding is the behaviour of people navigating the built environment.
It is a structured sequence of decisions that leads us to a destination.
In its simplest form - it is people getting from A to B.

People need to understand three things;
1. Know where you are.
2. Know where you are going.
3. Know the route between the two.

It is a sequence of smaller steps.

How do people process complexity?
Innate and learned abilities.

People have abilities that directly affect how well they navigate a space including;
Innate: cognitive load and anthropometry
Learned: inference, chunking & experience

Cognitive load - An innate ability
Humans receive many bits of information each second.
These are sorted by the unconscious part of our brain. Important bits are prioritised and processed by our conscious brain.
Our conscious brain can process only a fraction of received bits of information each second.
Our aim includes avoiding cognitive overload.

Anthropometry - An innate ability
Sight zones in elevation based on average comfortable reading position whilst standing.
Legibility of different sized type on signs at set distances.
Sight zones in plan for identifying colours, symbols and words.
Reach zones in elevation for any signs with interaction - braille, tactile or digital.

Inference - A learned ability
Patterns can identified and used to infer the remote location of the next number or letter in a sequence.

Chunking - A learned ability
The grouping of information into units, or chunks, to make the
information easier to process and remember.

Familiar experiences - A learned ability
Humans use a combination of known elements within a built environment to help navigation.
Kevin Lynch defined these five elements that help people describe, remember and navigate an urban environment.
We can use these known typologies to support successful navigation.

Effective solutions
Wayfinding is not just signs.
A conversation or a doorway can be more effective than a sign at changing navigational behaviour.
Signs cannot solve all of the challenges and should only be used as a last resort.

More effective solutions employ a combination of:
• Spatial cues
• Operational assistance
• Signs and Signals

Wayfinding systems are all around us in the built environment. Much like toilet paper, a wayfinding system is only truely noticed when absent or performs poorly.
— Tim Dow

When we are talking about wayfinding strategies and systems, the focus is almost always on projects that need efficiency, such as hospitals or airports. What is often overlooked are the applications of a nuanced strategy that encourages exploration and engagement.
— Tim Dow