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.
Wayfinding is the behaviour of humans navigating in a built environment. Whilst wayfinding systems modify human behaviour via visual, audible, tactile and cultural cues within a user’s experience.
Design solutions relating to wayfinding can include masterplanning, urban design, brand, architecture, landscape, augmented/mixed reality, lighting, public art, retail, activity/program or static/dynamic signage. They may exist within a city, campus, site and/or building. Regardless of a project’s design solution – be it physical, digital or a combination – the solution should be informed by the theories and strategies that influence human behaviour.
In a built environment, the wayfinding system is often the only point where an organisation can communicate directly with its users. Whilst performing a very different role, it is important to consider wayfinding systems alongside other communication channels (staff, marketing, advertising etc.) to avoid cognitive over-load, competing channels and confusion.
The early adoption of a wayfinding strategy in a project’s planning stage results in a better user experience. Using digital and/or physical cues integrated into the built form can support intuitive behaviour, reducing the need for signage and making navigation feel effortless.
Each wayfinding strategy and solution must be relevant and appropriate for the context of the project, client and end user.