What is wayfinding?
What is wayfinding?
A curious word that means what it says. It names the process of people finding their way. Not to be confused with ‘wayfaring’.
Wayfinding is described as the cognitive processes that people (and animals) go through to travel through space. It is a natural, instinctive process necessary for survival.
In its simplest form, wayfinding requires three components:
Identifying where you are as the point of origin of your journey.
Continuous reading of the landscape, a multi-sensory experience, forming feedback for decision-making.
Identifying your destination when you have arrived.
What is intuitive wayfinding?
Good intuitive wayfinding suggests that the environment can be easily read and understood and that ultimately it is easy for people to formulate their own mental map of the environment.
For new building projects, wayfinding is an essential criteria in every design process, be it architecture, interior, landscape or urban design. How wayfinding design materialises in the landscape can take many forms when all design disciplines consider the human factors of wayfinding. These include:
- Clear open views that help you position yourself in space.
- Clear logic and articulation of built environment elements and spaces such as pathways, entries, gathering spaces, daylight and finishes.
Dotdash often works closely with other project designers to establish a well integrated wayfinding solution. A solution that is founded on intuitive wayfinding and built up to include a clear signage strategy.
What does good wayfinding design achieve?
- Legible places that can be read and understood by everyone.
- A clear identity for places.
- Safe, welcoming and memorable places.
Is digital technology changing the landscape?
- Digital technology can give you both quantitative and qualitative information about a place.
- Not only can it tell you where the nearest pizza place is, it can also tell you what 20 other people think of it.
- Digital technology that helps people use the built environment takes many forms.
- Smart phones puts access to information directly into the hands of the user.
- Digital information in signage makes the content dynamic, relevant and current.
- Static physical signage can incorporate QR codes to be scanned by the user’s smart phone to discover a deeper layer of information.
Places and things.
A view presented at the 2009 Information Design Conference by Jonathan Rez looks at the real motivation behind wayfinding; Thingfinding.
You could say that wayfinding is a means to an end. The end might be a product or a service or an experience. The ‘thing’.
The wayfinding process is initiated by the ‘thing’ in thoughts like:
“Where did I park my car?”
“Where can I get a good coffee?”
“I have to be at a medical appointment at 10.00am.”
Jonathan rightly states that traditional wayfinding systems are destination based. They direct to and identify places not things. Smart phones using Location Based Services can enable people to shortcut the wayfinding process and have a more direct route to their ‘thing’. Locating the thing will lead you to the destination.
We are dotdash, an interdisciplinary design practice focused on wayfinding strategy.
We help millions of people find their way around our complex urban environments.