MSD’s Key Accounts Director Roddy Strang takes a look at some of the main factors in delivering a successful wayfinding project, from ensuring the client understands the nature of the service they’ll be receiving to the final delivery of a comprehensive and user-friendly wayfinding document.
Roddy Strang has more than 20 years in the sign industry and brings an invaluable wealth of design and construction knowledge to any wayfinding project he is a part of. As our Key Accounts Director, he continues to successfully develop our relationships with longstanding key clients.
1. Understanding the scope and the customer’s needs
From the outset on any wayfinding project it’s vital to be clear on exactly what the customer requires from this service. Just how comprehensive is our finished wayfinding document to be? Are we merely mapping out the area or including detailed construction designs for all signage involved?
Not only is it important for us to know exactly what the client is asking for, it’s crucial to ensure that the client also has a clear understanding of ‘wayfinding’, and nature of the service they will receive from us. For example does the client know the difference between wayfinding design and technical design? These are different skills and require different levels of detailing so it’s important to make this transparent, ensuring the client doesn’t expect one service and receives another.
2. Manage expectations
Open communication is key and so from day one it’s important to manage your client’s expectations; be clear on exactly what information the end product will contain, and what skills were employed in achieving it. This will help to build a close relationship with your customer, with the view of making it an ongoing one over multiple projects and turning that one-time customer into a new key client.
3. Key deliverables
The end product should contain a broken-down wayfinding strategy, featuring mapping and planning designs, construction details and timing information, all displayed in a clear and easy to follow layout. Your final wayfinding document must be user friendly or it won’t be used! It needs to be a clear, actionable document for others to follow - and it’s worth bearing in mind that English may not be the end-user’s first language. The document you hand over to the client isn’t just a signage map – it will be used for the construction and installation of signs, and needs to include specific detail to the point that the book essentially becomes an instruction manual for a wayfinding scheme – this sign goes here, this one points that way, it’s important to use this material here for this particular reason, etc.
4. Key cultural aspects
The world’s cultures are different in countless ways – including how certain people react to signage. There are numerous aspects to think about when including certain pieces of information, and you need to understand just who will be using this signage judging by its environment. If it’s an airport then your signage will likely be used by people from just about every culture there is! If it’s an office building then it’s likely to be just a handful, if not a single group of people.
Things to take into account are religion, political views, gender, dress code, colour schemes or any sensitive words within a culture.
5. Walk the patch
Actually visiting the site and walking the routes, rather than merely looking at floor plans, will greatly help your understanding of the environment, which will in turn influence your wayfinding planning. Your perception of the environment via sheets of paper will naturally be different to real life, where you will see levels of detail no area map can convey. You’ll be able to determine the paths for directing people much more clearly; what may appear on a map to be a viable route may not be so accommodating in practice.
If your wayfinding scheme is for a future project, for example a new airport, shopping centre or office building, this step obviously can’t be achieved with an environment that has not yet been built; but even a virtual walkthrough can reveal crucial aspects that may have otherwise been overlooked.
6. Provide innovation and creativity
It would be easy to simply specify a few dozen rectangular boxes with directional arrows and be done with it; easy, but boring! Good wayfinding signage can make use of more innovative directional cues; the use of colours to guide, as well as shapes, symbols and even lighting can help to make a wayfinding scheme more engaging – and thus more effective. An effective method is creating a wayfinding system around a focal point or landmark, directing people towards this ’beacon’ before sending them onwards to their destination.
It’s beneficial at this stage if those involved in the project come from a manufacturing or implementation background, as they will have a clear understanding of what’s realistically viable, and an intrinsic knowledge of what can or can’t be fabricated aids the design phase.
7. Celebrate success with your customer!
Celebrate a job well done with the client and you’ll have an easy starter conversation when they come back next time!