Passenger Wayfinding Signs, JAX
Signs, at their most basic level, are communication tools. Signs tell customers whether a particular business is a restaurant, bookstore, or barbershop. Signs tell drivers when to stop and when to yield. Signs tell travelers which way to walk to get to their departure gate. Nowhere is this more evident than in wayfinding. Wayfinding refers to “information communication systems that guide people through a complex physical environment and enhance their understanding and experience of the space.” Wayfinding is a lot like a global supply chain. When working properly, end-users effortlessly navigate to their destination without ever noticing the colossal effort and careful thought put in to make that journey seamless. When not working properly, total chaos.
Imagine landing at Atlanta-Hartsfield International Airport for a layover. Like most of the passengers on the flight, you weren’t paying attention when the flight attendant announced your arrival gate and something about how all the signs were taken down at the airport for cleaning. As you deplane, you check your phone and see that you need to get to Gate D07. You look up from your phone to get your bearings, but there’s no signs, no arrows, no gate numbers, no screens. You ask another passenger coming off the plane, but they weren’t listening either. As you look around you notice a frantic group of passengers walking past your gate shouting to no one in particular, “B24?! B24?!” You spot a middle-aged man in a suit, sobbing in front of an unidentified pizza restaurant. A sense of unease settles over the small crowd of passengers who arrived on your flight. The situation is deteriorating quickly as panic starts to spread. Never mind making your connecting flight, you just need to get out of there fast. “Ok, which way to the exit?” you think to yourself as your eyes instinctively scan your surroundings and spot the only thing that can possibly save you now. It’s bright, red, and beautiful—an exit sign.
Since we can’t find an actual airport, transit system or complex built environment that will allow us to “ruin thousands of peoples’ days just to prove a point about the value of good wayfinding,” we’ll have to settle for a good case study. This one comes to us from the great city of Philadelphia, and one of the best keynotes we saw at this year’s SEGD Conference: SEPTA’s brand-new Wayfinding Master Plan.
Current SEPTA ID + Wayfinding Credit: SEPTA
SEPTA’s network includes regional rail, a bus network, and a single-fare service network comprised of a four-track subway line w/ express and local service, an elevated rail line that also runs underground, the “Norristown High Speed Line (light rail that’s considerably slower than subway express), and several trolley networks. Each line has several names and disparate nomenclature, and each station seems to have its own independent style guide.
New SEPTA ID + Wayfinding Credit: SEPTA
The new plan, led by SEPTA’s strategic planning manager Lex Powers (real name) and environmental design firm Entro, is a masterclass in good wayfinding, incorporating rigorous research and public input, excellent brand and identity standards, and universal design principles. Most importantly, Philadelphians, who famously don’t like anything, love it. Make some time to read the whole plan and the process behind it.
Credit: Harbinger Sign
A good sign works in service of your brand. A great sign enriches the surrounding built environment while doing so. Please enjoy this recent shot of Downtown Jacksonville, which also happens to serve as a portfolio for our building sign work.
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