Wayfinding & Experience Design 101

A Meaningful & Helpful Expression of Your Brand Identity

Think about a time when you unsuccessfully tried to navigate around a business park, healthcare facility or campus and there were no signs to point you in the right direction―you probably lost your cool, but that’s okay, everyone does. Possibly even more exasperating is that time when the signs only served to confuse you further. You’re driving around the local university to attend an event in “The Arts Building,” but the signs along the roadway read “Building 42″ or “The Hutchinson-Barker Hall”, so you never really know how you’ll find the building you’re looking for.

You may have even considered inflicting harm to these inanimate objects for causing such turmoil―that’s not okay. But we don’t blame you. We blame the designers. This type of experience is a critical extension of your brand. So when the result is friction, that’s going to create negative associations and bad user experiences for your customers… and possibly some damaged signage.

Wayfinding Helps Your Customers Fall in Love with Your Brand

Wayfinding signage

Designs by CartilidgeLevene

Skillfully executed wayfinding and environmental graphic design can create delightful interactions that endear customers to your brand. Inviting expertise to this process helps deliver intuitive results and typically less signage than you might have thought necessary.

Good wayfinding signage, much like good cinematography, shouldn’t be thought about or noticed by your patrons. However it should subtly craft a mindset within a customer or user of comfort, security and trust. Conversely, if they experience the frustration of feeling lost before ever interacting with your staff, you may have already missed your opportunity to recover their trust.

Good wayfinding and customer experience design is about optimizing your environment to address user and customer needs before they become a problem for which the user will blame the brand.

The Value of Bringing a Signage Design Firm to Your Wayfinding Project

So how do you make sure your experience design is working for your brand? Bring outside expertise to the project at the very beginning. By bringing an external partner to the project, your project will not be hindered by your assumptions and affections. You are probably too close to your brand and even the environment to be able to see it objectively. Make sure that partner has expertise in this area and you also get the benefit of best practices and some technical insights. Find a good Environmental Graphic Design (EGD) firm that specializes in wayfinding for the best results. But it’s also a good idea to bring your fabrication team to the project early. Especially a fabricator with a strong design team that can help your designers with some inside information.

“If we partner with them up front, we can help them draft a better budget. If it’s a built environment that exists, we can speak to what the long-term goals are and understanding how to get longevity out of a wayfinding system. We’re looking at the problem the same way other architects and designers do and maybe we’ll have a solution other than a standard sign. Maybe it’s an environmental wall graphic, maybe it’s floor graphics, maybe it’s digital. It’s going to be more thoughtful than, ‘we’ll sell you a sign’.”Michael Schmidt, Architecture Consultant for Harbinger Innovation Group

Branded interior wayfindingSmarter Signs Last Longer & Work Better

Working with a team that has a sign-centered environmental graphic designer and an architect advantageously impacts your budget and the long-term usefulness and endurance of your new signage.

The Wayfinding Planning Process

There is a fundamental process to developing an optimal experience and environment for your customers or users.

Phase I – Planning

  • Discovery, Research & Analysis
  • Strategy, Planning & Mapping
  • Data & Evidence Collection

Phase II – Design

  • Establishing Brand Elements (Typography, Colors, Toponymy, Textures, Tonality)
  • Identify Digital Opportunities (Beacon, NFC, and RFID Technologies, Social, Web, Mobile Apps)
  • Programming, Prototyping & User Testing
  • Schematic Design
  • Design Engineering Construction Documentation

Phase III – Implementation

  • Bid Support
  • Construction Administration

Phase IV – Assessment

  • User Testing
  • Punchlist
  • Final Adjustments

Contact Harbinger Innovation Group for an evaluation of your wayfinding needs and to help you identify opportunities, put together a successful design, and then get bids on having the signs fabricated.

(Images in this post are all designs by Cartilidge Levene in the UK.)

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