Wayfinding Resources

Environmental Graphic Design

Modern public spaces are increasingly becoming focused on hospitality and comfort.  Building planners are embracing the opportunity to warm up the environment and make visitors feel a lot more welcome.

At the same time, better architects today are building wayfinding features right into the design of the facility – internally and externally.  The need for extensive directional signage is reduced in new facilities by separating “back-of-house” and “front-of-house” areas and simplifying core structure of public spaces.  Through intentional variation of architectural features and the inclusion of large scale natural reference points such as central atriums, visitors are able to develop a sense of space and wayfinding becomes more intuitive.  Intuitive wayfinding tools incorporated in this endeavor include lighting, furnishings, finishes, landscaping, and structural elements.

Wayfinding Challenges of older facilities

Many older facilities have what we call “accumulated complexity” due to having undergone many renovations and additions over time.  Visitors quickly lose their sense of space and have an increasingly difficult time finding their way around.  Symptoms of a poor wayfinding system include confusing signage, high frequency of people ending up at the wrong destination, complaints received, paper signs popping up on walls, staff frequently having to answer the question “How do I get to…?” and staff spending significant time escorting clients to destinations.

Effective Wayfinding Solutions

In 1960 architect Kevin Lynch coined the term “Wayfinding”.  Webster's New Millennium™ Dictionary of English defines wayfinding as “signs, maps, and other graphic or audible methods used to convey location and directions to travelers”.

According to Frank Douglas, architect and principal of Douglas/Gallagher, an international design firm, “First time users of a facility have only a few moments to determine what to look for.  To speed them to their destinations, the system needs to telegraph critical information quickly, clearly and memorably.”

Avalis takes this seriously in its approach to wayfinding analysis and solutions.  It’s best to assume your clients may not have the time to loose.

Wayfinding Analysis – An Overview of the Process

What is it?

  • A comprehensive study that identifies user patterns and destinations producing a solution that establishes clear pathways for visitors to independently find their way from point to point.  While the scope of Wayfinding is most commonly defined as within a facility, consideration should be given providing a solution that begins where the visitor or patient begins - their home or office through websites and mapping strategies.

Why is it needed?

  • Architects, today, are generally doing a good job of designing wayfinding solutions into new buildings.  For instance, key destination areas along hallways are brightened with lighting, accent carpeting, furnishings, and dimensional wall treatments.  This is also done to highlight key hallway intersections to catch the visitor’s eye.  Central atriums may be added for constant sense of place.  When this is done well, minimal directional signage is needed.
  • The greatest need for wayfinding solutions exists in larger and particularly older facilities that have what we call “accumulated complexity”; i.e., through growth over time and numerous remodels and additions, complexity of the facility seems to increase exponentially with each change making it more and more difficult for customers and visitors to find their destinations.

How do we go about doing a wayfinding analysis?

  • Avalis Wayfinding Solutions Inc. developed what we call the “Decision Point Wayfinding Analysis”™ which effectively identifies user patterns and destinations.  Our staff spends enough time on site to fully understand the facility and the wayfinding issues that are unique to it.  Typical on-site visits:
  1. Discovery Visit (1-2 days): Tour facility, meetings with staff to identify issues, goals and scope.  Interviews with key staff to gain deeper understanding of facility needs.
  2. Documentation Visit (Up to 1 week spent on site): Comprehensive documentation of the entire facility (very little time needed with staff).  Observe and identify department boundaries, wayfinding paths – formal and informal, ADA signage compliance, obstacles to successful wayfinding, etc.
  3. Presentation Visit (1-2 Days): Pre-meeting final walk-through of the wayfinding proposal and actual presentation meetings with handoff of deliverables.  
  • During this process a Pareto (80/20) approach is taken which begins with by identifying key entrances – those that handle the greatest volume of visitors.  Next, key destination areas of visitors are identified; i.e., Admitting, Radiology, Laboratory, Outpatient Services and Patient Room Towers would likely key destination areas in a hospital.  Information Systems or Laundry, while critical to the operation of the hospital, would unlikely make the list of the 20% of destination areas sought by 80% of visitors.

A “decision point” is defined as any location along a route where a visitor must make a decision to go one of two or more ways.  All decision points are identified between key entrances and key destinations and analyzed for needed directional indication that would include the key destination areas that lie ahead in each direction.

The complete procedure is documented for discussion directly with clients.

What are the deliverables?

  1. Electronic floor plans provided by the client are marked with proposed sign locations.
  2. Sign Schedule with sign type, size of sign, message, and a quote for each sign proposed (as req’d).
  3. An initial proposal of sign designs for consideration.
  4. At least one prototype sign from these sign designs for review.
  5. Printed image of every proposed directional sign for on-site testing & verification prior to any sign production.

How much does a Wayfinding Analysis cost?

  • It depends upon the size and complexity of a facility.  It generally can range from $5,000 to $30,000 as a general rule - ask for a quote.  You may qualify for a cost credit toward product purchased.

How much will it cost to design a Sign System?

  • Concept designs are included as a deliverable of the wayfinding analysis.  There can be design charges for a complete design package prepared to go out for bid.  Design resources are always limited; however, if a client enters into a design-build agreement with Avalis, the design package is included in the normal price structure of the chosen product line.  All designs prepared by Avalis belong to Avalis until such time a design package is paid for or a purchase agreement is completed with the client.  As long as a "handshake" style of agreement continues to work for us, we can continue to hold down administrative costs associated with heavy contract management.

Should we consider purchasing a sign system from Avalis, how is pricing done?

  • Pricing structures are pre-established by product line (different sign systems).  Final product pricing can only be finalized once a Wayfinding analysis is complete and designs are selected. 

Comments on product pricing

  • There are several sign systems at various pricing levels from which to choose.  Should you decide on Avalis’ modular sign system, the Designer Series, it's essentially a one-price system primarily based the size of each sign.  This sign system is most applicable to facilities where change is a constant such as hospitals and medical centers – fully flexible and changeable.  There are a few pre-stated optional price items but most product choices such as custom colors and stain matches are included in the base price.  Nearly two decades of sales experience has confirmed the price competitiveness of this sign system and the system sells to all end users at the same fixed prices. 

Replacement sign re-ordering? 

  • Price will not be more than 20% greater than the original project price unless there’s a general price structure increase.  On-line reordering specific to the exact signs installed in a facility is established upon request at no additional charge and is accessed with a unique user id and password.
  • Installation pricing is very reasonable and the installation charge will be visible for each and every sign that appears on the sign schedule.