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Signage must follow some simple principles to be effective.
Wayfinding is not a word that is found in a dictionary. It was coined to describe the art of helping people to find their way to a destination, usually in a building or public facility. Visual direction, done effectively, allows people to find their way to their destination easily on their own. It has a one-time cost in design and implementation. Wayfinding is visual direction.
All of us can make our way to work or home easily. Most people using the transit system in a large city daily never need to look at a sign. But when we are seeking a new destination, we depend upon the signs leading us to it. The design must be for those who know nothing.
Wayfinding signage has three elements: general information (largest); directional information; and space identification (smallest). Systems should guide visitors to their destinations through the large to the small. Decision points, places where we can go in more than one direction, should clearly indicate all options from all directions. Once a destination has been included in the wayfinding system, directions to it must be placed at every decision point.
For signs to be effective, they must be easily readable. This requires a simple type face and good contrast. Upper and lower-case lettering is more easily readable than all upper-case. Destination in each direction should be grouped and share an arrow.
At Signs of Change we have managed large complex wayfinding environments for more than 18 years. If you have flown out of Pearson, visited Sunnybrook Hospital or shopped at Shoppers World, Jane Finch Mall, Metrotowne in BC or parked in an underground parking garage in Toronto, then we have directed you to your destination.