Wayfindingrefers to information systems that guide people through a physical environment and enhance their understanding and experience of the space.
Wayfinding is particularly important in complex built environments such as urban centers,healthcare and educational campuses,and transportationfacilities. As architectural environments become more complicated, people need visual cues such as maps, directions, and symbols to help guide them to their destinations. In these often high-stress environments, effective wayfinding systems contribute to a sense of well-being, safety, and security.
In urban settings, wayfinding specialists develop signage and information systems for both pedestrians and motorists, who each have unique challenges navigating streets and roadways. These information systems help people develop “mental maps” of the terrain and simplify their routes to the extent possible.
Healthcare campuses present a unique set of navigational challenges. Often, these environments have developed over time and encompass multiple buildings. This makes navigation among the buildings complex. In addition, patients and families who visit healthcare campuses are often under stress. Wayfinding systems can help reduce their stress by providing easy-to-follow signage and legible directions to their destinations. In some settings, reliance on text-based messaging is minimized and systems rely heavily on non-text cues such as colors and symbols.
In transportation settings such as airports, travelers need information to guide them from the roadway to the airport and through the terminal complex. Here, these systems provide directional guidance through a carefully planned sequence that delivers information to users at key decision points in their journey.
Comprehensive wayfinding systems often combine signage, maps, symbols, colors, and other communications. Increasingly, they integrate mobile applications, digital displays, RFID, and other wireless technologies.
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