From Point A to B: Designing an Effective Wayfinding System

During your daily travels to and from your home (headed off to school or the office), you have probably memorized all the best routes. Traveling along those routes, what you may not have noticed at all are the signages strategically positioned in various vital areas.

Most people only notice these when traveling to unfamiliar places.

Although often unnoticed, wayfinding signages perform a vital role: to provide a concise amount of accurate visual communication to potential users.

Designing an effective wayfinding system

Whether you are a developer, lead consultant, interior designer, or landscape architect tasked to oversee the design and implementation of a wayfinding system for your project, there are a few key considerations that should be taken into account in order to guarantee that the needs of potential users are adequately met.

Here’s a brief list from Dubai’s top signage and wayfinding consultants:

● Modularity

In recent years, modular signage solutions have risen in popularity. Apart from being affordable and visually pleasing, these systems are sought out for their variety of applications. And over the long term, clients can reap big dividends from their initial investments due to the sturdiness of these systems.

● Ease of use

After the implementation of a wayfinding project, you would surely like to be able to perform in-house associated tasks, like changing graphics.

Modular systems work well with this goal, although more and more consultants are embracing electronic signs.

● Visitor experience

The primary goal of a wayfinding and signage system is to meet the purpose of its end users.

At its core, an effective system is all about simplicity. This can be perfectly encapsulated in a hospital setting wherein users are under duress and need accurate information in the shortest possible amount of time.

● Cross-platform compatibility

The best signage and wayfinding systems integrate the best qualities of traditional static signages and electronic platforms.

For example, static signages allow for easy access when there is a need to update information quickly. On the other hand, electronic systems complement these by providing additional information accessible online.

● Simplicity

In wayfinding, simplicity is equal to effectiveness.

That goal is achieved by providing end users with information at different decision points until they reach their destination. Experts call this idea “progressive disclosure.”

The use of progressive disclosure prevents information overload and keeps signs neat, simple, and easy to use. The concept is particularly beneficial in large interior environments.

● Indoor vs. outdoor environments

Indoors, the use of wayfinding devices can be two-fold. From a more functional standpoint, signages help users find their way toward their destination. And on the other side of the coin, signages can also be used for branding.

Outdoors, signages must retain their primary function without being too obtrusive. Achieving this goal will depend heavily on factors like the client’s branding goals, prevailing regulations, and environmental context.

Wayfinding consultants also take into account how the space is used and if the system to be implemented is merely an addition to an existing system or completely new.

For the addition of signs, design and implementation must take into account potential bottlenecks and consider how these can affect the end users.

Another critical area of concern, especially for additions to existing systems, is how these match the signs that have been already put into place.

Finding the right partner

Due to the varied and essential roles played by signages in both internal and external environments, it is vital to find the right partner for your project.

In short, this is a job that should be left to experts with up-to-date knowledge and experience.

Sure, you can go to traditional sign makers. But if you opt for experienced signage and wayfinding consultants, you are assured that your current and future needs are taken into consideration vis-a-vis other critical factors, especially the ever-evolving needs of organizations and their target audience, as well as opportunities for messaging and branding.

Remember, signages are just one aspect of a more extensive system that is wayfinding, and local fabricators may not be able to provide you with a complete solution.


Zak Zakaria is a Waymaker at dezigntechnic in Dubai who also previously worked as the company’s Graphic Designer and Art Director. Zak is a creative with work experience in multiple multinational agencies such as JWT and Saatchi & Saatchi. Signage design is a family business, making Zak’s personal experience with signage his longest professional commitment.