In this post, we will be introducing to you some aspects of wayfinding. The points covered cannot fully represent what wayfinding actually is (there are much more considerations to think about) , but it can get you started.

Post contents

  • What is Wayfinding and why is it important
  • Use Cases of Signages
  • Types of Signages
  • Color, Typography & Readibility
  • Inspirations for Signage Design

What is Wayfinding?

Way finding refers to information systems that guide people through a physical environment and enhance their understanding and experience of the space.

Way finding is particularly important in complex built environments such as urban centers, healthcare and educational campuses, and transportation facilities.

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 way finding systems contribute to a sense of well-being, safety, and security.

Good planning of way finding path in retail and museums can purposefully curate the path taken by an end user, creating a unique experience for the visitors. Effective planning of strategic decision points in hospital, train station and other institutions allow for better crowd control, more time-efficiency and more seamless circulation.

Wayfinding can be found in these places...


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. Way finding 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.


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.


In general, large-scale buildings and places with
complicated navigation.

Types of Signages

The most effective way finding is spotting a relevant signage right at the spot where you are about to feel lost.

Therefore, selecting the most effective decision making point is one important part.

Of course, another aspect is also incorporating universal design in signages especially for the visually impaired. Imagine getting down a subway train without sensing any brailles...

Hence, learning the ways of wayfinding also require designers to put themselves in the shoes of a tourist, a person with disabilities, a person who can't read etc.

1) Orientation

Signages that provide an overview of the site or the building, their current location and where the destination lies.
Examples of this type of sign include maps, directories, floor plans and exploded views.

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Orientation Signages

2) Directional

Signages that provide directions to guide users through defined routes to reach specific destination. Message content should be in accordance with accepted terminology, include clear directional arrows, and match the corresponding destination sign.

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Directional Signages

3) Identification

Signages that confirm the identity, name or function of individual buildings,
departments, rooms or locations.

Examples includes building, floor/level, department and room/lobby/staircase/entrance identification, door signage,
and numbering.                    

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Identification Signages


4) Statutory

Signages that includes all mandatory signs required by regulation and statutes.
Examples include accessibility, fire safety, occupational health and building code requirements as well as those of services such as telecommunications, electricity, post and security.                        

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Statutory Signages

5) Appearance

Most of the time, you will see signages displayed and supported in various ways.

We can classify the signages by the way there are supported/held in place, display methods and materials used.

Location/Support System of Signages

Suspended - Hung from or fixed to a soffit or ceiling at specific heights.

Wall mounted - Flat against or protruding from a vertical surface at specific heights.

Self-supporting - Mounted on a post, slab or plinth, or constructed in such a way that it can hold its own weight.

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Locations and support systems of signages

Display Method of Signages

Single or double-faced - Information on one side or on both sides. Double faced signs can show the same or different information on each side.

Dynamic or static - Static signs will display the same information throughout, dynamic signs are electronic and/or interactive, with information that
can change.

Internally/externally illuminated or unilluminated - Natural or artificial light sources. Legibility of sign is crucial - determined by intensity, direction, temperature and type of light.

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Display Methods of Signages

Material Types

Wood - Elegant, opaque material, gives a natural touch. Lettering or signage are either stuck on or engraved.

Acrylic - Low cost, less durable clear transparent/ frosted or colored material.

Glass - Durable, transparent and elegant material. Lettering or signage are either stuck on or engraved.

Steel - Durable, elegant, opaque material. Lettering or signage are either stuck on or engraved.

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Material Types for Signages

Color, Typography & Readibility

Signages that aid in wayfinding should be intuitive and visible to users.

Here are some general guidelines to ensure legibility, readability of signages as well as in the ease of understanding.

Colours & Symbols

The following are colours and symbols you will typically see on signages and their meaning.

Colours - Red (fire safety), yellow (hazard), blue (accessibility/personal protection), green (emergency), white (hazard/information), brown (information)

Symbols - Universally recognisable - male/female, wheelchair accessibility, no smoking, exit signs, danger.

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Colour and symbols in signages.
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Colours of background and text - contrast in signage design

Guidelines for Signage Typography

The following are guidelines for signage design with regards to typography:

- Have clear and recognizable letterforms and font type.

- Large enough letter spacing (large X-height) and wide letter proportions to enhance the visual appearance and legibility from a distance

- Prominent ascenders and descenders to ensure good readability

- Variation in font weight and font height to form hierarchy of importance in terms of information provided.

Letterforms & Font

The diagram below shows the best practices for typography design in general (x-height, tracking, counter space):

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Letterforms and font


We shoulld also consider the legibility of text from a distance and design the size of signs accordingly:

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Legibility of signages from a distance


We should also plan for the intended distance for the text to be readable. The further away the person is, the larger the text needed.

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Readibility of signages based on distance.

Sign Hierarchy

The diagram below shows the order and hierachy of signages based on scale, height & placement.

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Hierarchy of signages
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Hierarchy by placment

Inspirations for Signage Design

It is always helpful to have a set of guidelines for designers, however, we should always bear in mind that we set the rules and thus it is subjected to change base on our experiences and the context it is designed in. It should not limit our imagination or creativity.

Here are some signages which I find cool!

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Examples of sigange design - colours, 3-dimensionality
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Examples of signage design - materiality & simplicity


Pro Tips


Create an identity at each location through the use of subtle hints such as a colour theme, a change in texture, finishing or lighting style.
E.g demarcating the transition from the public to quiet zones, demarcating the kids zone from the general public zone.


The landmark should be visible and prominent from the surrounding area. Landmarks should be used sparingly to avoid confusion. Monoliths and signage totems are ideal for landmark making as it is usually widely visible and recognized as an information booth for visitors.


Try to make the information clear and concise. Show only information that is relevant to that particular path. Remove unnecessary or confusing element.


The signages should be relatable and follow its purpose.
The size, color, symbols and even the height of the sign are key considerations.


With this knowledge, I hope that you design great looking signages that are useful for those who are feeling lost or needed some direction.

Have fun designing!