Octink has been producing wayfinding signs for over 30 years. We have worked with many design agencies in delivering wayfinding systems to businesses all over the UK and Europe. This post aims to outline the key elements that are should be thought about to ensure that no one who actually uses the finished wayfinding system should end up getting lost!


Wayfinding is about the way in which people can move efficiently and in harmony with the surrounding environment. It is generally taken for granted that people are aware of their surroundings and can navigate easily from one place to another. However, for an individual, particularly with a disability, finding your way in often complex surroundings can be difficult. Today’s wayfinding designer, therefore, needs to combine many disciplines – those of the artist, social scientist, environmentalist, architect, engineer, economist, computer scientist, project planner and marketing expert. Design is not the continuation of specialisation, but the integration of specialities into a broader problem-solving role.

The success of a wayfinding system is measured by how users experience an environment and how the communicative elements facilitate getting from point A to point B. Wayfinding systems should reassure users, create a welcoming and enjoyable environment and, ideally, provide answers to potential queries before users have to ask for assistance. Wayfinding systems can also indicate where users should not go too.

A successful Wayfinding system should provide information for users to:

  • Establish the start point and conclusion of a route.
  • Identify the user’s destination upon arrival
  • Identify and orient the user’s current location within a building or an external space
  • Reinforce that the user is travelling in the correct direction
  • Help the user understand the location and identify any potential hazards within the space

The launch of a new wayfinding system is not the end of the challenge, but the beginning of an ongoing effort to constantly monitor the wayfinding system for accuracy and effectiveness. The continual management of wayfinding components needs to include signage but, also, printed maps, web sites, and information kiosks when appropriate.

Chelsea Flower Show

When planning a wayfinding signage system the design team needs to allow for:

  • Identification
  • Reinforcement
  • Orientation
  • Destination

Often the design process would include:

  • Architectural clues
  • Graphic communication
  • Audible communication
  • Tactile communication

The last two items are often the ones that take the most thought. The experience of the system as a whole is amplified by those with disabilities. This has been demonstrated with the inclusion of wayfinding signage schemes falling within The Disability Discrimination Act (DDA) 1995. It is simply unacceptable to plan and design wayfinding schemes without in depth knowledge of this legislation.

Often a wayfinding system finds itself jostling for attention with adjacent marketing messages. This is particularly true in retail spaces. In circumstances like this ensure there is a key tie-in on the message in terms of colour or the graphical elements within both designs. The art is to ensure that the context of the environment is shared but, the two must not compete. One of the great examples of the joined-up approach can be seen in the images below. This is a wayfinding system Octink delivered for SEGRO on an estate in Winnersh, near Reading.

Wayfinding signage at IQ

Wayfinding is not signage. It is so much more and everyone needs to recognise this. The term “wayfinding” was first used in 1960 by architect Kevin Lynch in his book, “The Image of the City”, where he referred to maps, street numbers, directional signs and other such elements as “wayfinding” devices.

You can use the following checklist to help you plan your wayfinding scheme.  A successful wayfinding scheme should touch upon if not all, then at least the majority of the items mentioned below. I hope you truly understand what an art designing, building and maintaining a successful wayfinding system is. If you have any other points to add I’d love to hear them.

  • Ensure the most efficient movement of people around any place or space.
  • Ensure that valuable experiences are not missed.
  • Maximise commercial objectives.
  • Achieve positive visitor/user experience and memory.
  • Enhance branding strategies, corporate identity and image.
  • Project the best image possible to all visitors.
  • Involve visual communication, landmarks, lighting and landscape.
  • Lastly, remember that wayfinding is NOT signage.

Signage is fundamental to wayfinding, but it will only ever deliver if it is part of an integrated wayfinding policy. Until we all adopt this approach and make sure our design teams are considering these issues then you had better make sure you are happy getting lost!

by Octink in Latest News