When going to an airport, the last thing you need to worry about when rushing to catch a plane is finding your way around the terminals, gates and shopping areas. That is why wayfinding plays such a huge role in the design and planning of everything from subways to hospitals and airports. Great wayfinding reduces stress and offers people an easy overview, while poor wayfinding provides just the opposite.
“For wayfinding to work really well, you have to establish a unique, visual image – something people can easily recognize. You should include a colour scheme, and some typography and graphical elements, like pictograms, which have a consistent visual expression”, says Lars Larson, partner and senior project manager at the Danish strategic design and branding agency Kontrapunkt.
Lars Larson and his team at Kontrapunkt created the new signage and wayfinding system in Copenhagen Airport’s Terminal 2. Based on a 30-year-old signage system designed by renowned architect Per Mollerup, the new wayfinding system combines both digital and fixed signage.
But there is more to wayfinding than just the visual features. According to Lars Larson, you have to pay close attention to where the signs are placed. Usually signs are placed at distribution points, where people have a choice of directions to take. Here signs have to give the right information at the right time – but utilizing as little information as possible.
“That is one of the most difficult challenges in good wayfinding – to reduce the signage information to the bare minimum. The bare minimum is just sufficient essential information for people to quickly obtain an overview of the options”, says Lars Larson.
Among other things, wayfinding is created by looking at the layout of the buildings, corridors and distribution points and then doing flow analyses. Trying to imagine how different types of people act around an airport, Lars Larson and his team model different types of people’s movement through a virtual plan of the building.
“Different people act differently. Let us say you have a busy businessman, who goes through the airport 50 times a year. A guy like that does not have the same need for wayfinding as a person, who is visiting the airport for the first time. When doing wayfinding, it is therefore a good idea to think of the first-time visitors”, says Lars Larson.
And both first-time visitors and more experienced passengers are people that Copenhagen Airport’s passenger manager Marie-Louise Lotz cares a lot for. She has the main responsibility for the passengers’ well being.
“Wayfinding is an important tool to create safety and comfort for our passengers – to give them a less stressful travel experience. We have to help passengers get to the right place at the airport”, says Marie-Louise Lotz.
She confirms that the airport has fewer confused and stressed people, when wayfinding is done right – people should arrive at an airport and find the signage is both logical and correct.
“We want to achieve stress-free travelling for our passengers. That makes happy passengers and we know that happy customers return”, says Marie-Louise.
Another place where wayfinding is guiding hundreds of people every week is at DGI Huset (DGI House edt.) in Vejle, Denmark. DGI is a Danish umbrella organization that consists of 6,000 local sports associations and clubs, with more than 1.5 million members. DGI Huset in Vejle consists of facilities for hosting sports, meetings, concerts and conferences. Here, the Danish design agency Visuel Optur is currently finishing a new wayfinding and signage system.
“The house (DGI Huset edt.) is characterised by it having been built piecemeal over the course of more than 40 years. That has given it a complex stylistic expression and our job is to create consistent wayfinding that makes DGI Huset a less complex place to get around”, says Christel Maria Jantzen, partner and project leader at Visuel Optur.
Starting with a workshop for the employees at DGI Huset, Visuel Optur gathered information from the people using the place every day to find out about strengths and weaknesses in the house. The workshop outcome has since been the basis of Visuel Optur’s further work. To make an in-depth analysis, Visuel Optur is collaborating with Retina Design, a Danish design agency that is specialised in signage and wayfinding.
“DGI Huset has a relative neutral visual and spatial expression. This allows us to take a strong visual grip that steps forward and is easily recognisable. This encompasses a line, or main street, which runs through the whole house, stretching from north to south. This line ties the whole building together and allows us to tie in with this markings for every area in the building. The markings are installed on the ceiling, walls and floors – a bit like a hospital with its classic coloured lines that shows the way around. In addition to this, the line is also a reference to DGI Huset’s slogan “a house in motion””, says Christel Maria Jantzen.
The new wayfinding and signage system for DGI Huset in Vejle is being installed during 2015 and Christel Maria Jantzen has no doubt as to why it is interesting to do wayfinding:
“When doing wayfinding, every dimension is in play, including the visual and spatial dimensions; colours and fonts; functionality and aesthetics; product development and materials; and human habits and patterns. It is all about making the best conditions for people to enjoy their environment.”