Methods of wayfinding must be considered in design. As designers, it is our job to present a space that is easy to navigate, interpret, and understand. If our implementation of wayfinding design strategy is successful, it allows the end-user to not only know where they are in the space, but also guide them to their desired location with ease. Various design techniques are used both alone and together to address wayfinding. These include identifiers and signifiers such as colors, graphics, signs, lighting, shapes, structured paths, carpeting, varying textures, and art.
We use these in different applications as tools to create intuitive means of wayfinding, leading to a manageable and functioning space.
Defining an Entrance
Wayfinding starts as soon as the user enters the space. Many times, an entrance to a space is located off of an elevator corridor. In these cases, it is important that the user can find their way easily from the elevator car to the front doors. In our design for commercial real estate firm Cushman & Wakefield, we used various wayfinding techniques to achieve this goal. Using striated carpet and rectangular light trays running in the direction of the door, we created a guiding path to the reception area. We further enhanced this recognition through the use of glass doors, a bright red reception backdrop, and an illuminated sign to draw the user into the space.
Separating Open Spaces
Wayfinding in the age of open spaces is particularly challenging as it means defining spaces without the use of walls. Instead, we rely on different materials and textures, as well as colors to help separate spaces. In this reception and entry area for recruitment firm Isaacson Miller, we used natural materials including hardwood and leather to define the reception and seating area, and draw users to the perimeter of the space. An orange glass divider separates the public area from a communal staff lounge beyond. While the access to the lounge area seems open, the blue carpet lines the hardwood similar to the way a wall might, and signifies that new users should remain on the hard surface until brought back into the place of business.
Guiding and Defining
In our design for growth equity firm, Spectrum Equity, we wanted to keep the space as open and airy as possible, applying a great use of white, light, and glass. To not get lost in the neutrality of the space, we implemented the use of curves and again, contrasting material to help make sense of the footprint. An illuminated curving corridor aids in enhancing the natural and understood flow of the path that leads from the reception area to the work stations. Meanwhile, glass office fronts framed by rich millwork kept the space transparent but still clearly defined the points of entry that exist along the way.
Getting from one floor to another is naturally an important aspect of navigating a space. It is therefore important to clearly define stairways, as well as elevator lobbies, to the user. The stairway in this lobby space for Capital One is significant in that it leads users from the reception to the office space on the floor below. We made it a point to clearly define the portal, through various techniques. We first helped transition from the reception to the stair lobby by creating a circular area accented by lighter tones and materials than found in the rest of the space. We also drew attention to the transcending area by cascading hanging pendant light fixtures down the stair, further enhancing our wayfinding strategy.
Localizing Large Spaces
Workstations can become unidentifiable and hard to find in large floor plates. To define the different work areas in our space for technology company NVIDIA, we used bright blue soffits and strips of LED lighting to illuminate the entry points of each row. We then further specified each group of stations using different graphics helping to brand and define the rows. Repeating this method down the corridor also created an aesthetic that aids in drawing users down the corridor through visual repetition.
Spatial perception and our ability to interpret our surroundings are natural human qualities. As our world and environments progress however, we are faced with the challenge of having to adapt to the changing settings of society. Our design team carefully plans the layout and design of each project in order to provide users with the adequate information, both on a conscious and subconscious level, to make sense of the space.